Market Rasen and Louth RFC face fight to the finish after Kettering loss

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Market Rasen and Louth RFC must bounce back in their final three games to maintain their Midlands One East status after slipping two points above the bottom three.

The two-week enforced break by Ilkeston’s postponement did Rasen no favours as they looked like a ring-rusty side up against a Kettering team hungry for promotion and playing on the back of a good win.

Rasen failed to gather the kick-off, but as Kettering looked for an early opening score, Cameron Wallis intercepted a pass deep in his own 22 and sped up the touchline to outpace the trailing defenders and give the visitors an unlikely lead within a minute.

Dan Robinson added the extras to give the Red and Greens a perfect start.

But the joy was short-lived as Kettering hit back within three minutes, stretching Rasen’s defence to create an overlap for Luthayi to score a regulation winger’s try wide out.

Rasen nudged further ahead through Robinson’s penalty, but Kettering’s high octane game plan left the visitors largely consigned to defensive duties as wave after wave of blue and white jerseys swarmed at them.

The dam finally broke when hooker Steve Fraher finished off an attack to level the scores.

Kettering dominated territory and possession, aided by a lack of intensity from the visitors who were starting to drop off tackles.

A counter-attack initiated by full-back Plowright ended with Fraher celebrating a second try before fly-half Bruce Keir landed his first successful kick.

Rasen’s inability to close down the space was exploited by Keir who dummied his way past the first line of defence before linking with his half-back partner Ryan Conyard.

The scrum-half took play on before delivering a perfect overhead pass into the arms of Plowright, steaming up from full-back, to run in under the posts and leave Keir with a simple conversion for a 24–10 half-time lead.

Two scores down and facing a rampant Kettering with their tails up, Rasen made life even harder for themselves when flanker Dave Starling was shown a yellow card for a high tackle after only three minutes of the second half.

Despite the reduced ranks the visitors initially offered stout resistance in close-quartered lineout and maul battles.

However, in open play it was a different story as flanker Dan Ireland’s strong running broke tackles to allow Plowright to add to his earlier score, again converted by Keir.

The high tempo almost caught Rasen napping again when Kettering’s quick tap penalty seemed to have opened the way for Josh Cox to join the list of scorers.

But Chris Mills, the hard-working lock, chased back to put in the tackle which denied Cox his moment of glory.

This provided only a short respite before Ireland’s powerful running provided the catalyst, with Kettering efficiently recycling the ball for Fraher to crash over and complete his hat-trick. Keir added the conversion.

Rasen suffered a further setback when full-back Adam Goodwin was forced off with an injury which warranted a trip to the hospital.

This prompted a bizarre reshuffle of the backline where Wallis moved to full-back, number one scrum-half Chris Everton slipped into Wallis’ vacant wing berth and second team fly-half Mike Starling filled in at nine.

With Rasen visibly tiring, they began chasing shadows as Kettering scored a length-of-the-field try with some quality handling, finished off by Keir.

With 10 minutes left, Kettering won a scrum on the edge of the Rasen 22 and took the ball blind for Plowright to again join the line from full-back and complete his hat-trick.

Despite the scoreline, Rasen conjured up one final effort when Josh White latched onto Robinson’s delicate chip over the defence for a try in the corner, but it was too little, too late.

* On Saturday, Rasen welcome Leighton Buzzard to Willingham Road for a crucial game with both among a clutch of sides vying to avoid the third relegation spot. They then play their game in hand at Ilkeston a week later.

Rasen: C. Starling (Southwell), Alldridge, Haig, Mills, Inman, Grant (Grey), D. Starling, Chamberlin, C. Everton, Robinson, Wallis, A. Dearden, White, Holvey, Goodwin (M. Starling).