The red and greens travelled to Huntingdon and came within a whisker of a famous victory, but sadly decisions did not go their way.
In the end two late penalties cruelly robbed them of a deserving win.
Huntingdon made the early running roared on by their vociferous touchline support bellowing encouragement for the Stags.
After soaking up the early attacks Rasen stunned the crowd from a turnover where scrumhalf Christian Gregory switched play to catch the Stags defence napping. Winger Nick Harvey took the ball on before linking with skipper Dave Starling who delivered the final pass for his centre partner Dan Robinson to round off the counter attack in stunned silence. Fullback Meehal Grint slotted the conversion to inflict maximum pain, but the crowd soon found their voices again as Huntingdon responded positively and Rasen began to fall off tackles.
The Stags laid siege to the Rasen line, but after being held up once, they continued to batter at the red and green defence that eventually faltered as prop Steven Chantler crashed over the line from short range. Fullback Dan Malem nailed the conversion with ease to put his side back on terms with the visitors.
By now Rasen were dominating the set scrums, but Huntingdon were looking the more dangerous side in open play. Prop Ollie Cole relishing his superiority at scrum time showed his other attributes with a superb dummy that left winger Tango Morgan clutching at thin air, much to the amusement of the travelling Rasen support.
Cole’s champagne moment initiated a period of Rasen pressure and a 10-minute break for home centre Murphy Hill yellow carded at a ruck. Rasen looked primed to unleash the deadly catch and drive, but a turnover quickly followed by a crooked throw put paid to the red and green threat.
Rasen were unable to capitalise on the 10-minute window and restored to full strength it was Huntingdon who went on the offensive, winning themselves a penalty that Malem sent soaring between the uprights to nudge the Stags into the lead.
Within two minutes it was Rasen who had to cope with depleted numbers as Paul Gutteridge was yellow carded for offside with the referee alleging his decision was for consistency’s sake, something that was sadly lacking all afternoon for both sides.
In similar fashion to the visitors, Huntingdon couldn’t take advantage before the interval arrived.
Huntingdon began the second half strongly as Malem joined the line from fullback and put in a tantalising kick that bounced into touch in Rasen’s twenty two. Another squint throw heaped more pressure on the depleted Rasen ranks as Huntingdon went for the killer blow, but determined defending held them up over the whitewash before they launched another surge for the line.
This time, with the ball released to the backs centre, Billy Bates cut back and powered his way over the line. Sadly Matt Sutton’s attempted tackle resulted in him being worriedly laid unconscious for what seemed like an eternity before he was helped to his feet and escorted from the field to join injured colleague Cole on the touchline to take no further part in the game.
Malem had waited patiently to take the conversion, but the home coaching staff were not so benevolent as they had uncharitably questioned the speed with which the injured Rasen man had taken to leave the field. Malem’s unerring boot restarted the game with the successful conversion and Rasen were now facing an uphill struggle.
With skipper Dave Starling leading from the front, the men in red and green dug deep to find a renewed vigour and soon had Huntingdon under the cosh. The Stags had no answer to the Rasen pressure as the forwards drove incessantly towards the Huntingdon line, giving the referee no option as he ran under the posts awarding a penalty try. Grint landed the conversion and the Rasen revival was well underway.
Huntingdon looked for a quick riposte, but were undone conceding a penalty deep in Rasen territory. Robinson’s long raking touch find pushed the Stags back into their own twenty two in readiness for another red and green blitz. The malfunctioning lineout was a distant memory as Rasen took possession and relentlessly drove Huntingdon backwards for substitute Tom Pytlik to cross the whitewash. Grint maintained his perfect kicking record and Rasen had now nosed in front.
Malem replied with another well struck penalty to bring the Stags to within a point as the game entered the final quarter. The closing stages were a tense affair as neither side wanted to commit the cardinal error whilst still looking for a vital score that would seal the game.
With five minutes remaining Huntingdon were awarded a penalty of uncertain origin, but credit to Malem who kept his nerve from some distance to land the crucial kick. Four minutes later Rasen’s luck evaporated with another penalty conjured from the unknown for the nerveless Malem to put the final nail in the coffin.
With time running out Rasen continued to battle with the ball agonisingly falling from Starling’s grasp in a last ditch attack to leave Rasen suffering a cruel defeat.
Rasen had been the better side for long periods in a game of contrasting styles with a dominant scrum. Putting the inaccuracies of the first half behind them and making light of the injuries, Rasen showed remarkable resilience in the face of such adversity to recover and then fall short on the back of two cruel decisions.
The red and green spirit on display was a credit to the team with the travelling support undoubtedly proud to witness such endeavour and along with the players deeply disappointed at the final outcome.
This week’s game completed the first round of matches and the club has now played every other team in the league once. The red and greens face Kettering at Willingham Road on Saturday with a 2.15pm kick off for the last game of 2014.
Teams: Rasen: Southwell, Haig, Cole, Mills, Inman, Dennis, Pryer, Chamberlin, Gregory, Sutton, Gutteridge, Robinson, Starling D, Harvey, Grint. Subs: Everton P (Sutton), McStay (Harvey), Pytlik (Cole)
Huntingdon: Polson, Muggeridge, Chantler, Bentley, Bradley, Webb, Shakespeare, Martin, Skidmore, Chapman, Ward, Bates, Hill, Morgan, Malem. Subs: Smith, Thorp, West