Market Rasen and Louth RFC opened their Midlands Two league campaign with a decent performance despite a defeat at Dronfield.
The Derbyshire club had narrowly missed promotion last season after losing in the play-off game and were hoping to go one better in their 50th anniversary season.
Despite falling to a 39-24 loss, the scoreline did not reflect the shape of the game, yet Rasen were left to ponder on early mistakes and soft penalties which ultimately underpinned the defeat.
Having greeted by the Mayor of Dronfield as they made their way to the pitch, the Red and Greens played up the slope in the first half and had the first scoring opportunity in the eighth minute.
But Ben Young’s penalty attempt struck the upright and became the catalyst for a Dronfield counter-attack.
The home forwards secured possession and worked their way out of the 22.
As play moved upfield, the ball was kicked through and Rasen failed to deal with the bobbling ball, allowing centre Alistair Hills to gather for the opening score.
Scrum-half Jake Steade added the conversion, and eight minutes later he cleverly switched play, after Rasen had turned over possession, to half-back partner, Matt Hale.
A long cut-out pass found winger Jack Longden with a clear run to the line for a second try, again converted by Steade.
Two mistakes had cost the visitors dear, but they stuck with their game plan and hit back in the 24th minute.
A penalty was drilled into touch and from the resulting lineout, the Red and Greens pack rumbled forward before releasing the ball to the backs.
A superb long pass from centre Josh White found Tom Stephens steaming up from full-back to cross the whitewash wide out.
Young made amends for his earlier miss with a well-struck conversion, and Rasen had just reward for their patient play.
A soft penalty allowed Steade to push Dronfield further ahead with another successful kick, but the scales appeared to have been tipped moments later when Dronfield number eight Chris Hale received a yellow card.
Unfortunately, the numerical superiority didn’t work in Rasen’s favour and Dronfield manufactured another score after their forwards had driven upfield before Luke Cocking scampered in at the corner.
A lucky bounce added to Rasen’s woes when Matt Hale’s crossfield kick hit the ground and rebounded into the arms of centre James Marshall who didn’t have to break stride in his run to the try line.
Half-time arrived with Rasen 27-7 behind, but this did not reflect the balance of play and the visitors were not out of the game.
An early Dronfield error gave Rasen the boost they needed as the second half began.
Steade’s poor kick was fielded by Chris Everton who found hooker Tom Alldridge in support.
A beautifully weighted pass from the front rower gave Will Pridgeon the chance he had been craving, having caused Dronfield problems in the first half with his running.
More strong running from the winger opened up Dronfield’s defence and Rasen had reduced the deficit within two minutes of the restart.
Now playing like a man possessed, no-one could stop Pridgeon as he ripped the ball from a ruck and charged over the line to grab his second try in five minutes.
A stunned Dronfield regathered their composure as another needless penalty contributed to Rasen’s downfall.
Dronfield kicked to touch and then drove Rasen back from the lineout for hooker Paul Joyce to force his way over the line.
Rasen reacted positively and their thirst for more scores continued unabated.
As the Red and Greens worked their way deep into Dronfield territory, number eight Jake McKay picked a superb line to wrongfoot the home defence.
He then offloaded for fellow backrower Jake Pryer to crash over the whitewash.
Alldridge added the conversion to narrow the gap to only eight points with 22 minutes left.
Another silly penalty for holding back appeared to have gifted Dronfield further points, but Steade’s radar was offline and the kick sailed wide.
But the respite was short-lived as Dronfield maintained the pressure, moving play from one side of the field to the other. Hills then stepped back inside the defence to double his tally for the day before Steade landed the conversion.
Rasen continued to battle until the final whistle, but couldn’t conjure up another score and had to settle for a try bonus point.
But there were plenty of positives to take from the game and therefore much that the new coaching team can build on.
There is a further break next weekend before Rasen return to action when Ilkeston visit Willingham Road on Saturday, September 28 for a 3pm kick-off.
Rasen: Ashton, Alldridge, Southwell (Howard), Mills (Chamberlin), Grant, Shelvey (Norton), Pryer, McKay, Everton, Starling, Young, White, Goodwin, Pridgeon, Stephens.