Matlock 1st XV 47
Market Rasen & Louth 24
Rasen travelled to Matlock for a fixture surrounded by hillsides still displaying evidence of the previous week’s heavy snowfall.
Moving the game to the Easter weekend robbed the side of several players with alternative plans for the holiday, but those who stepped up showed their mettle and played with spirit.
Matlock began strongly and were soon on the attack, but an ambitious long cut out pass failed to reach its intended target in midfield.
Alert winger Peter Everton skilfully retrieved the bobbling ball to show Matlock a clean pair of heels as he ran in under the posts from 40-metres out.
Fullback Matt Sutton added the conversion to further punish the hosts’ error. However this didn’t unsettle Matlock who remained camped in Rasen territory for long periods before a subtle inside pass from fullback Chris Young opened a hole for winger George Whittaker to get behind the defence before the ball was swept wide for flanker Rob Glover to score in the corner.
Rasen came back with a storming run from lock Chris Mills after he latched on to a poor lineout throw from Matlock. The play was taken on by young prop Matt Ashton, showing a deceptive turn of speed before the move was halted illegally by the hosts and Rasen were awarded a penalty within kickable range.
Unbelievably Rasen spurned the opportunity to accumulate more points to extend the lead and opted for the touch kick. The lineout ball was secured, but after several phases Rasen were penalised for holding on allowing Matlock to clear.
Young, who had tormented Rasen with his kicking in the home game, unleashed a howitzer touch find that pushed Matlock deep into red and green territory. Matlock made no mistake with their catch and drive as they bundled Rasen over the line with Young completing the punishment with a fine conversion.
From the restart Matlock moved the ball wide and the sheer pace of winger Henry Packard made him uncatchable as he flew in for another try for the home side. Young added the conversion and Matlock were fast disappearing over the horizon.
With the last play of the half, Packard turned provider as he sliced through mediocre defending to set up a score for fellow winger Whittaker. Young rounded things off with another conversion to put Matlock 26 – 7 ahead at the interval.
Matlock opened the scoring in the second period from a set scrum just inside the Rasen half. The red and greens failed to spot and/or react to a two on one situation on the blindside as Matlock prepared to put the ball in the scrum. The solitary Rasen defender was taken out by a simple pass and as the defence came across Packard chipped over and used his pace to scoot in under the posts leaving Young with an easy conversion.
There soon followed a long break as Everton took a heavy tackle with the defender landing awkwardly on the Rasen man’s back leaving him prostrate on the ground. Everton was eventually helped to his feet and left the field with an injury that has almost certainly curtailed his season.
When play restarted Rasen mounted wave after wave of attack as Matlock conceded a flurry of penalties culminating in a yellow card. The red and green catch and drive worked its magic to push flanker Leigh Dearden over the line to give Rasen just reward for their perseverance.
A good run from Sutton made great yardage, but a lack of support saw his efforts come to no avail and indeed Matlock counter attacked with a superb sleight of hand in midfield, opening the way for Whittaker to add a second try for himself. Almost inevitably Young slotted the conversion.
In a tit for tat second half another surging run from the indomitable Mills pushed Rasen up field with Matlock eventually halting the move illegally with Dearden close to the line. Another catch and drive was executed to perfection before prop Chris Starling peeled off down the blindside to scamper over the line.
Rasen continued to press, but a further penalty kick from Young pushed them back to within touching distance of their own line. The red and greens managed to withstand the initial drive from the Matlock eight before the ball was moved away from the heavy traffic.
Each time Rasen seemed to have plugged the gap another willing Matlock support runner appeared until eventually fly half Alex Powell was presented with a clear path to the line wide out. Young continued his kicking master class with another well struck conversion.
With five minutes remaining, Rasen’s minds were firmly focussed on another try which would give them a bonus point and despite remaining firmly encamped in Matlock’s territory, the home side looked to have held out until they conceded a penalty in the 79th minute.
With enough time for one final lineout, Rasen kicked to touch where hooker Tom Alldridge’s precision throw found the target. A concerted drive ensued to give Chris Starling the honour of scoring the final try much to the delight of his team mates and the small band of travelling supporters before Sutton brought the game to a close with a well struck conversion.
The side was disrupted by the changes and an enforced break, but commendably retained the spirit and commitment engendered this year to keep going for 80 minutes and get something from the game.
The choice of penalty option in the first half still remains unfathomable, but in the end probably didn’t have a significant bearing on the game.
The lack of defensive organisation in the backline and slow clearance of the ball from ruck and maul was worrying, while long cut out passes were overused and their lack of disguise made it easy for Matlock to defend against.
Next week Old Northamptonians, currently lying third in the table, make their first ever visit to Willingham Road for a 3pm kick off.
With three games remaining, one further point would mathematically ensure that Rasen remains in this division.
However in reality only Spalding out of the three sides sat in the relegation zone could equal Rasen’s current tally of 50 points, a highly unlikely scenario.
Rasen: Starling C, Alldridge, Ashton, Mills, Crowe, Storry, Dearden L, Chamberlin, Starling M, Goodison, Everton P, Bemrose, Starling D, Beasley, Sutton. Subs (all used): Burgess, Lawton, Routledge