Market Rasen and Louth RFC relegated after Leighton Buzzard defeat
While the result mathematically confirmed the drop, the club has been resigned to the fate for some time in a winless league campaign.
On Saturday, Rasen paid the price for a slow start and the abundance of unforced errors against an unexceptional side who took their chances well.
The second half was much better as the team tightened up and played to its strengths, but it was too little, too late.
After a two-week lay-off Market Rasen and Louth suffered further disruption when the First XV pitch was deemed unsuitable because of pools of water laying on the pitch.
Despite the best efforts of the players, who interrupted their pre-match preparations to shift the water, the game with Leighton Buzzard was moved to the smaller sloping pitch at neighbouring De Aston School.
Rasen opted to play up the slope in the first half, but were slow to get going as Buzzard ran in four tries in an 11-minute scoring spree.
From a lineout following a penalty, fullback Ben Beaumont’s strong running cut through Rasen’s midfield defence, AWOL for most of the game, before popping the ball to supporting centre Michael Robert for the opening score after 11 minutes.
Winger Oliver Taylor added the conversion and two minutes later looked to convert his own try, scoring wide out from a counter-attack after Rasen had taken the restart well upfield.
Four minutes later Taylor doubled his try tally after Jack Whitehouse’s break aided by more feeble defending.
Rasen faced a literal uphill battle as the visitors took control, and from another attack Rasen prevented a score, but conceded a five-metre scrum and were then penalised at the set piece.
The hosts were then caught napping when Daniel Baroux took a quick tap and powered his way over for the try bonus-point with the first quarter barely over.
Rasen slowly began to wake from their slumber, but continued to make unforced errors.
The Buzzards capitalised on this again when Rasen lost possession and another counter-attack ended with Robert strolling to the line to grab his second try.
Taylor added the conversion before Rasen had their best spell.
Sweeping the ball across the field, winger Simon Cooper was bundled into touch, but Rasen kept up the pressure as the forwards battled their way towards the line, forcing Buzzard to concede a penalty.
It was the visitors’ turn to be caught on the hop when a quick tap ended with birthday boy Pete Southwell forcing his way over. Tom Alldridge added the conversion.
Rasen looked to be heading into half-time on the back of a much-needed boost, but concentration levels slipped again when another turnover led to a counter-attack from their own 22.
The Red and green scrambling defence was in disarray as Robert cantered to the line for his hat-trick. Taylor’s conversion gave Buzzard a comfortable half-time 36-7 lead.
Playing down the slope, Rasen began the second half with purpose, pressuring the visitors into a flurry of penalties, but without a yellow card for persistent infringement.
A clever switch of play from fly-half Chris Everton opened up space as the ball was flung wide for winger Will Stephens to score a well-constructed try.
Alldridge added the conversion, but Rasen then returned to their first half malaise when they failed to gather the restart and knocked on.
But a second nudge forward by the visitors went undetected before Owen Forsythe gathered and made a beeline for the posts to leave an easy conversion for Taylor.
This was to be the visitors’ last score with half-an-hour still remaining as Rasen became more patient and cut down the error count.
The hosts finally produced some of their usual effective forward driving game to heap pressure on the Buzzard defence, battering away and earning a succession of penalties, culminating in a yellow card for prop Michael Lynch.
The Buzzards hadn’t learned their lesson and from the next Rasen drive conceded another penalty which the referee turned into a penalty try.
Rasen continued their onslaught and from another penalty, worked their catch and drive routine for Alldridge to cross and secure a try bonus point.
The hosts worked hard in the final eight minutes, but couldn’t add to their tally.
On Saturday, Rasen travel to Kettering for a re-arranged fixture with a 3pm kick-off.
Travelling supporters should note Kettering charge an entry fee.
Rasen: C. Starling, Alldridge, Southwell (Ashton), Crowe (Scupham), Benson, J. Norton, Chamberlin, Pryer, Noquet, C. Everton, W. Stephens, F. Norton (Lawton), Pridgeon, Cooper, Nicholls.