Market Rasen & Louth 1st XV 17 Old Northamptonians 1st XV 41
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The red and greens opened the new league season on a glorious summer’s day in bright sunshine, but were unable to match the sun’s luminosity against an ON’s side that recovered from an error strewn first half to run out comfortable winners. A break from visiting fly half Charlie Barker opened the Rasen defence far too easily and only a last-ditch tackle from fullback Adam Goodwin on his opposite number Imad Reyal prevented ON’s from taking an early lead. ON’s maintained the pressure and another break from Gareth Richard’s, possessing remarkable sidestepping skills for a flanker, was only thwarted when his ambitious backhanded pass was deemed forward. With Rasen forced to fight a rear- guard action in their own half, it was almost inevitable that the visitors would score first and so they did in the thirteenth minute. Well won ball from a lineout was swiftly moved to the backline where inside centre Billy North ran in almost unopposed through Rasen’s diaphanous midfield defence. This lifted the siege and at last Rasen were able to enjoy some possession. From a strong scrum, where Rasen were dominant all afternoon, the ball was moved onto the backs where the strong running of centre Josh White punched a hole in the ON’s defence and his perfectly timed pass put Goodwin in wide out to bring the sides level. Josh Lawton was unlucky not to add the extras when his touchline conversion attempt struck the upright. ON’s continued to maintain the lion’s share of possession, but early season rustiness resulted in numerous promising attacks faltering as the ball was spilled or passes went astray, much to the relief of the home side that was firmly on the backfoot. From a turning scrum ON’s moved the ball away to North, who again had the luxury of time and space afforded by the absence of any meaningful midfield defence. He took full advantage and drew the last defender to put his centre partner Reece Evans away for an unconverted try. Rasen responded, just as they had done to the first score, with a period of possession and suffered a psychological blow when winger Tommy Stephens appeared to have been put away with a clear run to the line, only for the referee to call him back for a very marginal forward pass. As half time arrived ON’s held a 10 – 5 lead and were left to ponder if their profligacy with their scoring opportunities would prove costly, whilst Rasen were miraculously still in touch.
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The visitors banished any self-doubt with three tries in the opening twelve minutes of the second half. Within a minute of the restart there was indecision in the red and green defence as ON’s spread the ball wide and Reyal sprinted over the whitewash. Five minutes later Rasen were caught napping after conceding a penalty as scrumhalf Harry Sanderson took a quick tap to run in under the posts from the home ten metre line with barely a hand laid on him. This left an easy conversion for North to record his first successful kick of the day. Despite the stamina sapping heat, ON’s continued with their high pace expansive game and when Calum Brennan found himself on the wing, the lock powered his way to the line in an uneven contest with Rasen scrumhalf Chris Everton, who was powerless to halt his progress. As ON’s looked like disappearing over the horizon, Rasen were able to exploit their most potent weapon, the set scrum. After a rare period of pressure, the red and greens powered a scrum forward to allow Chris Everton time to ponder his options before switching play and linking with George Grant. The flanker forced his way over the line, which was a reward for his hard work throughout the game and newcomer Ed Nicholls added the conversion. Unfortunately, this only provided a brief respite and once again North found himself in acres of space as Rasen’s defence was found wanting and in total disarray. This left winger Mike Bellamy with the simple task of completing the score by the posts, which North converted. Four minutes later ON’s continuity was too much for the beleaguered home team with Reyal having the opportunity to showcase his classy running to grab his second try, again converted by North. With the last play of the game, Rasen showed that they hadn’t given up as flanker Jake Pryer’s strong running put Lawton into space before the centre offloaded to White for a consolation try.
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The early season rustiness from both sides was understandable, but Rasen’s poor defensive alignment, particularly in midfield, the absence of proper tackling technique in some quarters, the amount of space afforded to the opposition and poor reaction time was desperately disappointing. New combinations and a lack of familiarity accounted for some of the unforced errors, but this can be corrected on the training field and should not be insurmountable. On the plus side, the Rasen forwards were in command at the scrum and there were glimpses of attacking potential in the backline. It’s early days and there’s still plenty to work on.
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Teams
Rasen: Starling C, Alldridge, Ashton, Mills, Chamberlin, Grant, Pryer, Starling D, Everton C, Nicholls, Stephens, White, Lawton, Everton P, Goodwin
Subs: Southwell (Ashton), Inman (Mills), Wallis (Everton P)
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ON’s: Draper, Irvine, Stewart, Brennan, Smith, Holt, Richards, Hudson, Sanderson, Barker, Bellamy, North, Evans, Patrick, Reyal
Subs: Edwards, Salt, Crofts
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Next week Rasen travel to newly promoted Oundle, who narrowly lost to Leighton Buzzard in a high scoring match, 41 – 38 this week.
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The 2nd XV were also in action today in a close game with ON’s 2nd XV that saw the visitors victorious by 17-12.