Starling duo combine as Market Rasen & Louth RUFC strike late
A HOME treble is on the cards for Market Rasen & Louth RUFC as the Red and Greens have stormed back into form at Willingham Road.
After 11 straight defeats in the Midlands 1 East, Rasen appeared to be plummeting towards relegation.
But they have hit back with back-to-back triumphs on home soil, climbing to fifth from bottom after last weekend's 27-17 victory against Ilkeston.
And the Red and Greens will notch a hat-trick of consecutive home wins if they overcome Spalding on Saturday.
The wintry break has been just the tonic Rasen needed as they dug deep to turn their fortunes around.
Having stopped the rot with a 13-6 victory against Market Bosworth two weeks earlier, Rasen lined up against Ilkeston with history on their side – the Derbyshire outfit had succumbed to defeat on their last two visits to Willingham Road.
But the visitors were on track to end their Rasen hoodoo when centre Greg Taylor's run teed up full-back Jonathan Falls to touch down in the third minute. Scrum-half Joel Haige cooly added the conversion.
In the reverse fixture, an early Ilkeston try precipitated a deluge of scores.
But Rasen are now made of sterner stuff – and they were back on level terms within five minutes. After a tap penalty, full-back Matt Sutton shifted the ball to winger Peter Everton and he danced inside two defenders before offloading to hooker and birthday boy Tom Alldridge, who touched down. Sutton converted the try.
The pendulum swung again three minutes later as Ilkeston fly-half Jake Lamp glided through a gap and set up Greg Taylor to score under the posts, leaving Haige to score a simple conversion.
Rasen responded to their second wake-up call, drawing level at 14-14 before half-time. When the referee extended her arm to indicate an advantage was being played, prop Chris Starling drove forward before popping the ball to charging number eight Dean Hutchinson, who powered over the line. Sutton added the conversion.
Haige converted a penalty early in the second half but Sutton cancelled that effort out for Rasen moments later. Then, battling the breeze, Haige missed a penalty attempt as the game entered the final quarter with the match in the balance.
Rasen broke the deadlock, taking the lead for the first time with 13 minutes left. A drilled penalty found touch and a catch-and-drive from the Rasen pack powered lock Leigh Dearden over the line.
Ilkeston weren't content with a losing bonus point and battled on, but their cause was dealt a big blow when Greg Taylor was adjudged to have entered a maul with a swinging arm and was sent to the side-lines after receiving a yellow card.
Although Rasen couldn't capitalise while Taylor was in the sin-bin, they did break through with two minutes left.
The hosts declined a kick at goal, with skipper Dave Starling preferring a kick to touch. From the line-out, the forwards surged forward. Just when the momentum appeared to have gone, Chris Starling peeled off the maul and raced to the line for a try that bagged a valuable bonus point and vindicated his sibling's earlier decision.
Although the tries Ilkeston scored were the result of sloppy defending, Rasen will take pride in character they showed in responding to these set-backs – and will look to maintain their winning streak on Saturday.