Market Rasen and Louth RFC ground out an opening day win in difficult conditions in a resilient and positive performance on Saturday.
The Red and Greens welcomed their newly-promoted opponents to Willingham Road for the start of the new season in monsoon-like conditions.
The torrential downpour persisted for the full 80 minutes and made handling difficult as the ball slipped from many a player’s grasp to give the game a stop-start feel.
Rasen made the early running with the conditions tailor-made for their forward-orientated game, but it was full-back Meehal Grint who made an early break to send alarm bells ringing in the Lutterworth defence.
Prolonged forward pressure forced the visitors to concede a penalty in the 12th minute, and returning fly-half Dan Robinson drilled the ball into touch.
Rasen’s potent catch and drive routine was too much for the Lutterworth defence as hooker Tom Alldridge registered the first try of the season. Grint made a hash of the conversion, but luckily the referee ordered a retake and second time around the full-back made no mistake.
Lutterworth eventually made their way into Rasen territory to gain their first scoring opportunity five minutes later, but Dan Glasse’s penalty attempt was a carbon copy of Grint’s first kick and the score remained unchanged.
The Red and Greens patiently worked their way back upfield deep into Lutterworth territory where the visitors conceded a penalty from a set scrum, and Grint extended the lead with a well-struck kick.
Both sides were looking for continuity and Rasen were exhibiting the greater adeptness until their ranks were reduced two minutes before half-time when flanker Ben Chamberlin received a yellow card.
This gave Lutterworth one final chance before the interval, but Rasen defended the resulting lineout from the penalty to preserve their hard-fought 10–0 lead.
Rasen denied Lutterworth any opportunity to take advantage of the sinbinning and when Chamberlin returned the Red and Greens began a sustained period of pressure close to the visitors’ line.
The forwards were met with some staunch resistance, allied with a little skulduggery, as Lutterworth conceded a series of penalties, but surprisingly no yellow card.
Rasen then undid all of their good work to concede a penalty, allowing the visitors to lift the siege.
The home side had the better of the territory, but the slender lead did not afford them any comfort and the conditions continued to add to the unpredictability.
As the game wore on Lutterworth seemed to realise they were being beaten in the loose and gamely looked to utilise their backline despite the weather.
Having worked the ball wide the visitors chipped it forward, leaving Rasen substitute Tom Stephens exposed to deal with the threat alone.
The youngster safely gathered the ball as the Lutterworth charge arrived, but without support Stephens was yellow-carded for holding on.
Lutts took a quick tap penalty and moved play on as Rasen tried to scramble back. But the momentum was with the away side as prop Josh Connor forced his way over to finish their only real attacking opportunity of the game.
Glasse nailed the conversion to put the game on a knife edge with 11 minutes to go.
Left to cling to a slender three-point lead with 14 men, Rasen used their experience of the higher league as they maintained their concentration to expertly control possession.
The forwards worked tirelessly to recycle the ball deep in Lutterworth territory as they drove inexorably towards the line.
The visitors couldn’t lay a hand on the ball and finally their resolve broke as Jake Pryer was driven over the line for the decisive score with two minutes left.
Rasen: Haig, Alldridge, Southwell (Pryer), Inman, Crowe, C. Starling, Chamberlin, D. Starling, M. Starling, Robinson, P. Everton, A. Dearden, Goodwin, Cooper (Stephens), Grint.
* Rasen are at home again on Saturday with visitors Wellingborough looking to open their account after defeat to Bugbrooke. Kick-off is 3pm.