Market Rasen and Louth RFC’s coach trip to deepest Derbyshire wasn’t the magical mystery tour hoped for as they went down to a heavy defeat at Ashbourne.
The curse of the bus trip returned again as Rasen’s habit of performing below par whenever they travel by coach appeared to haunt them in a 34-8 loss.
Rasen were left to rue their early domination as Ashbourne showed that they weren’t shabby in a game punctuated with stoppages.
The Red and Greens began strongly and played down the slope with purpose.
Gradually building pressure by working the phases, Rasen eked out a penalty deep in Ashbourne’s 22 and opted for a scrum.
Jake McKay picked up from number eight and made ground before the ball was released to the backs where Will Stephens, operating in the unfamiliar centre berth vacated by his brother’s late withdrawal, powered his way over the line to open the scoring after eight minutes.
Rasen continued to keep Ashbourne pinned in their own half and stretched their lead through a Spen Holvey penalty after 23 minutes.
But then the wheels came off the Red and Green wagon.
Rasen had a gilt-edged chance to push themselves further ahead, but spurned a three-on-one overlap which would have broken their hosts.
And Ashbourne finally broke free of their visitors’ shackles and began to make inroads through their large forwards.
As they continued to play through a penalty advantage, they created enough space for winger Jon Riley to squeeze in at the corner.
This was enough to kickstart Asbourne’s revival, and within six minutes they had overturned the deficit by adding two further scores, ruthlessly exploiting Rasen’s narrow defence.
Asbourne set off from the restart with a strong run from centre Adam Curley, made easy by the fact there was no defence in front of him.
He then handed over to winger Chris Halling to cross the whitewash unopposed, with enough time to run around and dot down under the posts to make his own conversion a formality.
Moments later Ashbourne were back on the attack and cleverly threaded a grubber kick through the oncoming defence for Halley to collect and double his try tally.
From a position of perceived dominance, Rasen now found themselves facing a not insurmountable deficit of 17–8 when the interval arrived after only 36 minutes.
A reshuffle at half-time brought Jake Pryer out from the flank and into the backs to strengthen the defence.
But within three minutes Ashbourne increased their lead through their forwards.
From a scrum close to the Rasen line, number eight Mark Broom picked up and swept through the defence to power his way over the line.
Halling added the conversion and the contest was effectively over.
Rasen continued to battle away, but inevitably when chasing a game and forcing play, the error count increased.
Ashbourne stretched further into the distance when a well-placed chip caught the Rasen defence in no-man’s-land and the diminutive Oliver Ruddock scooted forward to collect the ball.
The fly-half had too much pace for the chasing defenders and ran in at the corner from fully 50 metres out.
Rasen were again caught narrow and Halling completed his hat-trick running around the outside.
Rasen rallied with a late flurry as Ashbourne were running out of steam, but they were denied a consolation at the death when the referee ruled the ball had been held up over Ashbourne’s line and signalled full-time.
On the evidence of the first quarter there was only one side destined to win the game, but once Ashbourne had discovered Rasen’s Achilles’ heel to build up a head of steam, there was no coming back for the visitors.
Critical decision-making when Rasen had the line at their mercy, perhaps with a hint of white line fever, proved to be a fatal error when the Red and Greens were in the ascendancy, and that was effectively the turning point of the game.
There is a break in the league programme this weekend and Rasen will return to action on March 23 when Ashby will be the visitors to Willingham Road for a 2.15pm kick-off.
However, there will be a game at the club on Saturday when Kettering V, a side of varying ability and aging bodies, put together once a season as an excuse to relive old exploits on tour, take on a Rasen Vets side with a scheduled kick-off of 2pm.
Rasen: Crowe, Ashton, Southwell, Roberts (Looker), Inman, Chamberlin, Pryer, McKay, Fenwick, White, Wallis, Pridgeon, W. Stephens, Dufton (Janney), Holvey (M. Starling).