With the pitch waterlogged at Spalding’s ground the game was moved to the Spartan junior facility where the narrow pitch probably saved the hosts from further humiliation.
This was a game Rasen were never in danger of losing despite a below par performance.
Rasen began with purpose and played the phases, forcing Spalding to concede an early penalty that soon found the ball dispatched to touch. After the customary lineout catch and drive the ball was taken in field for number eight Ben Chamberlin to drive over the line in the third minute. Fullback Meehal Grint added the conversion, but the anticipated procession of the previous two encounters was slow to arrive.
Spalding reacted positively and retained possession after this early set back to create field position with their own driving play, but despite a steady advance the red and greens looked comfortable patiently waiting for the inevitable turnover. When it did come Rasen made their way smartly up field and were held up over the line after a period of sustained pressure.
The red and greens continued to attack, but a telegraphed long cut out pass was easily read by Josh Broome and the young fullback sprinted three quarters of the pitch for an interception try, which he then converted to bring his side back on terms.
It was clear that the Rasen mindset was sullied by the ease of the two previous victories as unforced errors and poor decision making crept into their game. Conceding the try gave them a well needed kick in the pants as the red and greens went back to basics playing to their strength in the pack.
After patient recycling the backs were given the ball and Grint cut an incisive line from fullback to glide in under the posts to give himself an easy conversion.
From the restart unsung hero Tom Pytlik gathered the ball and charged up the touchline before passing inside.
Fly half Dan Robinson’s deft chip then caught the home defence on the hop as skipper Dave Starling steamed up to hack the ball on over the line for Rasen’s third try. Grint maintained his hundred percent kicking record to close the first half scoring leaving Rasen 21–7 ahead in a half where the Rasen eight were totally dominating their opponents at the set scrum.
With Spalding living off scraps Rasen should have been set fair for a cricket score, but continued errors and lack of concentration ensured that this didn’t materialise.
It was 12 minutes before Rasen crossed the line again as Dave Starling made a strong run before the ball was shipped to the other side of the field for winger Josh Lawton to dot the ball down over the whitewash.
Repeatedly Rasen put themselves in good positions and then contrived to undo their hard work with needless penalties, 14 in total throughout the game, spilling the ball or poor passes. Eventually Rasen increased their lead from broken play after Chris Starling had taken the ball up field before finding support with scrumhalf Chris Everton, finishing off the move from 30-metres out. Grint slotted the conversion as the fight was visibly draining from the home side staring another defeat in the face.
A yellow card for bovine number eight Harry Brown left Spalding to face the closing stages a man down and Rasen finally started to get their game together to ram home their superiority. The backs stretched the beleaguered home defence as Grint floated an audacious overhead pass inside for Dave Starling to canter in for his second try of the game converted by Grint.
As the game entered the last minute Rasen took their umpteenth scrum against the head as the Spalding pack was mercilessly shunted backwards for the ball to be taken blind. Robinson’s pace was too much for the disconsolate Spalding defence as the young fly half crossed the line to put a final nail in the South Lincolnshire side’s coffin.
This was a big win in an error strewn match against a demoralised side losing week in week out. The effort of the pack in the set scrum was peerless with a total domination of the opposition to such an extent that it rarely mattered who was putting the ball in, but the rest of the game was littered with imprecision and ill discipline that a better team would have punished.
One suspects that these lapses were down to an attitude determined by the perception of the opposition, but the side must strive to maintain a consistent level of mental toughness and not just turn it on when facing better opponents.
Next week Rasen face a sterner task when Bedford Athletic are the visitors to Willingham Road for a 2.15pm kick off.
Teams - Rasen: Starling C, Alldridge, Southwell, Mills, Pytlik, Dearden L, Pryer, Chamberlin, Everton C, Robinson, Gutteridge, Beasley, Starling D, Lawton, Grint. Subs: Haig (Starling C), Cole (Southwell), Berger (Lawton)
Spalding: Waudby, Read, Caley, Haighton, Piccaver, Deurden, Richardson, Brown, Shields, Grundy, Lane, Chappell, Williams, Cooke R, Broome. Subs: Cooke S, Scotney, Eggleton