Sat 21 Apr 2018, 15:00
The red and greens bade farewell to Midlands 1 with a trip to Northampton where the scoreline didn’t truly reflect the game, but it did emphasise the importance of turning pressure into points and the ruthless punishment of errors that is meted out at this level. On a glorious sunny afternoon with the odd hint of light drizzle in the air, it was ON’s who made the early running to open the scoring after five minutes when flanker Ashley Fulthorpe burst through following good approach work from the home side. Fullback Josh Paul added the conversion and it looked like the usual pattern was about to emerge with Rasen condemned to fighting another rear-guard action with damage limitation the prime objective. As it turned out, this was the furthest notion from the minds of the men in red and green as they were determined to enjoy their final taste of Midlands 1 rugby. For the next twenty-nine minutes it was ON’s who were on the backfoot as Rasen laid siege to the home line, keeping their opponents pinned in their own twenty-two for long periods and conceding penalties at an alarming rate. With the mounting number of penalties in the red zone, it was a mystery to both sets of supporters as to why the referee didn’t award a penalty try, but he refrained and Rasen couldn’t find a way through. Rasen continued their onslaught as ON’s steadfastly kept their visitors at bay at any cost, eventually losing number eight Drew Hudson and prop Craig Stewart to yellow cards in quick succession. Rasen were still unable to capitalise, conceding a free kick for an early push when they had opted for a scrum at the umpteenth penalty. A storming run from hooker Matt Ashton took Rasen back deep into ON’s territory, but with lack of support the ball was turned over and ON’s cleared. This effectively lifted the siege and with six minutes of the half remaining, lock Guy Holt made a solo run to the line after surging through a hole in the Rasen defence to cross the whitewash. With the final play of the half, ON’s worked through the phases to enable centre Rhys Evans to find another gap and dot down under the posts. Paul added the conversion to give ON’s a flattering 19 – 0 lead at the interval that didn’t reflect the dominance Rasen had exerted for much of the half.
The second half was a different story as the exertions of the first half had clearly taken their toll on the red and greens. An early score from scrumhalf Harry Sanderson sniping down the touchline set the tone. Three minutes later ON’s overpowered the Rasen eight at a set scrum and slick handling brought Paul into the line from fullback to stretch the lead. ON’s dramatically upped the tempo to exploit the tiring Rasen legs and looked to move the ball wide at every opportunity. Sanderson broke away again to face Chris Everton as the last line of defence, the Rasen fullback made the tackle, but winger Richard Blank was in support to take the scoring pass to saunter over the line unopposed. ON’s were in the ascendancy, but it took them another twelve minutes before a dummy from Evans opened up the defence for him to put his centre partner Matt Love in under the uprights. From another scrum turnover, Sanderson shot through a gap to double his personal tally. Rasen were out on the ropes and number eight Hudson made up for his earlier misdemeanour by running from his own half to score straight from the restart with barely a hand laid on him. With time running out, Rasen summoned up some reserves of energy to launch a final attempt to get on the scoreboard. In a watered-down version of the first half Rasen mounted a final sortie and once again ON’s had to concede penalties to halt the progress, even collecting another yellow card with substitute Mark Edwards not finishing the game. However, ON’s held firm and flyhalf Oliver Burgess ended the game with a solo try under the posts. Five conversions shared between Paul (3) and Blank (2) completed the scoring as ON’s ran out victorious at 64 – 0.
This brought down the curtain on Rasen’s seven-year adventure in Midlands 1. Defections, work, absentees and injuries have all played their part this season, and whilst Rasen have been outclassed in many games, the men who have come in to fill the void have given their all in the true red and green spirit. Foundations have been laid for next season’s campaign in Midlands 2 and there is till much work to do in the close season so that Rasen can be recognised as a force in this lower division.
Rasen: Crowe, Ashton, Southwell, Benson, Almond-Bell, Norton J, Janney, Chamberlin, Fenwick, Noquet, Cooper, Pryer, Goodwin, Pridgeon, Everton C
Subs: Hill (Benson), Stephens T (Pridgeon), Norton F (Norton J)
ON’s: Draper, Irvine, Stewart, Reid, Holt, Cort, Fulthorpe, Hudson, Sanderson, Burgess, Bellamy, Love, Evans, Blank, Paul
Subs: Edwards, Rainbow, Brennan
It is a magnificent achievement for a small club like Rasen to remain at this level for seven years considering the size of the playing pool and the difficulty of attracting new blood to this rural backwater. Everyone who has been involved should be justifiably proud of what has been done over this period. There have been highs and lows in this time, but there was one game that totally epitomised Rasen’s grit and determination. On a dull wet December afternoon in 2014 at Willingham Road, against all the odds and hampered by a prop shortage, the red and greens became the only side to defeat the foreign legion mercenaries of Peterborough Lions in their championship season. There were four players, Matt Ashton, Ben Chamberlin, Jake Pryer and Chris Everton still in the side playing against ON’s today plus coaches Matt Sutton, who had pulled the strings at flyhalf, and Chris Mills stoking the engine room at lock on that unforgettable day .
Many friendships have been struck along the way by the small loyal travelling band of supporters and the pre-match lunches with Peter at Kettering, George and Ken at Wellingborough, Barry, Pip and Terry at ON’s plus all the other club officials who have entertained us over the years will be sorely missed. The one abiding memory is that to a man they have all said that they will really miss coming to Market Rasen because it is such a welcoming and hospitable club. That tradition will live on and hopefully it won’t be too long before old acquaintances are renewed.
There is still one game left to be played in the shape of the Lincolnshire Cup Final at Kesteven on Monday 7th May with a 3.00 pm kick off (to be confirmed) when Rasen will face the herculean task of toppling Scunthorpe.