Kettering 1st XV 19-26 Market Rasen & Louth 1st XV
With the first double (wins at home and away) of the season completed last week with an emphatic victory over Ilkeston, the red and greens were in a buoyant mood as they travelled to Waverley Road seeking a first ever win at Kettering.
Kettering coming off the back of a big win at Mansfield made their attacking intentions known from the outset as they looked to move the ball across the park.
A missed penalty in the third minute from the usually reliable boot of home fullback Joe Daniel was an early let off for the visitors, but four minutes later Rasen hit panic mode to give Kettering a soft opening try.
A litany of handling errors with no apparent inclination to heed the mantra of not shipping bad ball pushed Rasen ever closer to their own line and flanker Simon Bartley took full advantage, touching down after hacking the ball over the whitewash.
Despite this early setback, Rasen rallied and started to build field position with patient recycling of possession through their efficient forwards.
A narrowly missed penalty from centre Meehal Grint was soon followed up with two touchline penalty kicks in quick succession giving Rasen the opportunity to unleash their potent catch and drive routine.
Desperate defence from Kettering kept the red and greens at bay as they were held up over the line and then looked to push home their gathering ascendancy from the resultant five metre scrum.
A poor pass from scrumhalf Chris Everton bobbled at the feet of mercurial flyhalf Matt Sutton to undo the forwards hard work as Kettering regained possession and cleared the danger.
Disaster then struck the home side as two Kettering players were forced to leave the field through injury. The Rasen forwards kept up the pressure with a post penalty catch and drive providing them with a try scoring opportunity that had previously eluded them.
This time Kettering couldn’t withstand the red and green power play with skipper Dave Starling emerging triumphant from the pile of bodies after levelling the scoreline. Grint nudged Rasen into the lead with a well struck conversion.
Kettering came back in positive fashion and Rasen were soon facing another penalty attempt, but once again Daniel couldn’t find his range and the ball sailed harmlessly wide of the mark.
With the half drawing to a close Rasen opened up the home defence with some deft handling and an immaculate line from Dan Robinson that took the flying fullback on a direct trajectory to the line with hardly a hand laid on him as he dotted down under the posts. Grint ended the half with a successful conversion that gave Rasen a 14–5 lead at the interval.
Rasen started the second half with a bang that saw Everton atone for his earlier mistake by touching down with less than a minute on the clock.
Dave Starling fielded the kick off to weave his way past several defenders before brother Chris took the ball on with his piston like legs making the hard yards. Quick recycling found Robinson out on the wing and using his pace to breeze past the next line of defence, he skilfully drew the last defender to give a perfectly timed pass for his scrumhalf to sprint in from the 25-metre line.
Grint added the conversion to extend the lead as Rasen looked to be drawing out of sight.
However Kettering have been in good form winning seven of their last eight games and were not about to give up without a fight. With Rasen dropping off tackles centre Joe Newman broke up field and with options either side faced with a backpedaling defence he slipped the ball inside to flyhalf Ben Dawson for a stroll in under the posts. Daniel finally opened his account with the simple conversion as the home support began to sense a comeback.
Rasen continued in a workmanlike fashion again forcing Kettering to concede another penalty, which Sutton drilled into the corner. Kettering had no answer to another catch and drive with prop Chris Starling rewarded for his hard work throughout the match with a try. Grint thought, as did many spectators, that he had nailed the conversion, but touch judge Pete Dixon in another Loughborough moment ruled otherwise.
Three minutes later Rasen were afforded the luxury of an additional player when Kettering substitute Danny Noble was yellow carded, but the home side made light of this when Nick Harvey’s slow motion pass was intercepted by Daniel. The fullback ran in unopposed under the posts and then converted his own try to put his side only one score behind with a quarter of the game to go.
Moments later Daniel came out on top again in another tussle with Harvey as Rasen pushed the ball wide. The Rasen winger had the line in his sights, but a superb tackle from the home fullback not only stopped Harvey, but prevented him from grounding the ball to save what looked like being an odds on try.
Whilst Kettering were trying to get back on terms, Rasen were controlling the game with Sutton pulling the strings from fly half with some astute kicking that continued to keep the home side pinned in their own half.
As the game drew to a close both sides were becoming fractious and Dave Starling found himself the harsh victim of this when the referee brandished a yellow card. Less than a minute later the official sounded the final whistle.
This was another good win for the red and greens with a scoreline that flattered the opposition in the light of two soft tries that were gifted to them.
A few weeks ago this game would probably have been lost, but the fact that the result was never really in doubt is a measure of the improvement in the side’s mental attitude and game management.
There was no panic after conceding scores through unforced errors as the team pulled together to guide the match through to a first ever win at Kettering.
This Saturday Rasen end the season with a home game against Mansfield with the opportunity to complete a hat trick of doubles having defeated Mansfield in the first game of the season.
The visitors fortunes have improved since then, but they will be coming to Rasen on the back of a 47 – 0 drubbing at the hands of those awfully nice Peterborough Lions.
Teams: Rasen: Starling C, Alldridge, Cole, Thornes, Crowe, Mills, Starling D, Spencer, Everton C, Sutton, Gutteridge, Grint, Eddell, Harvey, Robinson. Subs: Ashton (Cole), Inman (not used), Dwyer (not used)
Kettering: Ling, Martin, Fraher, James, Bishop, Bartley, Chapman, Newman, Noble T, Dawson, Taylor, Neild, Newman, Rees, Daniel. Subs: Santos, Noble D, Plowright