Positives in defeat as Market Rasen & Louth push top Lions
AFTER nine consecutive defeats, Market Rasen & Louth RUFC are gearing up for a crucial run of fixtures as they bid to avoid being sucked into a relegation battle.
The Red and Greens are fourth from bottom in the Midlands 1 East and five points clear of second-from-bottom Peterborough.
By the end of January, weather permitting, Rasen will face all of their rivals in the bottom half of the table, starting at Kettering on Saturday.
And some good performances against sides at the opposite end of the standings have given the Red and Greens belief that they can halt their losing streak.
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Their latest defeat, last weekend, came on home soil against high-flying Peterborough Lions, who are level on points with leaders Old Northamptonians – the team that beat Rasen 37-3 at home seven days earlier.
Rasen lost 20-13 to the Lions at Willingham Road, an encouragingly small margin of defeat against a team that has lost just twice and scored the most points so far this season.
A battling display in an enthralling match saw Rasen go close to snatching a shock victory.
The Lions pinned Rasen back early on, but were thwarted by the hosts' resolute defending.
Matt Sutton's accurate kick gave Rasen the lead on 12 minutes.
Lions centre Max Guseinov should have scored the game's first try, but the Lithuanian international spurned a two-man overlap and was halted by a strong challenge from Rasen full-back Meehal Grint, who was subsequently withdrawn through injury.
But the Lions did score when open-side flanker Chris Humphrey reacted quickest to a loose ball.
The visitors extended their lead when flanker Dank Page went over after an attempted clearance from Sutton close to the Rasen line was charged down.
After fly-half Jaco Steenberg extended the Lions' lead with a penalty, Rasen improved.
But their good driving play went unrewarded as the visitors maintained their 12-3 lead until the break.
Sutton kicked Rasen to within one try of the lead with 30 minutes remaining in the second half after Lions number eight Francois Wiese was yellow-carded for frequent offside offences.
The Red and Greens charged forward, with centre pairing Dave Starling and Adam Beasley making major inroads, but they couldn't pierce the 14-man Peterborough outfit.
Back to full strength, the Lions struck again when Rasen failed to deal with a penalty that was fell short of the posts.
Rasen lock Ben McCardie was sent to the sin bin for an ill-judged block, and Steenberg made no mistake from the resulting penalty.
A man down in muddy conditions for ten minutes, Rasen continued to play with ambition.
But a telling break from another Lithuanian international, centre Gedis Marcisauskas, created space for winger Jordan Burgess to touch down in the corner. Five minutes later, Guseinov saw yellow for inappropriate comments to the referee.
This time Rasen did capitalise as McCardie, now back on the pitch, peeled off a maul to power over the whitewash.
Sutton converted to give Rasen a lifeline with two minutes remaining.
But the Lions ensured the ball remained deep in Rasen territory and ensured there was no fairy-tale ending for the hosts.
Rasen fans that travel to watch Saturday's match at Kettering will not be charged an entrance fee.