Market and Rasen RFC rode their luck to chalk up a much-needed bonus-point win against Ilkeston in their penultimate home game of the season on Saturday.
Rasen fell behind early on and then took the lead, but every time they opened up a gap in the score, Ilkeston hit back until a final decisive score secured the points.
Playing into the breeze, the Red and Greens lurched from the sublime to the careless in the opening passages.
A brilliant take by Ben Young from Chris Everton’s kick-off set Rasen on their way, but possession was soon turned over and this became the pattern for the early stages.
Ilkeston looked to capitalise on these early errors and showed their intent when they opted for a scrum after the hosts conceded a penalty in front of their posts. A solid scrum delivered the ball for Joe Marsden who took play to the blindside to put Aaron Garvey away up the touchline for the opening try.
Rasen were kept on the back foot for long periods as Ilkeston pressed for a second try and almost had it when Tom Pottinger broke through, but his substandard pass gave the home side enough time to snuff out the attack.
Rasen were still under the cosh when Ilkeston coughed up possession and Will Stephens set off upfield.
The winger’s running bamboozled the defence as he broke through tackles and found himself almost clear, and when his progress was finally slowed, centre Josh White was there to take the pass and score in the corner.
Young’s superb touchline conversion edged Rasen ahead, a position they would not surrender. Ilkeston almost snatched back the initiative when Marsden sniped through a gap in the fringe defence, but like Pottinger, the final pass to the support was woefully wide of the mark.
Rasen maintained their slender 7-5 lead into half-time, but the second half began badly for the Red and Greens when Will Fenwick received a yellow card after three minutes for a clumsy accidental trip as winger Charlie Clarke chased his kick.
Rasen weathered the Ilkeston storm after this penalty and worked their way upfield.
Number eight Jake McKay made a superb break and held his nerve to deliver the perfect pass for supporting flanker George Grant to maintain his try-a-match record since his return.
The game was still finely poised when Fenwick returned, but Young’s penalty appeared to give Rasen some breathing space.
But Ilkeston had other ideas, and within a minute slick handling in their backs put Clarke away to score close to the uprights.
Jake Lamb added the conversion to cut the lead to three points.
Rasen responded positively and looked to have carved a way through the Ilkeston defence, but Peter Everton’s well-timed pass was knocked forward by Clarke who was sent to the sin bin.
Rasen took full advantage, drilling the penalty into touch before winning the lineout and going through the phases to recycle the ball, working over to the opposite side of the field where Young squeezed in at the corner.
Unfortunately, Rasen were caught napping again three minutes later when Lamb took a quick tap penalty and shrugged off would-be tacklers to power up the touchline and score wide out.
There were still 12 minutes left, and six on the bin, with Rasen clinging to a three-point lead.
The Ilkeston 14 successfully negotiated the remainder of the sinbin and caused Rasen problems with their high tempo game.
But Rasen engineered the crucial final score when they were up to full strength.
The home side attacked deep in Ilkeston’s 22, and White, operating at fly-half in the absence of the injured Chris Everton, spied a chink in the visitors’ defence and had just enough gas to surge through it and reach the line.
Young’s conversion opened up a 10-point lead with time running out, but Ilkeston continued to press for a losing bonus point.
The final throes of the game were played deep in Rasen territory as the hosts conceded several penalties, but the defence held firm and Ilkeston left empty-handed.
On Saturday, Rasen travel to Lincoln who need a win to finish above Rasen in the league for the first time in a decade.
Wins for Rasen next week and in the final game against Ashby would leave the Red and Greens above their local rivals.
Rasen: Crowe, Alldridge, Ashton, Inman (Roberts), Chamberlin, Grant (J. Norton), Pryer, McKay, Fenwick, C. Everton (Wallis), Young, White, P. Everton, W. Stephens, Goodwin.