Market Rasen and Louth RFC continued their improved form a solid win at Newark, albeit by a smaller margin than they deserved.
In a complete contrast to their win over Matlock seven days earlier, Rasen had the lion’s share of possession and will be kicking themselves for leaving points out on the field because of inaccuracy and decision-making.
After an enthusiastic start from Newark, the visitors took control for much of the first half without taking advantage of their supremacy.
Tom Alldridge’s penalty after nine minutes calmed the Red and Greens’ nerves as they continued to press for another score.
But Newark held out, using the kicking of deep-lying fly-half Matt Cox to relieve pressure and gain field position.
After a period of concerted pressure Rasen opened up the Newark defence, but the final pass failed to reach its target and the golden chance was gone.
The visitors continued to hold the upper hand, with Newark’s limited forays into their territory snuffed out with little concern.
The hosts fought a rearguard action until they conceded a penalty which Rasen drilled into touch deep in Newark’s 22.
Rasen won the lineout and drove on before releasing the ball to the backs.
Centre Josh White cut back inside and seemed to have been held up in midfield, but the ball was kept alive with Tom Stephens steaming up from fullback to take the ball out wide and score close to the corner.
It was scant reward for the amount of possession Rasen had enjoyed and they were made to rue their wastefulness when Newark made a rare visit to Rasen’s 22.
Winning quick possession from a lineout, Cox nimbly charged through a chasm in the Red and Green defence to score under the posts, leaving himself with a simple conversion.
Despite their meagre possession and paltry visits to Rasen territory, Newark found themselves only a point adrift at 8–7 when the half-time whistle sounded.
The score gave Newark new impetus as they made a vigorous start to the second half, winning a penalty within a minute of the restart.
Cox made no mistake with the kick and, unbelievably, Newark were now in front.
Newark continued in a similar vein and won another penalty three minutes later, but fortunately for Rasen, Cox’s radar deserted him and the kick slid wide.
Rasen responded with a vengeance to create their best try of the season to date.
Playing at a greater tempo, the backs and forwards combined seamlessly with Rasen efficiently recycling the ball.
On the few times Newark thought they had halted the progress, the Red and Greens emerged with possession until a final pass was popped inside for supporting prop Matt Ashton to gallop over the whitewash.
Alldridge added the conversion and Rasen were back in front, but the 15-10 margin was still too close, Newark having already shown a breakaway was possible with centre Aloesi Waqalevu looking particularly dangerous.
Rasen had the opportunities to put the game beyond Newark, following separate breaks from Dave Starling and Josh White which carved open the Newark defence.
But both times the final pass was found wanting and Newark were let off the hook again.
The referee had frustrated both sides, halting play on three separate occasions to take the captains aside for a pep talk.
In the end it was too much for Newark skipper Will Britten who couldn’t keep his irritation to himself, venting his frustration within earshot of the official who issued a yellow card for the ill-advised comment.
Losing a player was bad enough, but the penalty was slap bang in front of the posts and Alldridge inflicted maximum damage to add the three points that left Rasen two scores ahead.
Despite the loss of their skipper, Newark were not down and out and continued in their quest for a score.
With two minutes left, the home side adapted a pragmatic approach to secure a losing bonus point when they were awarded a penalty.
Cox made no mistake with the kick to reduce the deficit to 18-13.
But time had almost run out for his side and it was Rasen who mounted the last attack before Newark stopped it through illegal means.
Alldridge astutely tapped the ball to himself before dispatching it into touch to ensure this would be the game’s final act.
There is a break from league competition on Saturday when Rasen welcome Bourne to Willingham Road for an NLD Shield tie. Kick-off 2pm.
Rasen: Howard, Alldridge, Ashton, Crowe (Janney), Chamberlin, J. Norton (D. Starling), Pryer, McKay, Everton, M. Starling, Pridgeon, White, Goodwin, Young (Harvey), Stephens.
* The second team had been due to travel to Barton, but a flooded pitch meant the game was switched to Rasen.
Unfortunately, home advantage did not pay off and they narrowly lost 10–5.