A trip to runaway league leaders was never going to be easy and, with several changes from their last successful outing, Market Rasen & Louth made an inauspicious start to the game, falling behind in the first minute.
Melbourne’s high intensity approach put the red and greens on the back foot from the kick off and, after quick recycling, they created an overlap for winger Joseph Stuart to open the scoring, quickly followed by Euan Holden’s conversion.
After being opened up so easily one might have been forgiven for thinking that this was the prelude to an avalanche of points from the home side.
But Rasen showed their mettle and responded positively.
After working through several phases, Melbourne could only halt the red and green progress through illegal means.
With the wind at his back, Josh Lawton made no mistake with his first kick at goal and then followed it up three minutes later with another successful penalty arising from similar circumstances.
Melbourne’s lapses dissipated as they went back on the offensive, forcing Rasen to concede a penalty of their own.
From quick off the top ball from the resultant lineout, Joseph Livesey joined the line from fullback to create an overlap for Josh Mallett to scamper in at the corner.
Another Lawton penalty kept the opposition in sight, but the Rasen man’s attempted interception moments later earned him a yellow card for a deliberate knock on.
Melbourne took full advantage of this and ramped up the pressure on the depleted Rasen ranks as they patiently built field position and then the forwards rumbled over from another penalty lineout with Holden adding the extras from the conversion.
Melbourne were now taking control of the game, whilst conversely Rasen’s tempo was dropping as they fell off tackles.
A break from Livesey aided by some feeble defending opened up the defence before a meaningful tackle finally stopped him, but it was too late as he popped the ball back inside for Stuart to grab his second try and the bonus point.
Holden’s conversion stretched the lead, but there was still time for Rasen to work their way back upfield to earn another penalty.
This time Lawton’s kick was pulled just wide of the target and Rasen reached the interval 15 points adrift.
Rasen made a bright start to the second half as Melbourne knocked on from the re-start and the visitors utilised this as the staging post to work their way deeper into their hosts territory.
A well struck penalty from Connor Janney, replacing the injured Lawton as kicker, gave Rasen the fillip they needed, but it only created the stimulus to prod Melbourne back into action.
Following more patient build up work from Melbourne, Rasen conceded a penalty and skipper Pete Southwell found himself banished to the touchline.
The bemused prop had been retreating at the penalty award and turned to see the ball flying towards him, instinctively catching it, the referee deemed that he had prevented Melbourne from taking a quick penalty.
Melbourne pushed home their advantage as they battered the red and green defence until it finally buckled and centre Oliver Saffell crossed the whitewash with Holden again adding the extra two points.
Rasen continued to battle away, but Melbourne’s defence was unflinching and the visitors found progress hard work.
Matt Ashton began one of his trademark charges, but somehow Holden burgled the ball out of his grasp to dart through a hole and with superior numbers, scrumhalf Oliver Page finished off the move crossing the line wide out.
There were still 24 minutes remaining at this juncture, but for the remainder of the game the two sides cancelled each other out.
Rasen were unable to take advantage of Melbourne lock Alec Judge’s yellow card leaving Melbourne a man down for the final 10 minutes, even though they had persevered for the full 80 minutes.
Melbourne won because they were the better side showing more aggression and precision, but after a dreadful start Rasen recovered and battled hard in the face of superior opposition.
A spell of poor ball retention didn’t help the cause, but overall the level of performance may have been sufficient to gain something against many of the other teams comprising the league.
It still gives something to build on in the remaining six league fixtures.
MELBOURNE: Rudkin, Coyne, Squires, Judge, Nightingale, Benstead, Iliffe, Warren, Page, Holden, Stuart, Saffell, Fisher, Mallett, Livesey; Subs: Nicholson, Percival, Martin.
RASEN: Senescall, Ashton, Southwell, Inman, Roberts, Norton J., Janney, Pryer, Fenwick, White, Lawton, Young, Goodwin, Pridgeon, Holvey; Subs: Alldridge (Senescall), Stephens W. (Lawton), Howard (Ashton).
Next week Rasen have a mountain to climb as they travel to Paviors, currently top of Midlands 1, for the Notts, Lincs & Derbys cup semi-final.
The following week league action resumes when Newark are the visitors to Willingham Road (KO 2.15pm).