Midlands 2 East (North)
Market Rasen & Louth 10
The last time that these two sides met in a league fixture, Market Rasen & Louth, including current Lincoln captain Leigh Dearden in their ranks, were emphatic winners by a margin of 68-6.
The match saw them clinch the Midlands 2 East (North) title whilst Lincoln suffered the ignominy of relegation.
Eight seasons later the fortunes of the two clubs have changed, with Rasen relegated from Midlands 1 East last season without a win to their name as Lincoln secured a comfortable mid-table position.
On a wet afternoon at Willingham Road there were no illusions in either camp that there was going to be a repeat of the previous league encounter. Rasen emerged from the changing rooms resplendent in their new pink change strip and made the early running as the forwards were soon into their stride.
Rasen maintained their early advantage and, with five minutes gone, scrumhalf Ed Nicholls opened the scoring with a well-struck penalty.
An injury to Charlie Gray necessitated a reshuffle in the Rasen pack and a tactical substitution from Lincoln brought on ex-junior Rasen player Dave Beveridge to steady the ship and even up the ensuing scrum contests.
As the half wore on Lincoln began to establish more control.
The half was punctuated with some minor skirmishes, which are part and parcel of a local derby, but handbags were put away after the referee instructed the two skippers to calm their sides down.
With the half drawing to a close Rasen captain Ben Chamberlin received a yellow card, but his side managed to retain the slender 3–0 lead.
The second half began in much the same way as the first had ended with Lincoln enjoying the lion’s share of possession, but finding Rasen’s defence impenetrable.
It appeared that Lincoln had no plan B as they continued to batter away at a pink line that had shown no signs of buckling at any stage in the game and it was baffling as to why they didn’t employ more of a tactical kicking game to turn the home defenders in the wet conditions.
Rasen continued to keep Lincoln at bay, interspersed with the odd foray into the visitors’ territory.
Neither line was really threatened for much of the half, but it was almost inevitable that Dearden, champion yellow card collector in his Rasen days, would spend some time off the field.
It duly came to pass in the 30th minute when the Lincoln captain received his marching orders to leave his side with only 14 men for the remainder of the match.
Rasen reacted positively to go for the jugular after being on the backfoot for large tranches of the half.
Within two minutes of Dearden’s sinbinning, Rasen secured quick ball for centre Peter Everton to mark his return to first team action by slicing open the Lincoln defence with incisive running to cross the whitewash and putting the game beyond the visitors.
Ed Nicholls put the icing on the cake with a conversion that agonisingly struck the inside of the far upright before clearing the crossbar.
As the final minutes ebbed away Rasen had no problem repelling Lincoln’s final efforts to record a first league victory since April 2017.
A local derby in the opening fixture was not the ideal start to the season, but Rasen came through it without a hiccup and, after being cannon fodder in many of last season’s games, this result will go a long way to rebuilding confidence.
RASEN: Ashton, Pryer, Southwell, Chamberlin, J. Norton, Grant, Gray, McKay, Nicholls, C. Everton, W. Stephens, P. Everton, Goodwin, Pridgeon, Holvey; Subs: Crowe (Gray), Janney (J. Norton), T. Stephens (Holvey).
On Saturday Rasen travel to newly-promoted Long Eaton.
It was a double for Rasen with the second team running out comfortable winners against Lincoln’s second string 32-7.