Old Northamptonians arrived at Willingham Road with an unbeaten record and after a dominant first quarter, a comfortable win looked likely.
But a resurgent Rasen side pushed them all the way in an intriguing contest the red and greens narrowly lost.
ON’s began confidently as they made their way into the Rasen twenty two forcing the red and greens to concede a penalty. Alert scrumhalf Tom Goodman took a quick tap and burly centre Alex Crofts smashed his way over the line to give the visitors an early lead.
Rasen then suffered another setback as centre George Eddell was injured before Goodman caught the red and greens napping again.
The wily scrumhalf broke down the blindside, dummying his way past defenders to create a clear run to the line from just inside the home twenty two.
ON’s maintained the pressure with their high tempo game to keep Rasen pinned deep in their own territory with a series of drives as Crofts looked to have doubled his tally. However the referee denied the centre further glory by awarding a penalty try and sin binning Rasen number eight Leigh Dearden as a team punishment rather than an individual one. Goodman slotted the conversion and with 21 minutes gone, ON’s looked to be cruising to an emphatic victory.
After a lacklustre start Rasen gained the impetus they had been sadly lacking as centre Meehal Grint made a sparkling break up-field. The ball was turned over, but the clearance kick was collected and winger Nick Harvey instigated a counter thrust with a searing run slicing through the ON’s defence.
As his way was cut off he popped the ball back inside to the supporting Tom Alldridge before desperate defending managed to hold the hooker up over the line.
Rasen won the scrum and worked the ball blind for flanker Ben Chamberlin to charge in close to the corner. Grint added the conversion with an immaculate kick.
The red and greens ended the half strongly, but replicated the previous week’s malady as two promising attacks faltered through a lack of concentration leading to relieving penalties for the opposition. Nevertheless a 10 point deficit with the score 7–17 at the interval had seemed highly improbable in the early stages of the game.
Rasen continued their dominance as the second half commenced and soon had ON’s defending on their own line. Rasen took a scrum against the head and when their progress was halted by a penalty, they opted for another scrum. Dearden picked up at number eight, working the fringes before off-loading to Grint, whose perfectly timed run and pace proved irresistible as he crashed over the line.
Grint added the conversion and Rasen were then awarded a penalty immediately from the restart as Mat Mills’ comments irked the referee and earned the visiting flanker a 10 minute sojourn in the sin bin.
Rasen ramped up the pressure to gain a penalty in front of the posts, and with no hesitation, skipper Chris Starling invited Grint to attempt the kick, which he duly dispatched to bring the sides level.
ON’s made a rare visit into the Rasen half to win a penalty of their own, but Goodman’s rather ambitious attempt from some distance failed to reach the target.
Almost immediately there was a long break in proceedings as the next passage of play resulted in injuries to ON’s prop Ralph Rainbow and lock Rhys Hughes, who both had to retire from the game. On the resumption Rasen maintained their advantageous field position as the unerring boot of Grint put them into the lead with another well struck penalty.
ON’s then confirmed the old adage appertaining to a team’s vulnerability after scoring as they snatched back the lead within three minutes of Grint’s kick. Another quick tap penalty from Goodman set the ball rolling as ON’s went through the phases, recycling the ball before creating an overlap large enough for winger Lewis Bodily to squeeze in at the corner.
With 14 minutes remaining there was still time for another score, but nothing was forthcoming as the two sides effectively cancelled each other out and Rasen’s great fight back had just fallen short, albeit that it had secured a losing bonus point.
Rasen were left to reflect on what might have been, but for the lapses in the early stages that cost them dearly as ON’s ran up a 17 – 0 lead.
The inability to react quickly enough to penalties was a fundamental flaw that the opposition exploited to great effect. After the inauspicious start Rasen rallied and became the dominant force for long periods of the game, which was testament to the effort and belief from within the team.
However it is still a concern that scoring opportunities are being wasted through penalties given away at key moments as had also been the case last week.
Next week it is back on the road again with a trip to Paviors, no doubt smarting from their defeat at Mansfield and looking to avenge the pasting they took at Willingham Road last season. Kick off is 3pm.
Rasen: Starling C, Alldridge, Cole, Mills, Crowe, Chamberlin, Pryer, Dearden L, Starling M, Sutton, Everton P, Grint, Eddell, Harvey, Robinson. Subs: Ashton (Cole), Dennis (Norton), Norton (Eddell).
ON’s : Draper, Fulthorpe, Rainbow, Hughes, Piggott, Mills, Blackmore, Howes, Goodman, Love, Bodily, Graham, Crofts, Blank, Rose. Subs: Kefford, Spencer, Napier.