Market Rasen and Louth RFC edged out at Nottingham Casuals

Matt Ashton punctured holes on the Casuals defence. Picture courtesy of Jon Staves EMN-191111-095108002
Matt Ashton punctured holes on the Casuals defence. Picture courtesy of Jon Staves EMN-191111-095108002

There was a touch of irony as the Red and Greens travelled from Market Rasen with their own ground submerged in water following the week’s deluge.

But they arrived to find Nottingham Casuals’ ground in good order despite being nestled alongside the Nottingham canal with a clubhouse elevated on stilts to counteract flood risk.

Jake McKay made plenty of ground for Rasen and Louth in Nottingham. Picture courtesy of Jon Staves EMN-191111-095057002

Jake McKay made plenty of ground for Rasen and Louth in Nottingham. Picture courtesy of Jon Staves EMN-191111-095057002

On a crisp autumnal afternoon, Casuals made the early running as Rasen sought to shake the journey out of their system.

However, the hosts’ early endeavours were easily snuffed out by the Red and Green defence before Rasen began to get into their stride.

The usual suspects, Jake Pryer, Jake McKay, Matt Ashton and George Grant, punctured the home defensive line to make the hard yards before an unfamiliar backline had use of the ball.

Unfortunately, the handling was a little below-par and several promising attacks faltered following poor passing, resulting in knock-ons.

A score during this period may have dented Casuals confidence, having won just once this season prior to Saturday, but it was not to be.

In fact, Casuals opened the scoring after 22 minutes when they moved the ball wide to Daniel O’Connor.

The winger still had plenty to do, but his pace and swerves were too much for the Rasen defence as he crossed the line for an unconverted try.

This seemed to lift the hosts and Rasen were forced to fight a rearguard action, but dogged defending kept the Casuals at bay.

During the course of these skirmishes, McKay received a yellow card with little explanation from the referee, but Rasen’s 14 were more than enough to counter Casuals threat.

With the half drawing to a close, Casuals’ Mark Higgins over hit an attempted penalty kick to find touch in goal and play was brought back for a Rasen scrum. The Red and Green eight had functioned well in the set piece throughout the half and had the measure of the opposition.

This scrum was no different as Rasen won possession and, for once, their handling didn’t let them down.

After several phases, strong running and crisp handling had Casuals backpedalling until a final thrust from Pryer put Jacob Medd into space.

The winger, who had struggled to cling on to several passes previously, made no mistake to draw Rasen level.

The visitors had got themselves back into the game, but when Casuals emerged from the warmth of the dressing room for the second half, Rasen lapsed back into unforced error mode.

Within three minutes James Wood kicked a penalty to put the hosts back in front.

Thereafter neither line was really threatened, but another Wood penalty extended the lead to 11-5 after 22 minutes.

Rasen more than adequately dealt with everything that Casuals threw at them, but their possession time ate into the clock.

The Red and Greens had enough possession to create something themselves, but lack of precision saw many spilled passes as Rasen became architects of their own downfall.

A break from substitute Nick Harvey raised expectations on the touchline, and his subsequent kick ahead seemed to have Casuals in a panic as full-back Brodie Howatson struggled to get the ball under control.

However, Harvey’s over-exuberance in his quest to wrestle back possession as Howatson went to ground resulted in a penalty after the Rasen man went off his feet.

Sadly, this typified the afternoon and the final whistle brought an end to a disappointing performance.

It was inevitable the players would take time to adjust with the changes in the line-up, particularly those playing in unfamiliar positions.

But it was the execution of the basic skills which let them down, with passing and lineout well below the standards set earlier in the season.

Yet other aspects of the game were fine, with a strong defence and set-piece scrum.

It was an improvement on the previous outing at Loughborough, and their break the weekend before, courtesy of Stamford’s withdrawal from their cup tie, did not help Rasen’s cause.

The side has enough talent to bounce back and return to winning ways as long as they are prepared to work at it.

On Saturday, Rasen return to Willingham Road to take on Matlock, who are on a five-match winning run, for a 2.15pm kick-off.

In the event Rasen’s ground is unfit, the fixture could be flipped to Matlock, subject to their own ground conditions.

Rasen: Crowe (Howard), Fenwick, Ashton, Chamberlin, Grant, J. Norton (Harvey), Pryer, McKay, M. Starling, Goodwin, Wallis, F. Norton, Berger, Medd (Pridgeon), Stephens.