Market Rasen and Louth RFC started the new year as they had ended the old one with a sluggish performance against a youthful Long Eaton side.
The visitors included seven changes to the side which had faced the Red and Greens at the start of the season and duly left with a 38-22 win.
Long Eaton were the livelier side from the outset as Rasen struggled to get going and missed tackles at an alarming rate.
After seven minutes, Long Eaton’s efficient lineout secured possession for the forwards to rumble over for the opening score, touched down by Lewis Giddings.
George Finney slotted the conversion and Rasen knew they were in for a tough afternoon.
After this early setback, there was a glimmer of improvement as the hosts got out of first gear, with Tom Stephens making some good runs from full-back, but overall aggression and intensity was lacking.
Long Eaton easily weathered the first storm and then extended their lead with a carbon-copy of the first score following a penalty kick to touch.
Their catch and drive was irresistible, allowing hooker Jack Weedon to peel off and power over, with Finney again adding the extras.
Rasen conceded another penalty nine minutes later, and once again the visitors administered the same punishment, completing a hat-trick of catch and drive scores as Weedon doubled his tally.
Rasen had been consigned to fighting a rear-guard action, but good handling gave Will Pridgeon the chance to run down a narrow channel close to the touchline.
The winger breezed past the first line of defence, but Ben Milton’s superb cover tackle bundled Pridgeon into touch just short of the line.
But it did create useful field position for the Red and Greens who continued to apply pressure in the visitors’ 22.
Rasen finally began to play with purpose, patiently working the phases and moving the Long Eaton defence from one side to the other until Spen Holvey cut in from his wing to crash over for Rasen’s opening score.
It left the hosts 19–5 adrift as the half-time whistle sounded moments later.
Rasen made a disastrous start to the second half when a poor pass struck Will Inman in the face and went to ground, allowing Finney to gather and sprint to the line unimpeded for the bonus-point try.
He then converted his own try.
Six minutes later the tables were turned when Long Eaton full-back Kyran Powell made a hash of dealing with Josh White’s kick through.
Pridgeon was in hot pursuit to pounce on the loose ball and score in the corner.
After a further period of Long Eaton pressure, Rasen allowed them the chance to go through their party piece, and for a fourth time they scored from a catch and drive, with Giddings reprising his opening score.
Finney’s conversion enhanced his side’s grip on the game.
Rasen showed a bit more fight in the second half with hard-working lock Adam Roberts producing two surging runs.
The second opened the way for White to break through the defence and put Holvey in for his second try.
The seesaw scoring continued as Long Eaton hit back to finally break some spirited defence when Rasen ran out of cover for winger Oliver Davidson to cross.
Rasen kept on battling and sneaked a try bonus point when the alert Pridgeon’s quick tap-penalty caught Long Eaton napping and replacement Jake McKay, who had added much-needed energy since his arrival, powered his way to the line.
Tom Alldridge had his first successful kick of the day to complete the scoring, but it was too little, too late.
The tone was set in the opening stages when Rasen’s lethargic approach cost them dear and consigned them to playing catch up for the rest of the game.
When the red and greens upped the intensity and spread the ball wide, they looked a different side and need to work on this for future games.
Whilst the season is not at the implosion stage yet, it is worrying that the side haven’t won a game since mid-November and it is important that they get out of the rut before a losing mentality sets in like last season.
Rasen hit the road on Saturday for a trip to Loughborough (ko 2.15pm).
Rasen: Ashton, Alldridge, Howard (Senescall), Crowe (McKay), Roberts, J. Norton, Janney, Inman, Nicholls, C. Everton (Stirling), Pridgeon, White, McLoughlin, Holvey, T. Stephens.
* Market Rasen and Louth’s second team had a bright start to the new year with a thumping 49-10 victory over Long Eaton’s second string.