MIDLANDS ONE EAST
Market Rasen & Louth 20
Northampton Old Scouts 34
The red and greens played their last home fixture on a balmy afternoon ideal for running rugby with flanker George Grant opening the game with a powerful surging run straight from the kick off to put Rasen on the front foot.
The home side appeared pumped up as they dominated the opening stages keeping Old Scouts penned deep in their own territory.
A catch and drive from a line out propelled Rasen closer to the line as Old Scouts were finding the home forwards a real handful.
After making the hard yards, the ball was moved to the backs and further recycling on the opposite side of the field resulted in scrumhalf Will Fenwick sniping up the blindside to open the scoring.
Old Scouts hit back within five minutes as Rasen knocked on to concede a scrum, which wasn’t a problem in itself as the home pack shunted the visitors backwards, something they would continue to do for most of the game.
With their pack retreating, Old Scouts dug the ball out to give their backs a go.
After moving one way, they pulled play back in the opposite direction to move the ball wide for winger George Barratt to speed around the narrow defence to cross the whitewash.
Flyhalf Adam Frost’s conversion then nudged Old Scouts into the lead.
Visiting flanker Robert Bland had been making a nuisance of himself to disrupt much of Rasen’s forward approach work, but the referee deemed he had done something illegally and despatched him to the touchline for a 10-minute break.
Tom Alldridge punished Bland’s indiscretion with a well struck penalty to restore Rasen’s lead.
Unfortunately, Rasen failed to take advantage of their numerical superiority and found themselves back in arrears when Jack Noquet failed to find touch with a relieving penalty kick.
Old Scouts fielded the missed touch find to launch a counterattack and exploited Rasen’s Achilles heel as a huge gap appeared in midfield and unbelievably there was now an overlap for winger Alex McKie to finish off this sweeping move.
Frost slotted the conversion to extend the lead.
With Bland just back on the field, Old Scouts were once again reduced to 14 men when his fellow flanker Jordan Judd was sin binned for taking a Rasen jumper out in the lineout, leaving the visitors to negotiate the remaining five minutes of the half with depleted numbers or three minutes as it turned out courtesy of the referee’s faulty timekeeping.
Old Scouts began the second half strongly, with their flanker’s absence not seeming to be a handicap and were soon pressurising Rasen.
Frost drilled a penalty deep into the Rasen twenty-two and with possession safely secured from the lineout, Old Scouts drove forward and moved play infield to leave an exposed blindside.
Bland peeled off the advancing maul exploiting the unprotected area to scoot in over the line untouched.
Rasen’s earlier exuberance seemed to be waning with this score as body language portrayed their resignation to yet another defeat.
It was therefore no surprise when laboured defending was incapable of preventing another score as Old Scouts stretched the defence for McKie to grab his second and a try bonus for his side.
Unlike the previous score, this had the opposite effect to perplexingly breathe new life into the flagging red and greens.
Rasen stole the ball to thwart another Old Scouts attack deep in their own half and moved the ball wide to Simon Cooper who devoured the ground as he sped up the touchline.
Desperate scrambling defence from the visitors appeared to have averted the danger, but Tom Stephens was on hand to snaffle the ball to complete the score.
The comeback was on again, but naturally Old Scouts had other ideas and came back to secure a penalty that they pragmatically decided to kick with Frost’s reliable boot pushing the score out to leave Rasen requiring three scores to win with 13 minutes remaining.
That task became even harder when Old Scouts ramped up the pressure that resulted in Rasen losing Tom Alldridge to a yellow card.
Old Scouts completed the job, taking advantage of their numerical superiority for centre Iain Simmons to run in a try, again converted by Frost.
There was still life in the red and greens and with the final play of the game prop Matt Ashton finished off a move with backs and forwards combining seamlessly.
Noquet’s conversion signalled the end of the game with the final score being too little, too late.
Rasen began the game with great intensity, but were unable to maintain this level and a mid-game slump proved costly before they rejuvenated themselves to finish with a flourish.
As in many games, Rasen showed some good touches, but in this league any errors are punished and so it proved again.
There are encouraging signs and the shoots of revival for next season are beginning to emerge when Rasen will face less clinical opposition.
However, there is still much hard work to do in the close season.
Midlands Two should not be viewed with complacency, otherwise Rasen will end up with egg on their face next season.
RASEN: Ashton, Alldridge, Southwell, Almond-Bell, Crowe, J. Norton, Grant, Chamberlin, Fenwick, Noquet, Cooper, F. Norton, Pryer, W. Stephens, T. Stephens; Subs: Benson (Crowe), Berger (F. Norton).
Next week Rasen finish the league season off with a trip to Old Northamptonians.
The final game of the season is the Lincolnshire Cup final at Kesteven on Bank Holiday Monday, May 7.
Lincoln and Scunthorpe do battle on Wednesday evening to determine who will be Rasen’s opponents in the final.