Market Rasen and Louth RFC extended their long unbeaten run against derby rivals Lincoln on Saturday despite a drop in standard.
The emotion of a local derby overwhelmed pragmatism, with the Red and Greens unable to replicate the performance which blew away Ilkeston the previous weekend.
With the stiff breeze in their favour, Lincoln started brighter and botched a golden opportunity in the first minute when the Lincoln scrum-half took a quick tap penalty with the line at his mercy, but knocked on.
Rasen began to put their game together, while taking time to adjust to the gutsy conditions.
After 10 minutes, Rasen powered Lincoln off their own scrum put-in, and scrum-half Ed Nicholls shot through a gap to put centre Adam Goodwin in for the opening try.
He dotted down under the posts to leave an easy conversion for Tom Alldridge.
Rasen’s sustained pressure forced Lincoln into defensive duties in their final third, and when the lively Nicholls carved open the visitors’ defence, he sent Chris Everton, joining the line from fullback, away to run in under the posts.
Alldridge added the regulation conversion and seemed Rasen were heading to a big victory.
But Lincoln had other ideas and had their own purple patch, keeping Rasen pinned in their own 22.
Their defence held firm in the face of wave after wave of attacks close to the line, punctuated by a series of penalties, but Lincoln’s persistence eventually paid off with Ashworth darting through a chink in the defence.
Richard Dixon slotted the conversion and rejuvenated Lincoln continued to pose problems.
Another quick tap from Ashworth, deep in Rasen’s 22, was stopped by Pete Southwell, but the prop hadn’t retreated the required 10 metres and received a yellow card.
Rather naively Lincoln continued to batter away through their forwards rather than take advantage of Rasen’s depleted backline, and when the ball was finally moved wide, the crucial final scoring pass was forward.
Lincoln had finished the first half strongly, but it was Rasen who came out of the blocks the fastest in the second half.
Rasen’s early pressure led to a penalty being drilled into touch.
The lineout was safely secured and the ball dispatched to flanker George Grant whose powerful angled run cut across and punctured the Lincoln defensive line. Desperate defence halted Grant short of the whitewash, but Rasen support was swift and skipper Ben Chamberlin powered his way over to extend the lead after only three minutes.
This proved another false dawn as Lincoln hit back seven minutes later, moving the ball wide to allow Matt Walker’s pace to do the rest to score in the corner.
Fresh legs from the bench gave the Rasen forwards added impetus, particularly number eight Ben Sykes.
As the game ebbed and flowed Rasen found themselves deep in Lincoln territory with the hosts conceding two penalties in quick succession.
Nicholls employed quick taps to push Lincoln further back and a neat overhead pass found Ben Young who powered his way to the line wide out.
Five minutes later Rasen were awarded another penalty, but captain Chamberlin halted the quick tap and Alldridge was asked to take the shot at goal which he dispatched.
Four minutes later, Lincoln had a third try when patient approach work sucked in the Rasen defence before the ball was worked wide for Owen Mitchinson to keep home hopes alive with 10 minutes left.
Rasen’s superior fitness told in the final stages, and Lincoln lock Grant Cowe received a last-minute yellow card for a penalty infringement.
As the Lincoln scrum retreated, number eight Jake McKay picked up and went on an arcing run around the visitors’ defence to score wide out with the final play.
Only time will tell if the two sides will slog it out again next season as Lincoln continue their struggle against relegation.
The win moved Rasen up to third and within three points of new leaders Matlock.
The Red and Greens are without a league fixture on Saturday, but return on Saturday, January 25 with a testing trip to fifth-placed Long Eaton.
Kick-off in Derbyshire is 2.15pm.
Rasen: Crowe, Alldridge, Southwell (Senescall), Chamberlin, Janney (J. Norton), Grant, Pryer, McKay, Nicholls, Starling, Young, White, Goodwin, Berger, Everton. Sub (not used): F. Norton.