A pivotal decision just before half-time undermined Market Rasen and Louth in a disappointing performance against Paviors.
The visitors crossed twice while Ollie Cole was off the field following his harsh yellow card and never looked back, easing to a 29-12 win which leaves Rasen sitting precariously in 11th.
Paviors had the better of the earlier exchanges and soon found themselves attacking from a five-metre scrum. After some effective recycling, winger Bobbie Ratcliffe, through a combination of good footwork and indifferent tackling, danced his way over for the opening score and Chris Oswin converted.
The early setback seemed to galvanise the Red and Greens as the forwards drove Paviors back relentlessly, forcing the visitors to concede a flurry of penalties.
From this solid platform, fly-half Peter Everton stepped inside to breach the first line of defence and as he went down in the tackle, popped the ball up to Scott Brown to power his way over the whitewash.
Four minutes later, Rasen were given an unexpected advantage when Paviors’ hooker Callum Mason was rather unluckily yellow-carded for a high tackle.
The hosts continued to hold the upper hand, but poor handling in the backline saw the ball lost or knocked on too many times for them to make any impression before Mason’s return.
Having weathered the storm, Paviors broke out and put Rasen under severe pressure in their own 22.
It was then the critical incident occurred as prop Cole made a tackle and with the minimum of time to extricate himself, the referee adjudged that he had not rolled away and gave a harsh yellow card.
Paviors powered the five-metre scrum forward for number eight Adam Corcoran to pick up and bulldoze his way over to leave Rasen 12–5 adrift at half-time.
Paviors continued to build on their confidence after the break while Rasen almost switched off under the mental strain.
The visiting forwards made huge inroads into the home defence before openside Ollie Collingham peeled off the maul and charged for the line without a defender in sight after only five minutes.
Paviors continued to hold the upper hand even when Rasen were restored to full strength.
Rasen were unable to escape the confines of their own half and midway through the half, flanker Alistair Plant won lineout ball and turned to find no-one blocking his way as he stretched for a try to extend the visitors’ lead.
Rasen desperately tried to salvage something from the game, but a lack of application in an embryonic attack saw the ball turned over.
And from a Paviors counter-attack, sub Sam Garratt took advantage of broken defence to run in Paviors’ fifth try, converted by centre Doug Billam.
With 11 minutes left, Rasen finally discovered some spirit to regain their attacking prowess.
After the forwards had made the hard yards, Ben Chamberlin took a quick tap penalty and fed the mercurial Peter Everton who sliced through the Paviors defence to cross the line untouched.
Alldridge’s quickly-taken conversion gave Rasen hope, but it was too little, too late as the Red and Greens slumped to defeat in a game that was eminently winnable at the outset.
It is becoming a recurring theme that the absence of a certain mental toughness is contributing to defeats where the opposition seem to want it more.
There are still enough games left and ability to rescue the season, but the players must dig deep if they want to continue playing at this level.
Rasen: C. Starling, J. Seward, Cole, Mills (Haig), Inman (Alldridge), L. Dearden, D. Starling, Chamberlin, C. Everton, P. Everton, Beasley, Brown (Berger), Batterbury, Stephens, Gutteridge.
* On Saturday there is a break from league action and the Lincolnshire Cup semi-final against Grimsby is in doubt. Visit www.rasenrugby.com for updates.