Market Rasen and Louth RFC kept pace with the Midland Two East top-three with a comfortable win at basement side Ashfield on Saturday.
After the previous week’s thrashing of Ashbourne, the Red and Greens travelled to Ashfield brimming with confidence, but perhaps too much in the opening stages.
But despite several changes in personnel and positionally, the side gelled after an early setback and produced some good rugby, but latterly lost the accuracy to change a good result into another rout.
Rasen made the early running, but could not capitalise as delayed passes failed to exploit the good approach work.
And after eight minutes, Ashfield stunned their visitors with a well-worked score straight off the training ground.
Winger Leo Tang burst into the line from the opposite wing to create space for fellow winger Phillip Brown to sprint clear and around under the posts.
Callum Close slotted the conversion.
Rasen’s response was swift as they ramped up the pressure and moved the ball wide for Tom Stephens to burst up the touchline and ease past the defence to open the visitors’ account.
Connor Janney added the conversion to level as Rasen regathered their composure.
The visitors continued to keep Ashfield pinned in their own half and harried them into a turnover which Rasen took full advantage of.
Good handling found flanker Jack Norton lurking out wide for a simple run-in.
Four minutes later Ben Young was wrong-footed by Brown and left a trailing leg, which tripped the Ashfield man to earn a yellow card.
Rasen were short of a winger, but Ashfield failed to move the ball wide.
Full-back Will Pridgeon’s high tackle led to another yellow card and helped by the wind, Close slotted a long-range penalty to narrow the deficit.
Young’s return took Rasen up to 14 men, and they continued to keep Ashfield on the back foot, forcing a penalty just inside their own half.
Skipper Ben Chamberlin’s quick tap-penalty caught Ashfield by surprise as the veteran tore upfield, supported by Mike Starling who took play on before releasing Jake McKay to finish the move for a 17-10 half-time lead.
Rasen opened the second half with attacking intent, and after good approach work, hooker Freddie Fenwick burst upfield and delivered a perfectly weighted pass for fellow front rower Pete Southwell whose clever angled line took him through to score under the posts.
Janney made no mistake with the conversion.
Pryer’s trademark surge broke the first line of defence before he was downed. Quick recycling allowed Josh White to brush past would-be tacklers to cross the whitewash. Janney added the conversion and Rasen appeared to be disappearing out of sight.
But plucky Ashfield continued to battle and after some sustained pressure were rewarded when centre Joe Ducker crashed over.
Close maintained his unblemished kicking record with another successful conversion.
This was to be the hosts’ last hurrah as Rasen dominated the final quarter.
The visitors struggled to turn their superiority into points as the curse of the forward pass scuppered several promising attacks created with good handling up until the final pass.
A final sweeping move, again fashioned from expert handling, took Rasen deep into the Ashfield 22, and as the ball squirted out of a ruck, boot was put to ball and Will Crowe followed up for a rare try, pouncing on the ball as it crossed the line.
Janney ended the scoring with another successful conversion.
Rasen complete the first half of the season on Saturday, seeking to keep their good home record intact against leaders Coalville for a 2.15pm kick-off.
Rasen: Howard (Crowe), Fenwick, Southwell, Chamberlin, Janney, J. Norton (F. Norton), Pryer, McKay, Starling, White, Young (Medd), Goodwin, Berger, Stephens, Pridgeon.