Old Northamptonians marked their first ever visit to Market Rasen with a hard fought 24-12 victory against a determined Rasen and Louth side.
The red and greens were cruelly shorn of their skipper Dave Starling, who had been injured in a road accident the previous evening.
And the visitors made the early running as Rasen conceded three penalties in the opening six minutes, but fly half Alex Rose was unable to convert the one kickable chance on offer.
In fact the red and greens breathed a huge sigh of relief when ON’s, as the visitors are known, had to settle for the third penalty after winger Dan Napier knocked the ball on with the line at his mercy with the referee playing advantage.
Rasen found it difficult to get out of their own half until ON’s flanker Phil Beaumont received a yellow card for a dangerous tackle in the 14th minute.
Rasen made good use of the one man advantage as they drove ON’s deep into their own half before centre Adam Beasley popped the ball inside to fullback Matt Sutton, who had taken a sublime line to open up the visitors’ defence like the Biblical parting of the waves and give himself a free run in under the posts.
Sutton added the conversion, but four minutes later blotted his copy book as he fired a free kick straight into touch from just outside of his own twenty two.
ON’s secured the lineout possession and drove Rasen backwards before strong running from centre Matt Love almost took him to the line, but Rasen were unable to prevent the off-load to his midfield partner Jake Spencer, who completed the score. Rose slotted the conversion to bring the sides level as ON’s began to gain the upper hand.
With mounting momentum, ON’s looked to use their dangerous backline, and aided by slow line speed from the home defence, they were given enough time and space to create an overlap for Napier to make amends for his earlier faux pas as he scooted in under the posts.
Rose made no mistake with the conversion to put his side 14 – 7 ahead as half time beckoned.
ON’s began the second half in the same manner as they had ended the first as they forced Rasen deep into their own territory.
As scrumhalf Jack Bradley took a quick free kick, the Rasen defenders were oblivious to the run of Napier from the left wing into midfield where his angled incursion sliced through the defence as he received the ball to administer the coup de grace crossing wide out.
Rasen made a swift riposte when substitute fly half Dave Andrews’ perfectly timed delayed pass brought Sutton into the line again and created an opening. Sutton cut through the visiting defence before handing on to flying winger Nick Harvey, who sped in at the corner.
After Sutton missed a difficult long range penalty kick, the two sides took turns to mount attacks. A quick tapped free kick from scrum half Jack Noquet took Rasen closer to the line, but they couldn’t drive home their advantage and ON’s managed to clear through a penalty. A storming in to out run from ON’s Jordan Brew took Rasen by surprise as the stocky hooker hugged the touchline with a deceptive turn of pace before he was eventually bundled into touch. However this initiated a period of sustained pressure from the visitors as they became encamped in the Rasen twenty two.
The men in red and green dug deep and worked hard to repel everything ON’s could throw at them until Rose spotted a gap and darted through for an unconverted try that wrested a losing bonus point away from Rasen’s grasp.
With only five minutes left Rasen battled bravely in vain to get the vital score that would have restored the bonus point as ON’s closed out the game.
ON’s had to work hard for their victory and this was a much better Rasen display than the 37–3 rout in the away fixture. Midfield defence remained a concern where the slow line speed from Rasen gave ON’s too much time and a lack of awareness of opponents positioning or communication of it opened up the defence.
However the two tries scored were well worked and showed the attacking capabilities of the backline, which has played second fiddle to the forwards in the try scoring stakes for most of the season.
Following the other results Rasen are now assured of their place in the division next season and it is richly deserved for the manner in which the players have turned the season around in 2013.
With the pressure off, Rasen travel to cosmopolitan Peterborough Lions next week looking to avenge the narrow home defeat and put a dent in their opponents’ promotion aspirations.
Rasen: Starling C, Alldridge, Cole, Crowe, Bell, Routledge, Dearden L, Chamberlin, Noquet, Goodison, Starling M, Dearden A, Beasley, Harvey, Sutton
Subs (all used): Ashton, Andrew, Storry
ON’s: Rhodes, Brew, Rainbow, Hughes, Holliday, Mills, Beaumont, Howes, Bradbury, Rose, Blank, Spencer, Love, Napier, Seymour
Subs: Hawksworth, McKee, Bodily