Market Rasen and Louth RFC head into the new year in promotion contention despite labouring to a draw in their final fixture before the three-week Christmas break.
Postponements elsewhere helped the Red and Greens hold onto second place in Midlands Two East (North) after a 10-10 draw in atrocious conditions at Ilkeston.
On a grim, bitterly cold afternoon in an almost continual downpour, Rasen and Louth appeared to have got into the Christmas spirit a little too early.
With several players suffering from an over indulgence the previous evening and a generous present of a try for Ilkeston, Rasen never really got going in a tedious game.
Playing down the slope, but into a stiff breeze, Rasen made the early running with a burst from Matt Ashton, who continued his knack of combining brute strength with dancing feet to make the hard yards.
Unfortunately, the support wasn’t forthcoming and the prop’s efforts went unrewarded.
Ilkeston had the first scoring opportunity, but fly-half Jake Lamb was wide of the mark with his penalty attempt in the ninth minute.
Two minutes later Lamb could scarcely believe the generosity of the Rasen defence as he ran in under the posts with barely a hand laid on him.
Lamb added the conversion, but Ilkeston’s joy was short-lived.
Within two minutes, the visitors were back on terms following a break from Josh White, operating at fly-half, that left the outside backs queueing up to score.
Tom Stephens duly crossed the whitewash, quickly followed by a tricky conversion from Tom Alldridge.
This should have signalled the start of Rasen dominance, but Ilkeston were back in front just four minutes later through a Lamb penalty as the Red and Green machine continued to stutter.
Alldridge brought Rasen back level from a penalty after Ilkeston had failed to deal with a period of concerted pressure from the visitors.
But the away side still couldn’t get the upper hand and the only other scoring opportunity of the half fell to Ilkeston, but Lamb again failed with the penalty and the two sides were locked at 10 apiece at the interval.
Both sides disappeared into the warmth of the dressing rooms at half-time, and in all honesty, they might as well have stayed in there.
The second half was a turgid affair littered with errors and neither side getting anywhere near to the goal line.
On a couple of occasions Rasen worked their way into good attacking positions, but the lineout malfunctioned and the opportunities dissipated.
Ilkeston, for their part, still had attacking potential through Lamb, full-back Aaron Garvey and centre Alex Ayres who had all made deep inroads into Rasen territory in the first half, but they failed to replicate it in the second period.
An outrageous dummy from centre Jake McLoughlin, followed by a pirouette, brought a glimmer of light relief to the small band of bedraggled travelling supporters.
With the last play, Rasen were awarded a penalty, but the game was elongated by a further five minutes as the Red and Greens botched their attempt to give Ilkeston a penalty.
Neither side made any headway before a final error signalled the end of the game.
There was very little structure to the game as Rasen played at half-cock and failed to follow the coaches’ plan set out and practiced at Thursday’s training session.
The side had been disrupted by unavailability, but there was still enough talent on show to come up with a better performance and there will be disappointment that they didn’t get back to winning ways.
At the halfway stage of the season, Rasen trail runaway leaders Melbourne by 13 points, and the side will need to improve in the new year to return to the standards set in the early part of the season.
The league programme resumes after the seasonal break when Long Eaton visit Willingham Road on Saturday, January 5, hoping to shrug off their shock defeat at lowly Southwell in their last game before the holidays.
Rasen: Ashton, Alldridge, Southwell (Howard), Roberts, Crowe (Inman), J. Norton, Janney, Pryer, Fenwick, White, W. Stephens (F. Norton), McLoughlin, T. Stevens, Stirling, Goodwin.