Market Rasen and Louth’s slump went from bad to worse with a chastening defeat at Midlands Two East (North) basement side Southwell on Saturday.
Southwell might be bottom of the league table, but they gave the Red and Greens an object lesson on how to exploit indifferent refereeing, keeping their discipline as Rasen’s more vociferous approach cost them dear.
The portents weren’t good as Rasen’s opening kick-off failed to travel the requisite 10 metres to put Southwell on the front foot.
Almost immediately the visitors’ indiscipline cost them a penalty, but Paul Rich was a little over ambitious and his kick fell short of the posts.
But two minutes later Rasen were caught offside and Rich made no mistake from a closer distance to open Southwell’s account.
The hosts were clearly up for the battle, but the same couldn’t be said of Rasen as internal bickering diluted their attention from the task in hand.
Southwell dominated possession and territory in the first quarter, while not posing any real threat as they tried to blast through their opponents, while their passing was laboured.
Nevertheless, Rich doubled the lead midway through the half with another penalty.
The Red and Greens finally emerged from their lethargy and began to play in a more Rasen-like manner, working the phases to extract a penalty which was well dispatched by Tom Alldridge to halve the deficit.
This should have been the platform for better things, but Rasen’s thought processes slipped back into their earlier malaise and Will Pridgeon received a yellow card for one injudicious comment too many.
This immediately let Southwell off the hook and they took full advantage when Rasen’s defence faltered as centre Joe Musgrove darted through a gaping hole to cross the whitewash from 30 metres out.
Rich pulled his easiest kick of the game across the face of the posts.
The setback prompted another Rasen mini-revival as scrumhalf Ed Nicholls spied some space on the blind side and linked with centre Tom Stephens whose chip down the touchline left a foot race for the unguarded line.
But Rich managed to get across and hack the ball into touch to avert the immediate danger.
This was the catalyst for a period of concerted Rasen pressure as they camped in Southwell’s 22.
With the line at their mercy, the scoring pass failed to reach its target when Southwell winger Tom Broughton appeared to make an attempted one-handed interception while in no position to make a two-handed catch.
The referee finally awarded a penalty, but with no yellow card despite the offence preventing a likely score.
With no penalty try forthcoming, Southwell repelled Rasen’s ensuing attack and took an 11-3 lead into half-time.
The break was timely for Southwell who regrouped and came out of the blocks fast for the second half.
Rasen weathered their initial foray and looked to have stemmed the tide with a penalty deep in their own 22.
But another mindless unsolicited comment put paid to any thoughts of safety as the referee reversed the penalty and Southwell drilled it into touch.
From the resulting lineout, Southwell rumbled their way over the line despite the best efforts of Nicholls who insisted he had both hands under the ball and there hadn’t been a fair touchdown.
Unfortunately, the youngster was too incensed and incurred the official’s wrath to receive a very harsh red card, when a yellow looked adequate punishment.
The side were temporarily evened up when Southwell prop Nathan Beastall picked up a yellow card as Rasen spent almost the rest of the game in Southwell’s half.
The hosts had brief respite from the siege when flanker Josh Hart burst clear up the touchline for what looked like a certain try.
But Spen Holvey chased back with great determination to bring down the attack short of the line.
Despite their territorial superiority Rasen were unable to unlock the home defence, with no cutting edge or coherence, as countless times passes failed to reach their target or the ball was spilled.
As the final whistle sounded, it was celebration for Southwell and a merciful release for the travelling supporters.
The side has a big mental barrier to break as they have slipped into habitual defeat.
Rasen didn’t lose because of the referee and can only blame themselves for their own shortcomings.
After a good start there is a real danger of the season imploding and it is up to the players to decide what they want to achieve from the remaining fixtures.
On Saturday, Rasen welcome Matlock for a 2.15pm kick-off.
Rasen: Senescall (Howard), Alldridge, Southwell, Roberts, Crowe, Inman, Janney, McKay, Nicholls, White, Pridgeon, McLoughlin, T. Stephens (Lawton), Young, Holvey.