Market Rasen and Louth RFC did their benefactors proud on sponsors day with a pulsating second half display against Leighton Buzzard at Willingham Road.
Following last week’s defeat, Rasen picked themselves up and after a tricky first half, showed their real capability to play intelligent, expansive rugby.
They remain just two points above third-bottom Northampton Old Scouts, but moved up to eighth, and can guarantee their Midlands One East safety by beating bottom side Ilkeston at home in their game in hand on Saturday (ko 3pm).
In a nervy start, the visitors made the early running and Rasen had a let-off when Lee Walker’s fourth minute penalty attempt rebounded off an upright.
Buzzard kept Rasen pinned in their own half, patiently working through the phases to find a chink in the home defence, and it paid off when flanker Will Messum powered his way over and Walker added the conversion.
This score sparked Rasen into life and their pressure forced Leighton Buzzard to concede a series of penalties close to their own line.
A well-worked lineout peel saw David Haig charge through the defence, and with the line in sight Dave Starling was in support to crash over. Dan Robinson’s first kick levelled the scores.
The game was evenly balanced, but luck favoured the visitors for the next score when Robinson’s towering kick was completely missed by full-back Ollie Taylor, but the ball cannoned off the hard ground back towards the retreating defenders.
With Rasen wrong footed, centre Mike Robert delivered a perfect pass to give winger Darren Braybrook a straight run for the line. Walker again hit the upright with his conversion attempt.
The pendulum swung back towards the Red and Greens with another period of sustained attacking.
Strong driving play from the forwards and good handling from the backline moved play from side to side, making the Buzzards work hard to keep their line intact.
Rasen were eventually rewarded for their patience when Robinson sneaked in at the corner as the half ended locked at 12-12.
The hosts began the second half at a high tempo and despite a deliberate knock-down slowing proceedings, Rasen quickly recovered possession and Robinson stepped inside to glide in under the posts and leave himself an easy conversion.
Rasen’s new policy of spreading the ball wide paid dividends three minutes later when winger Cameron Wallis scorched in at the corner to secure the try bonus point. Robinson nailed the touchline conversion to extend Rasen’s lead.
Arran Perry’s powerful run took the visitors deep into Red and Green territory and they painstakingly recycled the ball, probing for an opening, but they were met by an impenetrable defensive wall. Buzzard then transgressed to concede a relieving penalty.
Rasen were soon deep in the visitors’ 22 and won a lineout where Dave Starling slipped through a gaping hole to double his try tally.
Robinson slotted the conversion and Rasen were now firmly in control.
The hosts were playing with supreme confidence and another break from Robinson was the catalyst for some smart interplay between Tom Stephens and Josh White, but desperate defending pushed White’s foot into touch before he crossed the line.
This was only a temporary respite when a botched clearance kick was safely gathered by Wallis to launch another counter-attack.
The young winger sped upfield before linking with Robinson who found Adam Goodwin with a long pass. Goodwin’s angled run and pace was too much for the Buzzards and he dotted the ball down wide out.
Robinson’s radar was working overtime as he landed another touchline conversion.
Goodwin then intercepted a loose pass and set off on a long run up the touchline before passing the ball infield for the supporting Robinson to complete his hat-trick and then added the conversion.
With only seven minutes left there was still time for Buzzard to work their way back deep into Red and Green territory, allowing Owen Forsythe to crash over the line.
With time running out, the visitors boldly sacrificed the conversion in their quest for a fourth try and a vital bonus point.
There was barely time for the restart, but the Buzzards safely gathered the ball for the last play of the game.
Spreading the ball wide, Buzzard’s Braybrook found himself confronted by several defenders with almost half of the pitch in front of him, but strong running brushed aside the would-be tacklers to run around under the posts for a dramatic finale.
Walker’s conversion ended a breathless second half.
Rasen: Southwell (C. Starling), Alldridge, Haig, Mills, Inman (Crowe), Grant, D. Starling, Chamberlin, M. Starling, Robinson, Stephens, Dearden (Gutteridge), White, C. Wallis, Goodwin.