Market Rasen & Louth 1st XV 25-36 Derby 1st XV
With seven changes in the starting line up from the previous week plus three positional switches, it was always going to be an uphill battle against an accomplished Derby side currently sitting second in the table.
After an inauspicious start from Rasen with flyhalf Chris Everton’s limp kick off failing to travel 10-metres, Derby took control and kept the red and greens pinned in their own half for almost half an hour.
Despite a near monopoly on possession, Rasen defended with a fortitude that had been sadly lacking the previous week and limited Derby to a solitary penalty from flyhalf George Castledine’s three attempts.
Derby then managed to stretch their lead from yet another penalty as a well executed catch and drive from the ensuing lineout propelled lock Charlie Esberger over the line.
More misfortune befell the red and greens when flanker Ted Denniss, who had been making a nuisance of himself all afternoon, received a yellow card, but Castledine failed to find touch and Rasen ran the ball back. Student Dan Robinson, filling in at centre, continued to enhance his reputation as a dangerous broken field runner with an incisive break before linking with Nick Harvey. The winger chipped the oncoming defender and for once fortune favoured Rasen with a kind bounce back into Harvey’s hands, leaving his pace to do the rest with a clear run in under the posts.
Robinson added the conversion and moments later carved open a huge hole in the Derby defence with another scintillating piece of running.
As play moved on Derby conceded a penalty and Robinson’s kick bisected the uprights to give Rasen an unlikely lead.
With only five minutes of the half remaining Derby made a swift riposte with two quick tries. The visitors stretched the red and green defence before centre Ben Marlow popped the ball inside for his supporting fullback Andy Brown to glide over the line.
Winger Saj Sharma paved the way for the next score with a weaving counterattacking run before Brown popped up in support to bag his second try. Castledine landed both conversions to give Derby an interval lead of 22–10.
Rasen began the second half strongly and became encamped in the Derby twenty-two for the first 10 minutes. Playing a measured patient game the red and greens battered away at the Derby line, but the visitors held and firm and eventually inexperience from the younger players resulted in a Derby penalty to clear their lines.
Derby were finding it difficult to rekindle their first half dominance and only had one missed penalty from Castledine to show for their efforts before Harvey took a quick tap penalty to mount a Rasen attack.
The winger sped through the first line of defence before he was upended illegally by his opposite number Ryan Manning. The Derby man received a yellow card and Robinson punished the offence with another fine goal kick.
Just as they had done in the first half Derby came back with the counter punch. The Derby forwards took the ball forward, holding a Rasen defence that were erring on the side of caution having been almost penalised off the park for offside in the first half.
When the time was right the ball was released to the backs, where Marlow held the defence before releasing his centre partner Lewis Hancock to charge over the whitewash. Castledine added the conversion to give Derby a 16 point cushion, but the lessons learned from the Coalville debacle meant that Rasen were in no mood to meekly capitulate.
The improved spirit and tenacity running through the side drove the red and greens on. This was exemplified by hard working lock Chris Mills whose run charged through the Derby defence before the ball was taken on by his second row partner Dan Carson in similar fashion. With the twenty two in sight Derby managed to halt the Rasen momentum, but at the expense of losing hooker Pete Wilcox to the sin bin.
The visitors now only had 13 men on the pitch and Rasen were determined to take full advantage. The penalty kick to touch was the catalyst for another catch and drive, with prop Chris Starling marking his welcome return to action with a trademark try.
Derby’s resilience resurfaced again almost immediately as their forwards drove Rasen backwards in a series of rolling mauls before Castledine glided in by the posts to leave himself with an easy conversion.
Rasen weren’t done yet as Everton emulated his opposite number’s try scoring feat two minutes later. His scrumhalf instinct spotted the gap and a mismatch with a prop in front of him resulted in the youngster’s quick feet and pace off the mark leaving the hapless forward rooted to the spot as he glided in over the line from just outside of the Derby twenty two. Robinson slotted the conversion, but try as they might for the last five minutes Rasen couldn’t conjure a score that would have given them a point out of the game.
The omens for the game weren’t good with so many changes, but the side acquitted themselves well against a competent Derby side and were unlucky not to get at least a point out of the game. The spirit and attitude were much improved and hopefully the Coalville ghost has now been laid to rest.
There is still some work to do on the training field, but mental attitude should not now be a concern as long as it can be maintained irrespective of the league position of the opposition.
League action resumes on March 22 with a first trip to Huntingdon & District who are looking for points to secure another term in this division.
Teams - Rasen: Starling C, Alldridge, Ashton, Mills, Pytlik, Denniss, Pryer, Thornes, Starling M, Everton C, Gregory, Eddell, Robinson, Harvey, Neesham M. Subs: Carson (Denniss), Smith (Gregory), Crowe (not used)
Derby: Coombes, Wilcox, Twigg, Esberger, Atherton, Frixou, White, Taylor-Dawes, Gundry, Castledine, Manning, Marlow, Hancock, Sharma, Brown A. Subs: Brown C, Campbell, Saffell