A much-changed Market Rasen and Louth RFC turned in a gritty performance to unsettle and almost upset high-flying Kettering on Saturday.
Rasen were faced with further selectorial problems for the trip to Northamptonshire as players attended the wedding of a former first team colleague. But this opened the door for others to stake their claim, which they did to great effect.
The strong wind blew from corner to corner and Kettering opted to take first use of the elements, but neither side resorted to a kicking game to harness it.
Kettering started in their usual high tempo manner, bringing their dangerous backline into play, but the conditions were difficult to master and blunted their attacks.
After soaking up the early pressure, the Red and Greens made their way up field through controlled driving forward play with flanker Jake Pryer to the fore.
The pressure eventually paid off when a lineout catch and drive following a penalty resulted in prop Dave Haig being driven over the whitewash to score against his former club.
Kettering resumed their attacking momentum, but Rasen held firm until the 19th minute when full-back Joe Daniel converted a well-struck penalty.
This seemed to be the fillip Kettering needed and hooker Dan Martin led the charge with a barnstorming run.
A scrum free-kick was tapped and run one way and then back across the field, allowing centre Alex Linnell to spot a gap and cruise through to put Kettering ahead. Daniel added the conversion.
Three minutes later Rasen turned over possession and Kettering took advantage of a disorganised defence for lock Connor Horgan to charge over almost unopposed.
Two defensive lapses had proved costly, but Rasen regathered their composure and Scott Brown, relishing his new centre role, punched holes through the home defence before the forwards took over.
After several phases the backs were given the ball again and centre Rob Batterbury showcased his strong running to break the home defence and force his way over the line. Hooker Tom Alldridge planted a difficult conversion into the wind through the uprights.
A failed drop goal attempt and missed penalty were the closest Kettering came to another score before half-time as Rasen turned around only five points adrift at 17-12.
Encouraged by their first half performance, Rasen began the second half with enterprise as swift hands moved the ball wide to winger Tom Stephens who made good ground before he was shepherded into touch.
Rasen continued to mix their game up using forwards and backs to good effect as they battled to breach Kettering’s well-organised defence.
Kettering soaked up long periods of Rasen pressure, and against the run of play, Daniel took full advantage of a penalty.
He sent it into touch deep in Rasen’s 22, and a well-executed catch and drive took the home side close to the Rasen line before Martin burrowed over to extend Kettering’s lead.
A lesser side would have capitulated, but this Rasen team is developing real backbone in adversity and continued to pose problems.
With 13 minutes left, Rasen gave Kettering a taste of their own medicine from another lineout penalty and fittingly it was the unsung Will Thornes, imperious at the lineout throughout, who capped a fine display at number eight by reaching the line, driven on by his forward colleagues.
The score brought Rasen into losing bonus point territory, but Kettering hit back strongly in their quest for a try bonus.
With the light fading, Kettering set up camp in Rasen’s 22, but the visitors dug deep and defended ferociously to keep them at bay.
The Red and Greens regained possession, but in attempting to move the ball from deep instead of clearing the danger spilled the ball perilously close to the line.
But skipper Chris Starling saved the day with a fingertip touchdown with the final play.
The bonus point lifted Rasen out of the bottom three and could be critical come the end of the season.
Rasen: C. Starling, Alldridge, Haig, Inman, Crowe, Chamberlin, Pryer, Thornes, C. Everton (Pope), Wise, Cooper, Brown, Batterbury, Stephens, Goodwin.
* On Saturday, Rasen return home for a 2.15pm kick-off to face new opponents Wellingborough as the league campaign reaches its halfway mark.