Midlands Two East (North)
Market Rasen & Louth 26
O On a balmy autumnal afternoon in picturesque surroundings, Market Rasen & Louth succumbed to a Matlock side with a limited-but-effective game plan in a match where sloppy passing and poor decision-making cost them dear.
Playing up the slope, Rasen made a hash of the kick off as Matlock seized onto the loose ball and forced the visitors to concede an early penalty.
Matlock’s big pack secured possession from the ensuing lineout with a catch and drive that ended with hooker Curtis Bolam powering his way over the line.
Scrumhalf Tom Morton added the conversion and, with three minutes gone, Rasen hadn’t laid a hand on the ball.
After this dreadful start Rasen regained their composure and started to run the lumbering Matlock forwards around the park.
Debutant winger Brad Beresford injected some pace with an angled run infield from his wing before linking with centre Josh White, whose long pass put Spencer Holvey in at the corner.
Incredulously, Rasen switched off again with another disastrous restart that Matlock ruthlessly exploited.
Matlock substitute Christian Atkinson gathered the ball as Rasen floundered and tore through a gaping hole to charge upfield.
Like a snowball growing and gathering momentum down a hillside the Matlock forwards joined Atkinson and were irresistible as lock James Harrod was driven over the whitewash.
Morton added the conversion and four minutes later slotted a penalty after more Rasen indiscipline.
Rasen were making a rod for their own back as Matlock were building a score based on minimal creativity, but extremely effective smash and grab tactics.
With a little more possession Rasen began to play some rugby and were rewarded when fly half Chris Everton took play up the blind side before linking with Beresford who cut back infield to slice open the home defence and dot down by the posts.
Hooker Tom Alldridge landed the conversion with ease, but this was to be his last contribution as injury forced him out of the game soon afterwards and left Rasen shorn of their specialist lineout thrower.
The staccato Rasen performance continued when within three minutes of their last score they presented Matlock with another penalty.
Morton’s deadly boot added a further three points as Rasen continued to contribute to their own downfall.
The game ebbed and flowed, but Matlock’s direct approach was still causing concern as they regularly burst through midfield with impunity.
With five minutes of the half remaining there was a controversial turning point in the game.
Holvey leapt high in the air to take a Matlock clearance kick and was felled mid flight by his opposite number, Luke Howard.
The referee was lenient on this occasion and issued Howard with a yellow.
Fortunately, Holvey emerged from the incident unscathed and Rasen had to take advantage of their 10 minutes against 14 men.
The visitors duly punished Matlock following a solid set scrum as Chris Everton’s delayed pass put White through a hole to cross the line.
Holvey’s conversion put Rasen to within a point at the interval as the half closed with Matlock leading 20–19.
The evidence of the first half had been clear, Matlock’s no-nonsense direct approach had to be stopped at source whilst Rasen needed to add pace to their game to move the large Matlock forwards around and tire them out.
It seemed that Rasen had grasped the concept when skipper Ben Chamberlin took a quick tap penalty just inside the Matlock half to catch the home defence napping.
Racing up alongside him was substitute Nick Harvey who took the final pass to score by the posts almost unopposed as the Matlock herd trundled back to face the conversion.
Holvey added the extra two points and Rasen were ahead for the first time in the match.
Matlock still continued to cause problems, but frequently conceded penalties for Rasen to clear.
However, this was a mixed blessing for the visitors as stand in thrower Matt Ashton gamely tried to reach his target, but lack of practice and game pressure meant that the lineout became a lottery.
Rasen had opportunities to put the game to bed, but poor execution and decision making let Matlock off the hook.
On at least two occasions overlaps were butchered with delayed or poor passes.
The game was drawing to a close and Rasen were clearly showing signs of fatigue from repelling Matlock’s dreadnought forwards.
In a final push, literally, Matlock’s forwards shunted Rasen back in the last scrum of the game for Morton to dive in as the ball crossed the line.
There was still the conversion required to snatch the victory, but Morton’s goal kicking had been faultless and he made no mistake to seal a narrow one-point win with his final kick that signalled the end of the match.
This was a game that Rasen could have won, but their inability to carry out the basics on numerous occasions cost them dear.
Matlock’s game was well executed, but predictable and it was disappointing that Rasen’s backrow failed to stop number eight Simon Wright, who picked up from the base of the scrum with monotonous regularity, from breaching the gain line at almost every attempt.
However, it wasn’t just the backrow that were culpable.
The first half midfield defence was almost non-existent on occasions and the first two kick offs were unmitigated disasters with no-one taking responsibility for gathering the ball, which gifted Matlock possession and territory ultimately leading to scores.
RASEN: Ashton, Alldridge, Southwell, Chamberlin, Grant, Norton J, Pryer, McKay, Fenwick, C. Everton, Holvey, McLoughlin, White, Beresford, P. Everton; Subs: Crowe (J. Norton), Harvey (Alldridge).
On Saturday Rasen return to Willingham Road.
They will take on unbeaten Melbourne, who replaced Rasen at the top of the table this week, kick off will be at 3pm.