Market Rasen and Louth RFC picked themselves up from an awful display at Wellingborough to reach the Lincolnshire Senior Cup final.
After the trials and tribulations of a difficult league campaign, the Red and Greens faced another potential banana skin when they faced Midlands Three side Sleaford in the semi-finals under the Willingham Road floodlights last Wednesday.
But any doubts were soon dispelled as Rasen stamped their authority on the game from the outset, playing with real conviction and enthusiasm.
Strong running from Jake Pryer caused havoc in the Sleaford ranks as Rasen powered forward, causing the visitors to concede a succession of penalties which culminated in a penalty try after just 10 minutes.
The forwards laid a platform for the backs freedom to express themselves in a way which had rarely been possible all season.
Swift handling cut open Sleaford’s defence with a sublime offload out of the tackle from Tom Stephens, putting his centre partner Fred Norton in at the corner.
From the restart Rasen were soon deep into Sleaford’s 22 where fly-half Chris Everton switched play and his nimble feet eluded the defence before popping the ball to winger Simon Cooper for an easy run in.
Tom Alldridge’s superb touchline conversion stretched the lead as the first quarter drew to a close, with Sleaford hardly touching the ball.
The set scrum became a no-contest with the Rasen eight winning the ball at will, ad it was forward power which brought the next score as the hosts executed a perfect peel from a lineout for prop Matt Ashton to power over the whitewash against his former club.
Rasen were rocked back when they switched off and were caught out by the pace of Sleaford’s centre Jonathan Spencer who arced his way around the defence to score in the corner.
But Rasen had the last word of the half when the forwards extracted another penalty, and from the resulting lineout, flanker George Grant forced his way over for a 29–5 half-time lead.
The second half began with a scintillating break from Everton, but the quality of his pass couldn’t match his running, much to the relief of a beleaguered Sleaford defence.
But the scoring soon continued as backs and forwards combined seamlessly. Flanker Jack Norton’s lovely inside pass found Ed Nicholls joining the line from fullback to run in under the posts.
Alldridge added a simple conversion.
The backs were brimming with confidence when they cut loose again three minutes later for winger Will Pridgeon to finish a flowing move, again converted by Alldridge.
The forwards continued to dominate and drove at the heart of Sleaford’s soft underbelly before switching play for Nicholls to shoot through a hole and grab his second try.
Sleight of hand and a brilliant line from sub Adam Goodwin carved open the visitors, with his electric pace doing the rest to speed clear and touch down under the posts to give Alldridge another regulation conversion.
By now Rasen had emptied their bench which stifled their fluency, and Sleaford took advantage.
A rare period of pressure was rewarded when winger Tom Warmington crossed before converting his own try after 23 minutes.
The remainder of the game was largely uneventful as Rasen maintained control, subduing Sleaford’s rare flourish while unable to add to their tally.
While there was a wide gulf between the two sides league status, Rasen have endured a morale-sapping season and it was good to see the players expressing themselves.
Rasen return to league action on Saturday with a trip to Melton Mowbray.
Rasen: Ashton, Alldridge, Southwell, Benson, Chamberlin, J. Norton, Grant, Pryer, Noquet, Everton C, Cooper, F. Norton, T. Stephens, Pridgeon, Nicholls. Subs: Scupham, Crowe, Fenwick, Goodwin, Palmer.