Market Rasen and Louth RFC show their mettle in Midlands One swansong

Chris Bell and Ben Chamberlin defend for Rasen EMN-180423-170050002
Chris Bell and Ben Chamberlin defend for Rasen EMN-180423-170050002

Market Rasen and Louth RFC said farewell to Midlands One with a trip to Northampton where the 64-0 scoreline didn’t truly reflect the game.

But it did emphasise the importance of turning pressure into points and the ruthless punishment of errors meted out at this level.

Simon Cooper makes a last-ditch attempt to stop his man EMN-180423-170101002

Simon Cooper makes a last-ditch attempt to stop his man EMN-180423-170101002

ONs made the early running and led after five minutes when Ashley Fulthorpe burst through following good approach work, with Josh Paul adding the conversion.

Rasen seemed condemned to fight another rearguard action, with damage limitation the prime objective, but this was far from true as the visitors looked determined to enjoy their final taste of Midlands One rugby.

For the next 29 minutes, Rasen laid siege to the home line, keeping their opponents pinned in their own 22 for long periods and conceding penalties at an alarming rate.

With the mounting number of penalties in the red zone, it was a mystery to both sets of supporters why a penalty try wasn’t awarded.

Rasen continued their onslaught as ONs steadfastly kept their visitors at bay, losing number eight Drew Hudson and prop Craig Stewart to yellow cards in quick succession.

But the Red and Greens still couldn’t capitalise, conceding a free-kick for an early push when they had opted for a scrum after the umpteenth penalty.

Matt Ashton’s storming run took Rasen back deep into ONs territory, but with lack of support the ball was turned over and cleared.

This effectively lifted the siege and six minutes from half-time, Guy Holt made a solo run to the line after surging through a hole in the Rasen defence.

And with the final play of the half, ONs worked through the phases to allow Rhys Evans to find another gap and dot down under the posts. Paul added the conversion to give ONs a flattering 19–0 half-time lead.

The second half was a different story as their first-half exertions had clearly taken their toll on the Red and Greens.

An early score from Harry Sanderson, sniping down the touchline, set the tone, and three minutes later ONs overpowered the Rasen eight at a set scrum and slick handling brought Paul into the line to stretch the lead.

ONs upped the tempo and looked to move the ball wide at every opportunity, adding tries through winger Richard Blank, Matt Love and Sanderson.

Rasen were out on the ropes and Hudson made up for his earlier misdemeanour by running from his own half to score straight from the restart with barely a hand laid on him.

With time running out, Rasen summoned up some reserves of energy to launch a final attempt to get on the scoreboard, and again ONs had to concede penalties to halt their progress.

Mark Edwards collected a yellow card, but ONs held firm, with Oliver Burgess ending the game with a solo try under the posts.

This brought down the curtain on Rasen’s seven-year adventure at this level. Defections, work, absentees and injuries all played their part in a winless season, and while Rasen have been outclassed in many games, those who filled the void have given their all in true Red and Green spirit.

Foundations have been laid for next season’s campaign in Midlands Two and there is still much work to do in the close season to be recognised as a force in this lower division.

Rasen’s final game of the season will be the Lincolnshire Cup final, at Kesteven RFC, on Monday, May 7 (3pm kick-off) against Midlands Premier side Scunthorpe.

Rasen: Crowe, Ashton, Southwell, Benson (Hill), Almond-Bell, J. Norton (F. Norton), Janney, Chamberlin, Fenwick, Noquet, Cooper, Pryer, Goodwin, Pridgeon (T. Stephens), C. Everton.

A club spokesman added: “It is a magnificent achievement for a small club like Rasen to remain at this level for seven years considering the size of the playing pool and the difficulty of attracting new blood to this rural backwater.

“Everyone who has been involved should be justifiably proud of what has been done over this period.

“There have been highs and lows in this time, but there was one game which totally epitomised Rasen’s grit and determination.

“On a dull wet December afternoon in 2014 at Willingham Road, against all the odds and hampered by a prop shortage, the Red and Greens became the only side to defeat the foreign legion of Peterborough Lions in their championship season.

“There were four players, Matt Ashton, Ben Chamberlin, Jake Pryer and Chris Everton still in the side playing against ONs today, plus coaches Matt Sutton, who had pulled the strings at fly-half, and Chris Mills stoking the engine room at lock on that unforgettable day.

“The one abiding memory is that to a man they have all said that they will really miss coming to Market Rasen because it is such a welcoming and hospitable club.

“That tradition will live on and hopefully it won’t be too long before old acquaintances are renewed.”