Market Rasen & Louth 1st XV 14 Bedford Athletic 1st XV 21
In atrocious conditions this was always going to be battle of attrition slogged out by the forwards while the backs did their best to stave off hypothermia.
On the basis of previous encounters the conditions appeared more conducive to the red and green style of play and it was the Rasen eight who had the better of the early encounters as their driving play gave fullback Matt Sutton his first shot at goal after four minutes.
Sutton slotted the kick to open the scoring, but Bedford came back and almost immediately forced Rasen into conceding a penalty. Fly half James Mortimer, who was later to play a pivotal role, couldn’t master the conditions and failed with his kick.
The red and greens then proceeded to dominate large portions of the first half through their direct approach while Bedford bizarrely shunned percentage rugby and opted for an expansive game that was contrary to the weather situation.
Rasen capitalised on their territorial superiority with two further Sutton penalties, the second of which was a magnificent strike from close to the touchline before Bedford’s persistence with a more open game almost paid off. For once Bedford’s backs managed to cling on to the greasy ball and created space for Stephen Woodhead, but the final pass to the winger was poor and the ball bounced harmlessly into touch. Nevertheless Bedford were slowly working their way back into the game and Mortimer kicked a penalty to open their account to close the margin to 9–3 at the interval in a half where Rasen had been the more dominant side.
Bedford realised their first half folly and emerged in the second half with a change of tactics that saw Mortimer control the game from fly half with some astute kicking while his forwards maintained a foothold deep in Rasen territory.
There was an early let off when Mortimer over hit a penalty to touch to send the ball dead, but within seven minutes the fly half had landed two penalties to bring his side level.
Further pressure from the visitors resulted in another penalty where there was no repeat of the previous touch kick. Rasen then had to endure some of their own medicine as Bedford executed a perfect catch and drive to force number eight James Ball over the line.
Bedford almost extended their lead moments later when centre Luke Levitt was just beaten to a touchdown chasing a chip through from Mortimer. Rasen’s task was made harder when a late tackle from substitute Chris Mills earned him ten minutes in the sin bin and Bedford took full advantage two minutes later. The red and greens were giving stout resistance as the Bedford forwards drove for the line and the maul was halted, but scrumhalf Tom Orton dummied to pass out and then sneaked through a gap in the fringe defence for a try. Mortimer added the conversion and Rasen had paid a heavy price for the yellow card.
However in recent weeks the red and greens have exhibited an impressive level of team spirit in adversity and they eventually escaped the Bedford shackles to mount an attack of their own. A wicked kick through from scrumhalf Jack Noquet forced Bedford to concede a five metre scrum, but after two attacking scrums with wing Nick Harvey acting as a makeshift flanker, Rasen knocked on and Bedford could relieve the pressure.
With time running out Rasen ran from their own half and Bedford struggled to deal with a kick from fly half Jake Goodison, but managed to scrabble the ball into touch. In a final act of defiance the forwards won the ball and drove towards the line, but as the momentum began to slow almost all of the backline joined the maul to propel flanker Leigh Dearden over the line for a crucial try to earn a losing bonus point with the last play of the match.
Another stirring performance from the red and greens where the weather played a huge part in the game, but the determination shown at the end of the game epitomised the spirit burning within this group of players. The turnaround in the New Year has been highly commendable making the team much more competitive and capable of a return to winning ways.
Next week there’s a break from league action before hostilities resume with an away trip to Matlock on March 23.
Rasen: Starling C, Alldridge, Cole, Chamberlin, Crowe, Dearden L, Starling D, Hutchinson, Noquet, Goodison, Everton P, Dearden A, Beasley, Sutton
Subs: (used) Ashton, Mills (not used) Robinson
Bedford Athletic: Taylor, Elliott, Allard, Middleton, Wolfenden, Beagent, Ball, Orton, Mortimer, Woodhead, Ryder, Levitt, Sutherland, Johnson
Subs: Barnard, Polson, Mills