Sat 17 Feb 2018, 14:15
After a week’s break, the red and greens returned to action with a makeshift front row where Jake Pryer and Will Scupham gamely filled in for the more experienced absentees in a bottom of the table clash. After a bright start Rasen spent most of a forgettable first half fighting a rear-guard action as Huntingdon dominated possession and territory. Fortunately, the visitors were misfiring, particularly in the lineout where they squandered a series of opportunities through their own inaccuracy. After almost setting up camp in the Rasen twenty-two, Huntingdon finally broke the deadlock in the thirtieth minute when Ben Chamberlin was penalised for kicking the ball out of a ruck, earning himself a yellow card, and fly half Tad Chapman kicked the penalty. Spurred on by the score, Huntingdon resumed their annexation of the Rasen twenty-two to heap more pressure on the red and greens. The home defence was finally breached after a series of driving mauls before number eight Todd Arnold powered his way over the whitewash. Chapman added the conversion to round off the first half scoring, but there was still time before the interval for Chris Everton to take a quick tap penalty to expose Huntingdon’s vulnerability to a pacier game. The Rasen flyhalf caught the visitors napping and tore up field, but lack of support and a scrambling defence snuffed out the attack. Rasen’s late flurry had shown a possible way forward to overturn Huntingdon’s ten-point advantage.
Rasen made the perfect start to the second half when Will Scupham gathered the restart and drove over the gain line to begin a rumble from the Rasen pack. Scrumhalf Jack Noquet then delivered a towering kick that Huntingdon failed to deal with, allowing his halfback partner Chris Everton to follow up and win the race for the touchdown. This gave Rasen belief and the change in attitude was palpable as the red and greens continued to up the pace. Unfortunately, the rock-solid defence of much of the first half evaporated as strong running from centre Barney West brushed aside several would be tacklers on his route to the line as he restored Huntingdon’s ten-point advantage in the eleventh minute. Undeterred, Rasen continued to run with ball in hand and after excellent approach work a gap was created for Ed Nicholls to burst through from fullback. A desperate tap tackle brought the youngster down tantalisingly close to the line, but Rasen’s follow up work wasn’t as good and Huntingdon escaped after they were awarded a penalty. Thankful for their narrow escape, Huntingdon made their way upfield to punish further red and green misdemeanours when Chapman landed a penalty to extend their lead. The home side took this setback in their stride and were soon back pressing deep in Huntingdon territory. A high tackle from Jack Skidmore delivered Rasen an unexpected bonus when the Huntingdon scrumhalf was yellow carded, giving them ten minutes to take advantage of the extra player. The red and greens quickly reaped the benefits as sharp handling moved the ball wide for Nicholls to scoot in at the corner. Three minutes later Rasen’s less structured fast and loose approach paid further dividends when Jake Pryer’s strong running instigated another free-flowing move that put substitute Simon Cooper over the whitewash close to the touchline, bringing Rasen to within three points of their opponents. There was panic in Huntingdon’s eyes as their coaches were beseeching them from the touchline to calm down and restore some order to their play. Huntingdon reacted admirably to these entreaties and pushed Rasen deep into their own twenty-two to elicit penalties and finally break red and green hearts. For once the visitors’ lineout didn’t malfunction as they caught and drove for the line with fullback Ben Strangeways the unlikely scorer after being moved to flanker to cover an earlier injury. Chapman nailed the conversion and Rasen had three minutes left to dent the ten-point margin that had dogged them for most of the afternoon. The adrenaline was still running high in the red and green jerseys as they worked their way back into Huntingdon’s twenty-two, earning a penalty that Noquet took quickly to dash over the line for Rasen’s fourth try. The unsuccessful conversion brought the game to an end signalling relief and disappointment in equal measure for Huntingdon and Rasen respectively.
Rasen had paid the price for a poor first half when they simply couldn’t get any meaningful possession, but there was much to be proud of in the endeavour that they had shown in the second half. A first try bonus point and a losing bonus point showed there is still spirit and fight left in the side in this desperately difficult season.
Rasen: Starling C, Pryer, Scupham, Crowe, Benson, Norton J, Mills, Chamberlin, Noquet, Everton C, Stephens W, Norton F, Goodwin, Pridgeon, Nicholls
Subs: Janney (Mills), Cooper (Pridgeon), Everton P (Norton F)
Huntingdon: Smith, Proietti, Chantler, Bentley, Brooks, Polson, Shakespeare, Arnold, Skidmore, Chapman, Taylor, North, West, Turley, Strangeways
Subs: Blanchard, Rose, Smith
Next week Rasen were due to play Sleaford in the semi final of the Lincolnshire Cup, but Sleaford’s re-arranged league fixture takes precedence. The red and greens will now be back in action on Saturday 3rd March with an away game at Kettering.
A special thank you to Huntingdon second team who only had ten men, but turned up all the same and ensured that players outside of the first team got some well-deserved rugby. The true spirit of the game is alive and well in Huntingdon.
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