Market Rasen and Louth RFC battled through blizzards and played in Arctic blasts as they were beaten 75-14 at high-flying Kettering.
Kettering were good value for their win, but the skewed penalty count – with only one going in favour of the visitors – did little for Rasen’s fragile morale.
The matchday squad deserve some credit for sticking to their task after travelling through tricky conditions to face a side which has lost just four times this season before facing another daunting trip home.
On arrival, there were few signs of the Beast from the East II other than a bitingly cold blast which left some players with an almost permanently frozen grimace on their faces by full-time.
Rasen brought some warmth to the travelling support with an opening salvo which ended with veteran number eight Ben Chamberlin charging up the centre of the field to run in under the posts.
Chris Everton added the conversion to give the visitors an unlikely 7–0 lead after two minutes.
The joy was short-lived as Kettering got into gear with a counter-attack which ended with winger Chester Hilson opening their account and fullback Joe Daniel’s conversion drawing the sides level six minutes later.
Kettering quickly added two tries from their forwards, the first following a quick tap from hooker Steve Fraher who powered his way over the line, and the second from a concerted drive finished by lock Tim Bayes.
Rasen were forced into a rearguard action, but kept Kettering at bay until number eight George Newman cut back inside and sliced through the defence to secure Kettering’s try bonus point.
Daniel converted and then three minutes later took advantage of lacklustre defending to stroll over before slotting another two points.
Kettering remained encamped in Rasen territory and when a quick throw caught the visitors unawares, the ball was popped back to Fraher to bag a second.
Harry Owens chipped through and gathered his own kick to give Kettering a commanding 41-7 half-time lead.
There was barely time to take breath at the interval as the players and referee were keen to get back into the action.
Kettering carried on where they had left off with Owens making a break before popping the ball up for prop Brett Sturgess to force his way over.
Daniel added another conversion before Rasen’s task was made harder by overzealous officiating which showed centre Fred Norton a harsh yellow card.
Kettering mercilessly took full advantage of their numerical superiority, spreading the ball wide for Hilson to outflank the flagging defence and cross.
Rasen dug in with dogged defending, epitomised by prop Matt Ashton’s dynamic tackling, and kept Kettering out for the rest of Norton’s enforced absence.
But when the Red and Greens were restored to full strength, Kettering upped their game as Daniel cut through for his second try.
Rasen continued to battle away for little reward and when centre Ryan Conyard found space, full-back Tom Stephens made a superb last-man textbook tackle.
Sadly, Conyard was able to offload to Newman who cantered in for his second try. Owens took over the kicking duties and added the extras.
Rasen substitute Will Pridgeon had barely been on the field before his loose tongue incurred the referee’s ire and earned a yellow card.
Quick tap expert, Fraher punished the indiscretion to secure his hat-trick.
Rasen gained a little consolation when a mix-up ended with the ball running loose for Simon Cooper to scoop up and speed in under the posts.
The players’ only thoughts now were of the warm haven of the clubhouse, so Cooper took his own conversion, landing it with an expertly-struck drop kick.
There was still time for Conyard to score before the referee mercifully ended the game.
On Saturday, Rasen travel to Wellingborough who are finding form in their quest to avoid the drop. Last season they were thrown a reprieve after finishing in the third relegation spot. Kick-off is 3pm.
Rasen: Ashton (Hill), Scupham, Southwell, Crowe, Benson, J. Norton, Janney (Grant), Chamberlin, Fenwick, C. Everton, W. Stephens (Pridgeon), F. Norton, Pryer, Cooper, T. Stephens.