Rasen became the first side this season to inflict defeat on league leaders Peterborough Lions with some awe inspiring free flowing rugby.
Despite the wind advantage, Rasen struggled in the early stages of the first half with a string of missed tackles assisting the visitors’ momentum.
The Lions monopolised possession and dangerous centre Verne Horne caused all sorts of problems with his running, but his substandard distribution skills negated the effect of his line breaks. Determined defending kept the Lions at bay and eventually Rasen worked their way into Lions territory through a touchline penalty. An effective catch and drive pushed the Lions closer to their line, but Rasen couldn’t break the visitors’ solid defence and they continued to hold out even when scrumhalf Harry Winch received a yellow card.
The deadlock was finally broken after 31 minutes by Lions flyhalf Duncan Low with a well struck penalty. Rasen came back immediately, but centre Meehal Grint was unable to land his penalty although the red and greens maintained their field position and ended the half pressurising the opposition.
Facing a 3 – 0 deficit and the wind, the second half looked a difficult proposition and would certainly test the home side’s mettle.
Peterborough Lions made their intentions clear from the restart, which was gathered by Joe Sagoe. Strong running from the winger took the ball into Rasen’s twenty two, but forcing the play the Lions knocked on to defuse this early pressure.
Having weathered this early storm, Rasen then produced their first piece of superlative rugby as winger Nick Harvey timed his run to perfection to join the line at pace and slice through the Lions defence. As the defence closed in Harvey found the supporting Adam Beasley who still had a lot of work to do, but the tall centre’s pace was just enough to elude the final chasing defenders to score wide out.
Stunned by this score, the Lions pushed Rasen deep into their own half and were only stopped when young number eight Henry Spencer intervened. However the referee adjudged this to be a deliberate knock on and Spencer was yellow carded. Steenberg slotted the penalty to restore the lead and then Peterborough Lions exploited Rasen’s depleted numbers with two well taken tries.
Substitute Adam Peel made a superb break, eating up the ground before popping the ball inside to fullback Reggie Reed for a clear run in under the posts to leave an easy conversion for Steenberg.
The next score was not as aesthetically pleasing on the eye, but was equally as effective as the visiting forwards drove Rasen backwards before Low stepped inside to dart over the line. Steenberg missed the conversion, which was to prove significant by the end of the game.
Facing a 13 point deficit with only 18 minutes left on the clock, a victory now looked to be a tall order, but the game turned in an instant. A cynically late tackle from Lions flanker Chris Humphrey poleaxed fly half Matt Sutton leaving the maestro prostrate on the ground gasping for air. Humphrey was dispatched with a yellow card whilst the Rasen faithful waited anxiously for Sutton’s recovery.
Shaken, but restored to his feet, Sutton drilled the penalty to touch. A catch and drive took the ball forward before it was released to the backs where Grint changed the point of attack by charging back towards the visitors pack. His elusive running opened the way and a pop inside to hardworking lock Chris Mills saw the team’s unsung hero charge over the whitewash. Grint added the conversion as the adrenaline was now coursing through the veins of every man in red and green fuelled by the treatment of their fly half talisman.
Rasen kept up the pressure with the Lions clearly rattled and another penalty took them deep into the visitors twenty two. In the gathering gloom another catch and drive edged Rasen closer to the line as the steaming pack of forwards kept control and finally drove Spencer over the line. Grint couldn’t master the wind with a difficult touchline conversion, but there was now only one point between the teams with 10 minutes to play.
The Lions finally imploded in the 35th minute with their fourth yellow card of the afternoon with lock Marius Andrijauskas’ stupid decision to kick the ball out of scrumhalf Chris Everton’s hands whilst in an offside position. With ice cool nerves Grint guided the ball through the uprights to put Rasen into the lead with four minutes to go. Despite the Lions best efforts Rasen carefully managed the final minutes to gain a well deserved victory.
Rasen recovered from a prop crisis earlier in the week, admirably answered by Danny Nicholls and ably backed up by Tom Pytlik, to beat the league leaders with a display of passion and no small amount of skill. This performance is at the pinnacle of the displays so far this season and needs to be the level that the players aspire to in every game irrespective of whoever the opposition may be.
The league programme now takes a Christmas break and resumes on January 4 with a trip to Matlock. However on Thursday, December 19, Rasen take on Scunthorpe in the Lincolnshire Cup quarter final with a 7.30pm kick off.
Teams: Rasen: Ashton, Alldridge, Nicholls, Mills, Chamberlin, Pryer, Starling D, Spencer, Everton C, Sutton, Robinson, Grint, Beasley, Harvey, Everton P. Subs: Dearden L (Mills), Norton (Everton P), Pytlik (Nicholls)
Peterborough Lions: Vinksna, Carter, Laws, Andrijauskas, Zokas, Bal, Humphrey, Sait, Winch, Low, Hewitt, Horne, Vilimanivicius, Sagoe, Reed. Subs: Peel, Murphy, Steenberg.