RUGBY: Market Rasen suffer narrow defeat in badgers sett

Leigh Dearden escapes a Bugbrooke tackle on Saturday EMN-141124-082352001
Leigh Dearden escapes a Bugbrooke tackle on Saturday EMN-141124-082352001
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Bugbrooke 1st XV 19-15 Market Rasen & Louth 1st XV

The red and greens made the long trek to Bugbrooke with six changes to the previous week’s starting line up, but they battled hard and were desperately close to bringing down the Badgers in their own sett.

Rasen had first use of the slope on a grey November afternoon as the two sides literally began to find their feet in the heavy conditions with the opening passages of play being evenly contested.

With 11 minutes gone a loose Rasen kick was fielded deep in Bugbrooke’s half for a counter attack to begin. A crucial missed tackle gave space for home winger Paul Stewart to scoot around the stretched Rasen defence before linking with his scrumhalf Tom Wood, who put number eight Mark Hyde in for a clear run under the posts. Fly half Laurence Baxendale slotted the simple conversion to extend the Badgers early lead.

Leading by example, skipper Dave Starling rallied his troops and burst through the centre with a powerful run to set up a maul where Bugbrooke were penalised for offside. With the ball safely dispatched to touch, Rasen unleashed the deadly catch and drive, but after marching menacingly towards a score, Bugbrooke managed to hold them up over the line to concede a five metre scrum.

Fuelled with adrenaline the Rasen eight won another penalty from the scrum and made ready to repeat the routine. This time the red and greens were unstoppable as number eight Ben Chamberlin was driven over the whitewash.

The two sides vied with each other for supremacy, but neither was master of the conditions as spilled passes punctuated play until a Bugbrooke penalty put them deep into the Rasen twenty two. From a scrappy lineout Bugbrooke secured possession and drove forward before prop John Holding peeled around an unguarded blind side to canter in for a try. Baxendale again landed the conversion, but Rasen were not done and after sustained pressure centre Dan Robinson reduced the deficit on the stroke of half time with a well struck penalty to leave Rasen 14–8 adrift at the interval.

Within four minutes of the restart the game was plunged into controversy as Mitch Stephenson’s haymaker was clearly in view of the referee and despite a long lecture from the official was only punished with a yellow card to add to the list of baffling decisions made throughout the game.

Rasen had to make do with 10 minutes of numerical advantage instead of 36, but Bugbrooke were punished for their centre’s indiscretion almost immediately. From a catch and drive Rasen pummelled the home line until the defence could take no more and substitute prop Ollie Cole rumbled over for the score. With Robinson temporarily off the field the returning Meehal Grint took on the kicking duties, sending the ball between the uprights to put Rasen into the lead.

The red and greens continued to keep the Badgers in their own territory until a turnover ball saw centre Tom Davies dart through a gaping hole in the visitors’ defence causing panic until an ill directed pass landed gratefully in the arms of Dave Starling.

This lifted the siege for Bugbrooke and when parity was restored the Badgers adopted a more pragmatic approach, playing for territory with a kicking game. However the quality of the kicking was not of the highest order with most kicks too long and easily dealt with until Grint fielded one such kick outside the Rasen twenty two. The fullback launched it back with interest, but unfortunately over hit it straight into touch to give the advantage back to Bugbrooke.

The home lineout worked perfectly and the Bugbrooke forwards began their drive for the line. With the assistance of the incline and the cloying mud making it difficult to gain any purchase the red and greens couldn’t resist the Badger’s momentum as they crossed the line for the vital score. From wide out Baxendale was unlucky with his attempted conversion as it died to strike the crossbar and bounce back infield to give Rasen a chance of stealing a victory through a try with 11 minutes left on the clock.

Rasen battled hard, but Bugbrooke held the advantage and cannily played a cautious game, maintaining possession for as long as possible to count down the clock. A yellow card for Pete Southwell for taking a player out off the ball left Rasen literally facing an uphill battle for the last three minutes and the Badgers were able to see out the game for a narrow victory in a match that either side could have won.

The result was in the balance for much of the game and the final outcome in such contests can often rest on the smallest of margins, which unfortunately for Rasen was the case with the over hit touch find, although a different card in the punching incident would have justifiably tipped the equilibrium.

However this was a committed display from the red and greens with much to commend. The conditions made play difficult, but not impossible and both sides made unforced errors in equal measure, but the spectre of high penalty counts is raising its ugly head again and Rasen need to address this.

Next week it’s a break from league action as the red and greens travel to take on Spalding in the NLD Cup.

Teams: Rasen: Haig, Alldridge, Southwell, Pytlik, Dearden L, Starling C, Pryer, Chamberlin, Gregory, Sutton, Lawton, Robinson, Starling D, Norman, Grint. Subs: Cole (Southwell), Inman (Pytlik), Smith (Robinson)

Bugbrooke: Judge, Lappin, Holding, Pardon, Rodwell, McQuarrie, Prestidge, Hyde, Wood, Baxendale, Stewart, Davies, Stephenson, Pepper, Williams. Subs: Dancer, Pattle, Atkin.