Market Rasen and Louth RFC endured a frustrating afternoon as they let an early lead slip against Old Northamptonians on Saturday.
There was much to commend in the performance against a good side, but Rasen lacked the staying power to compete in the final quarter.
Rasen began with purpose against sluggish opponents who seemed to struggle to get the long journey out of their system.
Fly-half Dan Robinson’s astute chip and gather unlocked the visitors’ defence in the second minute before quick hands from centre Adam Goodwin put Tom Stephens away on the wing to open the scoring. Meehal Grint added the conversion.
Continued Rasen pressure paved the way for Grint to add a penalty six minutes later.
The dream start continued as ONs made uncharacteristic handling errors with their limited possession, and another Rasen penalty from Robinson, taking over kicking duties from the injured Grint, made it 13-0.
After soaking up the early onslaught, ONs put together a series of phases which pushed the hosts towards their own line. The visitors played through two advantages before fly-half Lewis Barker darted through a gap to put them on the scoreboard.
Full-back Charlie Cox added the conversion as the balance of play swung.
It was Rasen’s turn to fight a rearguard action and ONs were thwarted with a clear overlap when Rasen’s Simon Cooper slapped the ball down in an attempted interception, earning the winger a yellow card.
Northampton continued to build momentum from a lineout which was taken blind for scrum-half Harry Sanderson to snipe over the line and reduce the arrears to 13-12.
Half-time had come at the right time for Rasen, allowing them to draw the sting out of the mounting pressure.
And the hosts made an enterprising start as they threatened the visitors line. Playing an advantage, Robinson’s perfectly weighted cross-field kick was grounded by Cooper, but the referee ruled Rasen had not gained any advantage and awarded a penalty.
The stunned Red and Greens continued to press, forcing two scrum penalties, but no yellow cards.
Rasen came agonisingly close to a score, but the ball was dislodged from the hands of number eight Ben Chamberlin for a knock-on and ONs lifted the siege.
A long injury break for Sanderson gave both sides time to reflect, but it was ONs who got back into their game the quickest.
Robinson’s attempted clearance was charged down with visiting flanker Simon Portwain winning the race to the touchdown.
Cox converted from wide out, and with renewed confidence, the visitors pinned Rasen pinned in their own half.
Another wayward clearance kick sparked a counter-attack which took Northampton close to the home line.
Rasen defended bravely, but from a scrum, ONs released their backs and centre Alex Crofts powered his way over with Cox again adding the extras.
The Red and Greens battled hard, but ONs’ superior fitness made it an uphill struggle, particularly as injuries had left them shorn of backs, with flanker Jake Pryer having to fill in at centre.
With time running out, ONs settled for a pragmatic finish when Cox’s final penalty put the game well and truly out of Rasen’s reach.
Rasen: C. Starling, Alldridge, Southwell (Haig), Inman, Crowe (Roberts), Grant, Pryer, Chamberlin, M. Starling, Robinson, Cooper, Goodwin, Wallis, Stephens, Grint (P. Everton).
* On Saturday there’s a break from league action as attention switches to the NLD Cup where North Derbyshire side Glossop are the visitors.
They play in the South Lancs/Cheshire Division One and have won four out of six league games this season.
Kick-off time has yet to be announced, but is likely to be earlier than 3pm due to the possibility of extra time.