On a bright, but blustery afternoon Ilkeston heeded the lessons of their earlier cup defeat and exacted revenge with an uncompromising high octane performance.
They faced a Rasen side seemingly with one eye on next week’s NLD Cup Final.
In contrast to the previous encounter it was Ilkeston who were quickest out of the blocks and playing with the slope advantage they soon had Rasen deep in their own territory. A break from fly half Jake Lamb opened up the red and green defence before the Ilkeston forwards rumbled the ball on for lock Chris Tipton to force his way over the line for the opening score at the 10 minute mark.
Jonathan Falls, filling in at scrumhalf, slotted the conversion and then added a try of his own after breaking blind from a scrum before linking with Tom Pottinger. The winger sped down the touchline before flipping the ball back inside for Falls to cross the whitewash.
With a quarter of the game gone Ilkeston had been the dominant side as Rasen failed to find touch on several occasions and missed first up tackles at an alarming rate.
The men in red and green battled hard and appeared to have made a break through when Dan Robinson’s long cut out pass found winger Peter Everton in the clear, but the referee adjudged the pass forward.
The Elks early onslaught seemed to have been quelled as the half was drawing to a close, but winger Isaac Taylor’s incursion into the line at pace burst past the would be tacklers with ease to complete a superb individual score under the posts from fully 50-metres out. Falls completed the formality of the conversion to leave Ilkeston 19–0 ahead at the interval.
This was a complete reversal of the cup game where Rasen had held a 17–0 lead after playing with the slope thereby posing the question as to whether Rasen would be able to mount a second half comeback as the Elks had in the semi-final.
The reverse parallels of the cup game continued as the third quarter was played out with no further scoring as neither side could break down some determined defending.
With 22 minutes gone Rasen broke the deadlock following a penalty kick to touch. The tried and trusted catch and drive secured possession and Rasen eventually found a chink in the Ilkeston defence as prop Ollie Cole burrowed his way over to open the visitors account.
Any thoughts of a comeback were swiftly dispelled when Falls made a telling break through a beleaguered defence to set up field position before Ilkeston continued to recycle possession, almost toying with the red and greens. After several phases number eight Adam Corcoran bulldozed his way over the line and Falls rubbed salt in the wounds with another successful conversion.
The game was now gone, but this Rasen side still possesses an enormous amount of spirit. Running opportunities had been few for Rasen fly half Dan Robinson as a well drilled Ilkeston back row had kept him in check, but with legs tiring the youngster eventually found a gap.
Speeding through the first line of defence Robinson’s pace appeared to have evaded the Elks, but a last gasp tackle brought him down just short of the line. However the drama was not over as Robinson skilfully flipped the ball from the back of his hand into the path of Josh Lawton only to look on in anguish as it fell from the substitute’s grasp with the line at his mercy.
Ilkeston latched onto the loose ball and Rasen’s despair escalated into agony as the Elks broke out Barbarian style from the shadow of their own posts for a length of the field score finished off by Lamb and converted by Falls.
There was further Rasen heartache straight from the restart when sloppy tackling allowed Lamb to breach the first line of defence before quick handling found fullback Jay Heath joining the line at pace on the outside to round off an emphatic win with a final try.
This was just the type of fixture Rasen needed before taking on Scunthorpe in next week’s NLD Cup Final, but perhaps the distraction of that game was playing on some minds as the red and greens fell short in some of the basics.
Ilkeston played some good rugby and Rasen were second best on the day, but missed tackles and touch finds made life easier for the Elks.
This was a disappointing end to the league campaign and Derby’s unexpected freak win against an under strength Old Northamptonians pushed Rasen down a position to seventh where they had finished last season.
However Rasen have cemented their position in this league and have shown throughout the season that they can compete with anyone.
On Saturday attentions turn to the NLD Cup Final being played at Lincoln RFC with a 3.30pm kick off. Scunthorpe represent a formidable challenge, but if Rasen can reignite the passion of the semi final victory anything is possible in a one off game.
Teams - Rasen: Southwell, Ashton, Cole, Mills, Inman, Starling C, Dearden L, Chamberlin, Everton C, Robinson, Everton P, Dearden A, Starling D, Beasley, Grint. Subs: Pytlik (Ashton), Lawton (Starling D), Storry (Mills)
Ilkeston: Bell, Moore, Hyams, Rollins, Tipton, Bennett, Soar, Corcoran, Falls, Lamb, Taylor, Ayres, Stevenson, Pottinger, Heath. Subs: Smith, Keep, Hulme.