Market Rasen & Louth 1st XV 17-10 Mansfield 1st XV
The red and greens took to the field against a Mansfield side forced to rebuild for the second season in succession following the defection of several players, but the Rasen side also had its own issues.
The backline frailties of the previous week had been addressed with the return of more experienced players and skipper Dave Starling adding steel to the midfield, but injuries and unavailability resulted in the pack containing five members of the front row union, four of them props.
Rasen showed their attacking intent in the fifth minute when Nick Harvey came off his wing to cut through the Mansfield midfield to storm into the opposition twenty two. Further recycling then allowed flyhalf Matt Sutton’s delicate chip kick to send the ball towards the line, forcing Mansfield’s scrambling defence to minor for a five metre scrum.
Rasen maintained this early pressure with a catch and drive from a penalty before lock Will Inman peeled off to reach for the line. Unfortunately he was adjudged to have made a double movement in his attempt to score giving Mansfield some respite from a clearing penalty.
Renewed confidence in the red and green backs almost paid dividends when Sutton’s long flat pass found Peter Everton, making a welcome return to first team action after an enforced absence stretching back to January, with a clear run to the line. However the referee’s intervention put paid to a dream return for the winger with the pass deemed to be forward.
Moments later the game was interrupted for a lengthy Mansfield injury and when proceedings resumed the visitors seemed to have gained some composure. Mansfield winger Bobby Ogunode had spent much of the game in splendid isolation, but when he eventually got the ball in hand he lit up the field with a scintillating cross field run that took him deep into the Rasen twenty two before he was halted.
Mansfield recycled the ball and moved it back the other way to stretch the home defence, but their honest endeavour came to nought when lock Aiden McGregor fumbled the ball forward.
Undeterred the visitors remained deep in Rasen territory before another knock on provided the red and greens with an unexpected opportunity. Playing advantage, a further Mansfield error caused many of the players to stop, but the referee continued the advantage for centre Dan Robinson to burst clear from his own twenty two. The young centre raced away, but one Mansfield defender had other ideas as he tracked back only to see his efforts evaporate as Robinson slipped the ball to Peter Everton for him to finish under the posts.
Robinson slotted the simple conversion, but Mansfield made an immediate reply with Rasen caught offside following Ollie Cole’s uncharacteristic spillage of the restart kick. Young fly half Ross Elms secured the points with a well struck penalty, but couldn’t convert a second chance three minutes later when he badly miscued his attempt and sent it sailing towards the corner flag.
Despite being behind it was Mansfield who were winning the territorial battle until Chris Starling, operating in the unfamiliar blindside flanker role, brought the ball out and put Peter Everton in the clear. Another score for the winger looked inevitable, but instead of maintaining a straight trajectory he veered inside for flailing fullback Jack Crabtree to haul him down.
Having wasted this scoring opportunity, it gave Rasen field position as the tables were turned and it was Mansfield’s turn to be entrenched in their own twenty two. Rasen pressure yielded another penalty that instigated a further catch and drive attempt, but after the referee’s instruction to use the ball, the red and greens failed to comply and the ball was turned over for a Mansfield scrum.
Determined to make amends the red and green eight drove with venom and as the Mansfield scrum disintegrated, Cole, operating from number eight, was on hand to sweep up the ball and burrow his way over the line. Robinson added the conversion to give Rasen a far from convincing 14–3 lead at the interval.
There was more fluidity from the men in red and green in the opening passages of play in the second period. The early skirmishes belonged to Rasen as they sought to establish a foothold in Mansfield territory and they were rewarded in the ninth minute when Robinson maintained his 100 per cent record with a well struck penalty to extend the home lead.
Although this was an early setback, Mansfield still had plenty of resolve and were not about to capitulate. With grim determination Mansfield worked their way into Rasen homeland where they were awarded a lineout. Throughout the afternoon the Mansfield lineout had operated efficiently and this was no exception as they secured possession and began to drive for the line. Number eight Joe Symcox, forced to play in the centre following an earlier injury, couldn’t resist the close quarter confrontation and flew out of position to join the forward push. The decision paid off for the Mansfield man as it was he who forced his way over for the score. Elms added the conversion to leave only one score between the sides with twenty five minutes to play.
The remainder of the half was a dour affair with both sides resorting to a conservative approach to eliminate mistakes and consequently much of the play took place between the two twenty two’s with little hint of danger to the try line.
This was not a great performance, but the ultimate goal of a win was achieved and there appeared to be more mental grit than had been apparent in the previous weeks. The focus will now shift to the forwards as the return of experienced players to the backline generated a renewed confidence.
The forwards worked hard and those playing out of position did sterling work, but the lack of a genuine back row will be exposed against better opposition. However at the moment it is a question of resources and they will have to be managed as best as they can be.
It’s another home game on Saturday when table topping Syston are the visitors at Willingham Road for a 3pm kick off.
Rasen: Haig, Alldridge, Southwell, Mills, Inman, Starling C, Chamberlin, Cole, Everton C, Sutton, Everton P, Robinson, Starling D, Harvey, Neesham M
Subs: Pytlik (Inman), Storry (Cole), Gutteridge (Neesham)
Mansfield: Grant, Lieber, Annable, McGregor, Littlewood, Donaldson, Limb, Symcox J, Repton, Elms, Donaldson, Wood, Symcox A, Ogunode, Crabtree
Subs: Batson, Hall, Johnson