Market Rasen and Louth RFC travelled to Northamptonshire for the second week running and fell to another heavy defeat at Wellingborough on Saturday.
The weather was positively balmy compared to the previous weekend’s Arctic blasts, but the end result remained the same after a lukewarm display.
The Red and Greens made a bold statement by keeping faith with the men who had battled so hard at Kettering, but they couldn’t reproduce the same level of intensity against workmanlike opponents.
Playing uphill in the first half, Rasen were soon under pressure and fell behind after four minutes when Wellingborough opted for a scrum from a penalty, and Chris Shipman picked up from the base to power over the line.
This set the tone as Wellingborough controlled the half, monopolising possession and limiting Rasen to a few brief forays into their half.
With Pete Vickers pulling the strings at fly-half, Wellingborough took advantage of some slack defending, coupled with unforced errors, to run in five more tries through Shaun Mackie, Harry Bryan, Ricky Beetson and Kieran Checkley (2).
The pick of the bunch was the final try of the half when Vickers’ sublime crossfield kick was caught by Checkley at full tilt and the winger dived over the whitewash.
Four conversions from Vickers left Rasen 38 points adrift when the interval arrived.
An injury to fly-half Chris Everton forced a rather unique switch in the Rasen ranks at half-time as Will Scupham moved from hooker to fill the number 10 berth and centre Fred Norton moved to hooker.
Rasen made a spirited start to the half with a long mazy run from fullback Simon Cooper causing Wellingborough to reconsider the ease with which they had dominated the first 40 minutes.
Sadly, this was only a fleeting moment of inspiration as the hosts wrestled back control for long periods, but they found the going a bit tougher playing uphill.
Checkley completed his hat-trick within seven minutes of the restart when the ball went loose from a promising Rasen attack. The winger kicked the ball forward, using his pace to win the race for the touchdown.
The rare sight of a struggling Rasen pack persuaded Wellingborough to again opt for a scrum from a penalty close to the line.
The visitors were ignominiously shunted backwards to suffer the double whammy of conceding a penalty try and losing flanker Jack Norton to a yellow card.
A minute later John Cartwright’s strong run highlighted Rasen’s poor tackling technique as far too many players were brushed off by the rampaging lock who set up Tyler Ramoo.
The flanker then bagged a second try 10 minutes later before the dangerous Checkley collected a fourth to round off the try scoring from another Rasen turnover.
Vickers’ three successful conversions brought Wellingborough’s total to 71 points in a game they had dominated almost from start to finish.
This game would not have taken place had Wellingborough not been given a reprieve last season through a league reshuffle when they occupied the third relegation spot.
But to their credit they have grasped their opportunity and were good value for their win.
Rasen, on the other hand, looked like a demoralised team who can’t wait for the season to end.
The tough season appears to be taking its toll, but the side must make a final effort in the remaining fixtures to rekindle some spirit in readiness for next season’s challenge.
There is no league game on Saturday during the Easter break, but Rasen host Sleaford under floodlights in the Lincolnshire Cup semi-final on Wednesday.
Kick off at Willingham Road is 7.30pm.
The league programme recommences on Saturday, April 7 with a trip to Melton Mowbray.
Rasen: Ashton, Scupham, Southwell, Benson, Chamberlin, J. Norton, Janney, Grant, Fenwick (Noquet), C. Everton (Pearce), W. Stephens, F. Norton, Pryer, Pridgeon, Cooper.