Market Rasen and Louth RFC secured another season in Midlands One East despite a narrow defeat at Wellingborough on Saturday.
A bonus point 18-14 loss meant for a few frayed nerves, but Newark’s defeat at Ilkeston ensured Rasen’s survival with a game to spare.
On their first-ever visit to Wellingborough, the Red and Greens should have come away with more in a game they dominated in terms of possession and territory, but clinical finishing and dogged defence denied them.
Wellingborough had first use of the slope on a wide pitch and led within three minutes through skipper Pete Vickers’ well-struck penalty.
Rasen recovered well to control possession, with the scrum dominant, forcing Wellingborough to defend for long periods.
The pressure eventually began to tell as Rasen took up residence in the final third of the field. From a lineout, following a penalty, the well-rehearsed catch and drive routine edged the visitors closer, but stout Wellingborough resistance resulted in a defensive five-metre scrum. The Rasen eight were too powerful and shunted the home pack backwards for Dave Starling to pick up and force his way over the whitewash.
Jake Goodison added the conversion and Rasen looked to be in the driving seat.
From the restart there was a complete about face as Wellingborough began to monopolise possession and putting Rasen on the defensive.
And four minutes later, good support play put Vickers in at the corner to snatch back the lead.
The Red and Greens soon regained control to keep Wellingborough pinned in their own half, but couldn’t add to their tally as the half-time whistle blew with Wellingborough holding a narrow 8–7 lead.
After playing up the slope, and trailing by just one point, Rasen had high hopes for the second period, but they hopes were dashed within a minute.
With Rasen rather hesitant, Wellingborough’s initial attack seemed to have floundered as the ball broke loose, but the hosts reacted quickest to regain possession and create a simple two on one which gave centre Tom Bryan a clear run to line. Vickers added the two points to put further daylight between the sides.
This had a detrimental effect on Rasen’s mindset as the calm approach of the first half evaporated with poor decision-making and a tendency to take contact when there was plenty of space elsewhere.
The visitors still held the lion’s share of possession, but failed to make any real headway.
And when Vickers’ penalty attempt from Rasen’s 10-metre line fell short, Goodison couldn’t make a clean catch and the ball was fumbled forward. The ball was hacked on, but an over-eager Rasen pursuer hared after it from an offside position to present Vickers with a much simpler kick which he dispatched.
Rasen hardly ventured out of their hosts’ half for the remaining 28 minutes, but poor passes, fumbled possession and running down blind alleys was the story of the second half until the final play.
Wellingborough secured a final scrum following another knock-on, but with a final surge the Rasen eight secured possession against the head and the ball was fired out to the backline where Paul Gutteridge’s incisive line cut through the home defence for a touchdown close to the posts to secure a losing bonus point.
Goodison added the conversion with the final kick and after a long wait, news filtered through of Newark’s misfortune and the end of the relegation battle.
With relegation no longer a worry Rasen can enter Saturday’s league final game at bottom side Matlock without any pressure and with the added incentive that a try bonus win would see them leapfrog Northampton Old Scouts if they go pointless at Huntingdon.
Regardless they will look for a confident performance ahead of the Lincolnshire Cup final, at Sleaford, on Bank Holiday Monday, May 2 against Scunthorpe.
Rasen: C. Starling, Alldridge, Cole (Haig), Crowe, Chamberlin, Mills, L. Dearden, D. Starling, M. Starling, Goodison, Gutteridge, A. Dearden, Grint (Nerger), Stephens, Norman. Sub (not used): Seward.