Lutterworth 1st XV 39 Market Rasen & Louth 1st XV 28
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On a beautiful sunny afternoon with a cooling breeze the red and greens travelled to Leicestershire for the final game of the league season with nothing at stake for either side other than pride. Rasen made a good start to the game, but failed to capitalise on an early lineout opportunity close to the Lutterworth line before they were exposed to the potent speed of the home backline. As the ball broke loose left wing Charlie Neale hared up the touchline before linking with his right winger, Luke Ball. Desperate Rasen defence seemed to have forced Ball to knock the ball forward, a sentiment echoed by the watching referee assessor, but the man with the whistle allowed play to continue as centre George Ball scooped it up to dive over for the opening try. Stung by this injustice Rasen hit back immediately with a lineout steal deep in Lutterworth’s twenty-two. Flanker George Grant, who would go on to perform heroics with some brilliant scavaging work throughout the game, drove on before the backs came into play as centre Paul Gutteridge cut back to slice through the defence for the equalising score. Dan Robinson slotted the conversion, but the lead was short lived with Lutterworth turning over possession at a ruck and quickly working the ball wide for the pace of Neale to do the rest with a score wide out. With the game developing into a real seesaw contest Adam Goodwin collected a deep kick and set off from fullback to pick through the home defence with some powerful running and clever footwork. When his progress was finally halted, Lutterworth flanker Joe Sullivan found himself on the wrong side of the referee to earn himself a ten-minute sojourn in the sinbin. Rasen wasted no time in punishing Lutterworth with the penalty safely dispatched into touch. The catch and drive routine was spot on as the Rasen juggernaut drove for the line for lock Chris Mills to make the touchdown. Robinson’s successful conversion brought an end to the eight minutes of the to and fro scoring frenzy with the two sides then battling it out in the central portion of the field before fly half Dan Glasse landed his first successful kick of the day with a penalty for Lutterworth that brought his side to within a point in the twenty ninth minute. Luttwerworth ended the half on the attack, but wasted a golden opportunity when a lineout catch and drive had inched them towards the Rasen line only for lock Luke Evans to knock on over the line. There was still time for Lutterworth to be awarded a harsh penalty, but justice was served when Glasse’s kick sailed wide of the target to leave Rasen ahead 14-13 at the interval.
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Rasen took their game up a notch at the start of the second half as the home scrum was put under real pressure where the rotund front row in particular were feeling the strain. After a series of penalties, but no yellow cards, for scrum offences, number eight Ben Chamberlin caught Lutterworth unawares with a quick tap penalty that pushed the red and greens forward before Mills powered his way over the line to extend the lead. Robinson landed the conversion and Rasen had put down a marker, but there was soon to be a crucial turning point. The early score had put Lutterworth on the ropes, but when Rasen’s ascendancy was burgeoning a kickable penalty opportunity was spurned for another touch kick. The lineout went awry and within minutes Lutterworth were on the attack from a lineout penalty of their own. As the ball flew from the lineout Lutterworth punched a hole in midfield for George Ball to take a pop pass for a clear run to the line. Glasse added the conversion and what potentially could have been an eleven- point lead was now reduced to one of only a point again. This gave Lutterworth the lift they needed as their dangerous backline came to the fore. Good handling took the ball away from the forwards where Olly Jempson’s dummy threw the Rasen defence and the centre surged to the line to give Lutterworth a lead that had seemed unlikely only ten minutes earlier. Tempers began to fray in the sunshine as there was a minor conflagration amongst the forwards and a more vigilant referee may have taken action for a head to head confrontation that clearly went unnoticed. With both sides suitably calmed down Rasen hit back when Robinson’s long penalty touch find set up an attacking lineout. A change in tactic produced quick off the top ball for skipper Chris Starling to peel round the end of the line out before delivering a perfect pass for Grant to cap an excellent game with a try. Robinson’s unerring boot added the conversion to give Rasen a three-point lead as the game entered the final quarter. The score rejuvenated Rasen in the same manner as Lutterworth’s earlier score had galvanised them for a period and the red and greens pressed for another score. A glorious break out looked to have paved the way for a score, but poor timing and execution put paid to that although Rasen still remained deep in Lutterworth territory.  As Rasen pressed forward, Evans attempts at halting their progress were deemed illegal and lock received a yellow card to add to his wretched earlier try butchering. Rasen were unable to capitalise on this advantage before the wheels fell off. Lutterworth soaked up the pressure before breaking the shackles with their backs again as Rasen were only able to stem their progress through Gutteridge’s high tackle. The Rasen man quite rightly received a yellow card, but his offence had been no worse than the other high tackles that went unpunished. Lutterworth seized the opportunity and after a series of drives, number eight Josh Connor forced his way over the whitewash to restore the lead. Glasse extended Lutterworth’s margin with the conversion before Rasen’s woes were compounded with another yellow card in bizarre circumstances. Chris Mills was left bemused, apparently, the victim of ventriloquism, as he was shown the card for derogatory comments when the lock maintains he was tight lipped! After competing so hard and the heat starting to take its toll, Lutterworth’s numerical superiority eventually told as Glasse wrapped up the scoring with a well taken solo try, which he subsequently converted to give the home team a rather flattering margin of victory.
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It was a disappointing end to the league season as Rasen had this game within their own control for long periods, but the old mental fragility problems resurfaced to give Lutterworth opportunities, which they finished with clinical efficiency. With nothing at stake and last week’s jamboree against Ilkeston plus the shenanigans surrounding the Lincolnshire cup final it was perhaps no real surprise that minds might not be a sharp as they should have been. Overall the season represents real improvement with a seventh placed finish comparing favourably with last season’s eleventh placed relegation dogfight.
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On a final note, it would be remiss not to mention the generosity of one anonymous Lutterworth supporter who personally gave £60 to buy the Rasen squad post-match drinks. It was greatly appreciated and the players thank you for this kind gesture.
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Teams
Rasen: Starling C, Haig, Southwell, Mills, Inman, Grant, Starling D, Chamberlin, Everton C, Robinson, Stephens, White, Gutteridge, Wallis, Goodwin
Subs: Gray, Crowe, Dearden A (all not used)
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Lutterworth: Hinton, Thomas, Hopkins, Welsh, Evans, Turner, Sullivan, Connor, Garner, Glasse, Neale, Jempson, Ball G, Ball L, Hooper
Subs: Tebb, Tivey, Barber
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At the moment, we do not know whether this is the end of the season or not as Lincolnshire RFU deliberate whether Rasen or Scunthorpe will face Lincoln in the Lincolnshire Cup Final at Grimsby on Monday 1st May following Scunthorpe’s intransigence over settling on a suitable date for the semi-final, which according to the competition rules had to be played by 22nd April. Please keep a look out for further news of developments on the website.
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It is certainly the end of the season for the match reporter as I am away on holiday the week of the cup final, but as ever it has been a privilege to record the highs and lows of the men in red and green. I hope that you think it has been a fair reflection and I haven’t upset too many people!