Market Rasen and Louth RFC combined heroic defence with expansive rugby to end the five-match winning run of promotion-chasing Matlock on Saturday.
After two sub-standard performances, the Red and Greens stepped up to the mark and dug deep to grind out a confidence-boosting win against powerful opponents.
The game kicked off in the farthest corner of the Willingham Road ground, with the first team pitch unfit due to heavy rainfall.
Matlock made the early running, using their heavyweight forwards to try and batter their way through the home defence.
But Rasen’s resolute defence kept them at bay as they fought their way into the game.
The clash of styles soon became evident with Matlock’s direct approach using their forwards and strong-running centres to crash the ball against Rasen’s desire to move the ball around.
As Rasen attacked, Matlock thought they had everything under control as they won a scrum deep in their own 22, but the ball squirted out and scrum-half Chris Everton was on it in a flash to regain possession.
The Red and Greens worked the ball through the phases to move the bigger Matlock forwards around before lock George Grant cut back across the play to run in under the posts to open the scoring.
Tom Alldridge added the simple conversion.
Matlock continued their route one approach, with their juggernaut pack building up a head of steam to cause the home side problems.
Rasen put up a brave defensive display, forcing their opponents to earn every metre, but a penalty gave Matlock a chance to sniff the try line.
With the ball dispatched into touch, Matlock’s catch and drive was irresistible and no amount of effort could stop hooker Curtis Bolam crashing over the whitewash behind his driving teammates.
The conversion was missed, leaving Rasen clinging to a narrow two-point lead.
Five minutes later Rasen were back down in Matlock territory as the visitors conceded a penalty of their own.
From the lineout, the Red and Greens made a shrewd tactical decision, employing a peel from the lineout instead of their usual catch and drive.
The added momentum had Matlock retreating as Rasen pulled them across to one side of the field and then switched play back to bring in the backs.
A floated miss-pass took out the last defender and winger Ben Young was in at the corner.
Alldridge nailed a superb touchline conversion, which would prove critical.
With the half drawing to a close Matlock eked out another penalty in a similar position to their first score.
Fortunately for Rasen, accuracy deserted the visitors this time, with the crooked throw giving the referee cause to end the half with Rasen 14–5 ahead.
Matlock made a whirlwind start to the second half as Rasen battened down the hatches.
Strong running and driving play were punching holes as Matlock laid siege to Rasen’s 22.
The Red and Green line was increasingly under threat as the penalty count grew.
While playing another advantage, Matlock rumbled on through their forwards before play was taken blind for flanker Rory Cookman to splash down over the line.
With only seven minutes of the half gone, Matlock had the belief they could turn the game around and continued in a similar vein.
Rasen spent long periods on the backfoot, but still looked to play a fluid game when the opportunity presented itself.
In the 23rd minute a concerted Rasen attack created space on the wing where skipper Ben Chamberlin rolled back the years as the veteran powered his way up the touchline to score in the corner.
There was still plenty to do with the final quarter proving a fraught affair, with both teams alternating between attack and defence.
The balance tilted back in favour of Matlock when Jacob Medd, rock-solid in defence all game, received a yellow card for a high tackle.
There was no change of tactics as the visitors put the ball into touch and then bludgeoned their way over the line for another forwards try.
Tom Morton registered his first successful kick of the afternoon to put his side within a penalty of victory at 19-17 behind.
With time running out, Matlock gained possession from the restart, but the 15 men in red and green did the jersey proud, maintaining their discipline to force Matlock to attack from deep.
They repelled everything thrown at them, while forcing their opponents into errors as Rasen applied the shackles to earn a hard-fought victory.
On Saturday, Rasen travel to Newark, subject to the recession of flood waters currently plaguing the area.
Rasen: Crowe (Senescall), Alldridge, Ashton, Chamberlin, Grant, J. Norton (Harvey), Pryer, McKay, Everton, Starling, Young, Goodwin (Berger), Medd, Pridgeon, Stephens.