Loughborough 1st XV 17 Market Rasen & Louth 1st XV 18
RASEN travelled to fellow promotion side Loughborough to grind out a hard fought victory in a game both sides had targeted for league points.
Loughborough made the brighter start as the forwards drove at the red and greens forcing an early penalty in the second minute.
Fly half Jonny Sykes narrowly missed the kick, but Loughborough maintained their early pressure as Rasen conceded another penalty and Sykes made no mistake with his second chance to give the home side the lead.
Having soaked up the early onslaught, Rasen came back into the game as winger Nick Harvey was a fingernail short of an interception with a clear run to the line.
The red and green pack were now building some phases and created space for winger Jason Scheepers to sprint down the touchline, but the chasing defender was up to the challenge and hauled him down within sight of the line.
Rasen maintained possession and further progress was only halted as Loughborough transgressed to give Mihal Grint a shot at goal. The centre slotted the ball between the uprights and the two sides were level.
In a seesaw first half Loughborough went back on the offensive and a long cut out pass found Tim Wilson coming off his right wing to feed left winger Rich Jennings to brush aside would be Rasen tacklers to score close to the posts. Sykes added the conversion and Loughborough were back in the lead with five minutes left before the break.
The home side couldn’t field the restart and Rasen mopped up the loose ball to set prop Ollie Cole on one of his trade mark rumbustious runs. The red and greens kept up the pressure and lock Leigh Dearden crashed over the whitewash, but Grint couldn’t add the extras and Rasen went into the interval two points adrift.
With a slight wind advantage, but playing up the hill, Rasen were determined to claw back the deficit in the second half, but it was another tense affair as the two sides vied with each other to gain the upper hand.
Rasen had an early opportunity with an attacking line out following a penalty kick to touch, but failed to capitalise on it before offering Sykes another kick at goal, which he failed to convert.
After playing some harum-scarum stuff, Rasen regained their composure and entered a purple patch where they patiently worked their way into the Loughborough twenty-two. Strong running from centre Anthony Jones burst through the first line of defence before offloading to fellow centre Grint to power over the line to give Rasen the lead for the first time in the match.
A penalty shortly after the restart pushed Rasen back deep into Loughborough territory where the forwards worked phase after phase as they inched towards the line in the face of some heroic defending from the home side. Eventually the pressure told and fly half Nick John spotted a gap and burst through to extend the lead.
Within minutes Loughborough were back on the attack as Rasen lost the ball in midfield. The red and greens managed to hold up the attack, but conceded a penalty that produced a yellow card for substitute Sam Routledge.
With Rasen a man down, Loughborough opted for the scrum and then quickly moved the ball to their dangerous backline. Centre Steven Sands shot through a gaping hole in the Rasen defence to score under the posts to give Sykes an easy conversion.
With a man down and a slender one point advantage, the red and greens faced an anxious seven minutes to the final whistle. However, the visitors cause was helped two minutes later when a fracas in the middle of the field resulted in Loughborough sub Matthew Page receiving a red card for punching.
Rasen pushed the ball up field from the resultant penalty and then wound down the clock by keeping the ball tight in the forwards to secure the win.
In the current world cup vernacular this was an ugly win, but never-the-less it was a win that will hopefully engender some confidence in the side to take into future matches and give them belief that they can still grind out wins in tight games. It remains to be seen how important Loughborough’s losing bonus point will be in the final reckonings at the end of the season.
Next week Ilkeston are the visitors at Willingham Road with a 3pm kick off. Ilkeston will have painful memories of their last visit to Rasen that resulted in a cup defeat. Let’s get behind our boys to try and send them home equally despondent this time
Rasen: Starling C, Oliver, Cole, Dearden L, Chamberlin, Barr, Starling D, Thornes, Neesham A, John, Scheepers, Jones, Grint, Harvey, Everton P
Subs: Dearden A (Scheepers), Nicholls (not used), Routledge (Barr)
Loughborough: Bottomley, Coppard, Bolter, Roberts, Pears, Harriman, Price, York, Locke, Sykes, Jennings, Brind, Sands, Wilson, Murray-Smith
Subs: Crumplin, Page, Stevens.