Rasen were left to reflect on a much-improved season despite ending their Midlands One campaign with a disappointing defeat at Lutterworth on Saturday.
The Red and Greens had their chance to beat the top four side before going down 39-28, but their seventh-place finish was a big improvement on last season’s fight to avoid relegation.
With nothing at stake for either side other than pride, Rasen stared well, but failed to capitalise on an early lineout opportunity close to the Lutterworth line and were then exposed to Lutterworth’s backline speed.
As the ball broke loose, Charlie Neale hared up the touchline before linking with fellow winger Luke Ball. Desperate Rasen defence seemed to have forced Ball to knock the ball forward, but play was allowed to continue as centre George Ball scooped it up to score the opening try.
Rasen hit back immediately with a lineout steal deep in Lutterworth’s 22. Flanker George Grant, who produced some brilliant scavenging work throughout, drove on before centre Paul Gutteridge sliced through the defence for the equalising score.
Dan Robinson slotted the conversion, but the lead was short-lived when Lutterworth turned over possession at a ruck and quickly worked the ball wide for Neale to score.
Adam Goodwin collected a deep kick and made good ground with powerful running and clever footwork. When his progress was finally halted, Lutterworth’s Joe Sullivan earned himself 10 minutes in the sinbin.
With the penalty safely dispatched into touch, a precision catch-and-drive routine was driven over the line where lock Chris Mills touched down. Robinson’s successful conversion ended the eight-minute scoring frenzy with the two sides battling it out in midfield before Dan Glasse landed his first successful kick with a penalty to being the hosts within a point of Rasen.
Lutterworth ended the half on the attack, and after wasting a golden chance when a lineout catch and drive was knocked on over the line. Glasse then sent a penalty wide to leave Rasen ahead 14-13 at the break.
Rasen took their game up a notch after half-time as the home scrum was put under real pressure.
After a series of penalties, but no yellow cards, for scrum offences, number eight Ben Chamberlin caught Lutterworth unawares with a quick tap penalty before Mills powered his way over the line to extend the lead. Robinson landed the conversion.
Lutterworth were on the ropes, but a turning point came when a kickable penalty opportunity was spurned for another touch kick.
The lineout went awry and within minutes Lutterworth were on the attack from a lineout penalty of their own which George Ball finished.
Glasse added the conversion and what could have been an 11-point lead was now reduced to a point again.
Lutterworth were lifted and went ahead when Olly Jempson’s dummy threw the Rasen defence and the centre surged to the line.
Rasen hit back when Robinson’s long penalty touch find set up an attacking lineout. A change in tactic saw quick off the top ball allow skipper Chris Starling to peel round the lineout and deliver a perfect pass for Grant to cap an excellent game with a try.
Robinson’s unerring boot added the conversion to give Rasen a three-point lead as the game entered the final quarter.
The Red and Greens pressed for another score, and after a glorious break had gone begging, Evans attempts at halting Rasen progress earned him a yellow card.
But Rasen could not capitalise on this before the wheels fell off. Lutterworth soaked up the pressure before breaking the shackles with their backs once more.
Gutteridge’s high tackle earned him a yellow card, and after several drives, Josh Connor forced his way over to restore the home side’s lead.
Glasse’s conversion extended Lutterworth’s lead before Rasen’s woes were compounded with another yellow card in bizarre circumstances.
Chris Mills was left bemused to be shown the card for derogatory comments when the lock maintains he was tight lipped.
After competing so hard, the heat started to take its toll, and Glasse wrapped up the scoring with a well-taken solo try, which he then converted for a flattering victory margin.
Rasen: C. Starling, Haig, Southwell, Mills, Inman, Grant, D. Starling, Chamberlin, C. Everton, Robinson, Stephens, White, Gutteridge, Wallis, Goodwin. Subs: Gray, Crowe, A. Dearden.
* Rasen are waiting to discover whether they or Scunthorpe will face Lincoln in the Lincolnshire Cup final at Grimsby on Monday.
Scunthorpe have yet to settle on a suitable semi-final date which, according to the competition rules, had to be played by last Saturday.