An under-strength Market Rasen and Louth RFC fell to an ignominious defeat, perhaps their worst in recent seasons, at second-bottom Ashby on Saturday.
The omens weren’t good when the Red and Greens side arrived at Ashby and had to wait 20 minutes for their hosts to turn up and open the facilities.
This set the tone for the rest of the afternoon as Rasen barely broke out of their stupor, producing a lacklustre display of low intensity against a side struggling in the lower reaches of Midlands Two East (North).
Playing uphill, Rasen had no trouble making an early break through Ashby’s defence, but after losing possession, it was Ashby who took control of the first half.
The hosts played the phases to get close to Rasen’s line and when the first scrum arrived, they exposed the visitors’ frailties in a rookie front row where stalwart Pete Southwell was the only regular starter.
The big Ashby pack drove Rasen back and Richard Beesley, a handful all game, made the touchdown.
A lack of intensity and commitment in some quarters made it difficult for Rasen to break out of their own half as they regularly turned over possession or were slower at the breakdown.
The early scrum difficulties were remedied to some degree, but scrum-half Ed Nicholls wasn’t operating behind the usual steady platform and this stifled the attacking potential of the backline.
Ashby heaped on more pressure in Rasen’s 22, and the visitors’ defence opened up for Dan Livesey to burst through and score close to the posts.
This left an easy conversion for Beesley to extend Ashby’s lead to 12 points after 21 minutes.
Rasen occasionally showed glimpses of their attacking prowess when the ball was pushed wide to wingers Harry Wallis and Will Stephens, but they never really threatened the line.
Rasen finally seemed to be building up a head of steam as half-time approached and were awarded a penalty on the edge of the Ashby’s 22.
But a quick tap by Nicholls was brought back and the penalty reversed when the referee’s logic was questioned.
But on the balance of play, Rasen could count themselves lucky to reach the interval only 12 points adrift when better opposition would have put themselves out of sight.
A tactical change brought immediate rewards f mand Louthor Rasen as they upped the tempo from the restart.
The familiar measured phase play was expertly executed before Chris Everton sliced open the home defence with a searing break which took him clear.
Confronted by a solitary defender, the fly-half’s perfectly-timed pass to his half-back partner put Nicholls away for the opening score of the half.
The Red and Greens had laid down a marker and were seemingly back in the game with the best piece of play of the match.
Unfortunately, this hope was soon extinguished as Rasen slipped back into their malaise.
Undeterred by their inability to deal with a faster, measured approach from their opponents, Ashby took full advantage of Rasen’s inexplicable retreat back into their shambolic ways.
From a scrum just inside Rasen’s half, substitute scrum-half George Pycroft showed electric pace to scoot up the blindside before Rasen’s back row could react.
As cover filtered across, he moved the ball on to Ben Brown who was deemed to have grounded the ball despite Josh White’s courageous last-gasp tackle which smashed him into the corner flag.
Worse was to follow when Rasen found themselves hopelessly outnumbered against an Ashby counter-attack which ended with Andrew Large crossing the whitewash.
Another glimmer of inspiration gave Rasen forlorn hope in the 25th minute when White chipped over the oncoming defence and regathered the ball before linking with Jake Pryer.
The flanker took play on before his cross-kick allowed Peter Everton to win the foot race with his pursuer and dived on the ball.
The referee still some distance away did not keen to award the score, but as he arrived, the ball had squirted out to give Ben Chamberlin a second touchdown.
The try was scant relief for the beleaguered visitors when a lack of tackling allowed Jack Henderson to dance through the defence to rub further salt in the wounds and cap 27-10 win.
Rasen’s opening score had shown how the game should have been played, but far too many players appeared to be going through the motions thereafter and Ashby showed the greater desire.
Oddly, it made no difference to the two clubs respective league positions with Rasen staying in second place and Ashby just above basement side Southwell.
Supporters will hope for a reaction and to see the real Rasen when they welcome Dronfield to Willingham Road for a 2.15pm kick-off.
Rasen: Howard (Benson), F. Norton, Southwell, Crowe, Chamberlin, J. Norton, Pryer, Lawton, Nicholls (Roberts), C. Everton, Wallis, White, P. Everton, W. Stephens, Holvey.