With Market Rasen and Louth’s fate all but sealed, the players stepped up to show character and pride in the jersey as they made the trip to league leaders Syston.
The 59-0 score line reflected Syston’s superiority, but the men in red and green battled hard and special mention should be made for those players who snubbed the comfort of their sick beds to help the Rasen cause.
After a bright start from the visitors, Syston struck with a training ground move which brought Sam Reid from his blindside wing to score in the opposite corner.
Fly-half Alex White added the conversion and from then on Rasen were fighting a rearguard action, and on-loan full-back Ian Smith created a two-on-one for White to grab his second try.
While Rasen were largely consigned to defensive duties, they worked hard to keep out their opponents, frequently forcing errors and took another 15 minutes before Syston increased their lead.
A quick tap penalty from scrum-half Alex Cavner caught Rasen flat-footed before play was taken on by Smith who put centre James Rudkin in for the score. White added his third conversion, and while Syston had a comfortable 21-0 lead after 28 minutes, it wasn’t the stroll in the park they may have envisaged.
Rasen’s inability to find touch gave Syston more chances to counter-attack and Jack Chantrell made the visitors pay, fielding a missed touch, the winger shredded the visitors’ defence before offloading for Cavner to secure the try bonus-point.
Approaching half-time there was a flash point when Rasen’s Matt Ashton was adjudged to have made a late tackle. Cavner took exception and sparked a minor fracas involving several players from both sides.
The referee issued Ashton and Cavner with yellow cards to give them time to cool down on the touchline.
From the resulting penalty Syston opted for a touch kick which was quickly followed with a lineout catch and drive for the forwards to rumble over the whitewash with Joe Knowles-Lorriman dotting down.
White’s fourth conversion left his side with a comfortable 33-0 half-time lead.
In difficult circumstances, Rasen had put in a hard shift, but they totally switched off at the start of the second half as Rudkin split the defence wide open with a run up the centre, with Rasen hanging off the tackle to allow him to touch down under the posts unimpeded.
White added the simple conversion and a landslide looked on the cards.
But the lapse in concentration was momentary as Rasen dug in and returned to the defiant mode which had frustrated Syston in the first half.
With 20 minutes left Rasen missed touch again to the relief of Syston who had been unable to penetrate dogged defending.
The loose kick was fielded and quickly moved to the opposite side of the pitch where Rudkin broke before popping the ball back inside for Cavner to score again.
White landed the conversion and Syston were soon back deep in Rasen’s 22.
The Red and Greens continued to offer stout resistance, but number eight Ben Chamberlin was deemed to halt Syston’s progress illegally and was yellow-carded.
The hosts again opted for the touch kick followed by a catch and drive, but Rasen’s stoic defence forced them to lose the ball forward and the visitors cleared from a solid scrum.
Undermanned Rasen held out until six minutes into Chamberlin’s exile, tiredness took its toll and substitute George Newton ran through the midfield defence to score under the posts.
White’s metronomic boot added the extras and with fatigue really biting, Rasen were caught out again from a quick tap penalty when Smith’s running gave him the game’s final score.
Syston are top of the league with just one defeat this season, but Rasen’s scrum more than held its own once again and some wholehearted defence ensured the leaders had to work for most of their scores.
Rasen: C. Starling, Ashton, Southwell, Crowe (Hill), Benson, Wallis, Mills, Chamberlin, Noquet, C. Everton, W. Stephens, Lawton, Goodwin, Cooper (Janney), Pridgeon.