Market Rasen and Louth RFC pipped by league leaders Melbourne

Jake Pryer had another good game for the Red and Greens. Picture courtesy of Jon Staves EMN-180924-150113002
Jake Pryer had another good game for the Red and Greens. Picture courtesy of Jon Staves EMN-180924-150113002

Market Rasen and Louth RFC pushed league leaders Melbourne hard in an enthralling top-of-the-table clash on Saturday.

The Derbyshire visitors were the most accomplished side by a distance that Rasen have faced this season and won 15-7, but the Red and Greens went toe-to-toe with them, showing the potential within the side.

Jake McKay gave Rasen some forward momentum after a difficult start. Picture courtesy of Jon Staves

Jake McKay gave Rasen some forward momentum after a difficult start. Picture courtesy of Jon Staves

League leaders Melbourne arrived at a very damp Willingham Road to take on second-placed Rasen, and the heavens opened, almost on cue, as the two teams emerged from the dressing rooms and the game began in a torrential downpour.

As befits a game between the top two in Midlands Two East, there was no quarter given, but ultimately the side which made the fewest mistakes emerged victorious.

The home side made a lethargic start as Melbourne sought to put down an early marker, working the phases well and playing to the conditions.

After a period of sustained pressure, the pace of Melbourne flanker Andrew Martin opened up the home defence with an angled run which ended with a try close to the posts.

Tom Stephens breaks clear for one of his two tries EMN-181029-163936002

Tom Stephens breaks clear for one of his two tries EMN-181029-163936002

Fly-half Euan Holden added the conversion to underline Melbourne’s early dominance.

The Red and Greens struggled to come to terms with the inclement weather as poor kicking out of hand and attempted long passes failed to meet their targets.

However, when Rasen started to play a tighter game, they began to make headway and cause problems.

Strong running from the back row Jakes, McKay and Pryer, aided by interjections from full-back Adam Goodwin put Rasen on the front foot many times, but little slips at crucial times negated much of the good work.

On one occasion Rasen took the ball almost the length of the field with strong running and expert phase play, but lost possession to Joe Stuart on entering Melbourne’s 22.

The full-back evaded several would-be tacklers before linking with centre Jack Pearce to tear through the gaping midfield defence and put Melbourne back on the attack.

This surge ended with a penalty, but Holden was unable to convert it into points.

The game continued to ebb and flow from one team to the other, but four minutes from half-time, Holden slotted a penalty to give Melbourne a 10-point lead.

The second half began spectacularly for the Red and Greens as Jake McLoughlin punched a hole in Melbourne’s midfield defence.

He was quickly joined by Tom Stephens, only recently on as a replacement for the injured Peter Everton, and the new centre partnership calmly swapped passes for McLoughlin to score under the posts.

Tom Alldridge added the conversion to make it 10-7 with only four minutes elapsed.

But any thoughts of a Rasen comeback were swiftly rebuffed as Melbourne were straight back into their stride from the restart.

Putting the hosts back under pressure, they worked the phases and after battering away at a staunch defence, Pearce eventually found a chink in the Rasen armour to power over the whitewash for an unconverted try.

Neither side could get control of the game, and while each had their moments and minor successes, nothing really approached a clear-cut scoring chance.

Alldridge attempted a penalty shot with the final kick of the game to try and salvage a consolation losing bonus point, but the kick fell short and Melbourne put the ball out of play to confirm their hard-fought win.

Despite the complete change in weather from the previous week, this was a much better display and Rasen should be commended for their efforts in atrocious conditions.

After a slow start and a reticence to adapt to the wet weather, the players acquitted themselves well, but ultimately Melbourne made fewer mistakes and were worthy winners.

On Saturday, Rasen travel to Newark who will be looking to end their recent run of defeats after a bright start to the season. Kick-off is 2.15pm.

Rasen: Crowe, Alldridge, Southwell (Ashton), Chamberlin, Grant, Harvey, Pryer, McKay, Nicholls, White, Beresford, P. Everton (T. Stephens), McLoughlin (Norton), Holvey, Goodwin.