Sun 15
Market Rasen
Durham City v Market Rasen by Phil Spooner

Durham City v Market Rasen by Phil Spooner

By David Garrity
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Another fine but slightly chillier day greeted us on the second day of the tour as the party headed off to Lincoln RFC for a double-header against County Champions Market Rasen and hosts Lincoln.


As the party made the short trip from bus to club house they were suddenly thrown into shade. Looking to the reason for this, they shuddered as they beheld the goliaths of Market Rasen….probably the tallest, strongest squad we had yet faced. It is probably true to say that most, if not all parents were distinctly worried at that point…….but the Men in Black just strolled on, oblivious to our fears and focused simply, ruthlessly and silently (in the manner of a great white shark) on the task ahead.

Parents went for an extended worry huddle in the bar and looked on with mounting dread as Market Rasen displayed great skill and organisation to match their physical strength in demolishing Lincoln in a first half of five, perhaps six tries. Oh dear!

How little we knew! Although parents were looking nervous, our squad wasn’t at all bothered and as we looked up to the top pitch, there they were going through their warm-up under their new, march or die coaches!...not a care in the world.

Quite simply, the match which followed was one of the best U-14 performances that this reporter has ever seen. Market Rasen were strong, physically imposing, fit and well-drilled. County Champions, they had just despatched Lincoln with ease and their body language oozed confidence. Durham went about their preparations quietly and determinedly, the crowd of between 100 and 150 looking on expectantly with, we suspected, most neutrals cheering for Durham.

Durham kicked-off the first of two 25 minute periods deep into Rasen territory with a deceptively strong breeze against them and pressed forwards, taking the game to Rasen and camping in their 22 for the first four minutes….a good start. Durham’s pressure was sustained. Their recovery was first rate and they completely denied Rasen the chance to build an attack and relieve the pressure upon them. Every time Rasen cleared up field, good kicking from Durham penned them back deep in their own half.

Unrelenting Durham pressure continued for ten minutes until, at last, Durham’s efforts were rewarded with a great wing break and 30 yard sprint to the line for a try and conversion 5 yards to the right of Rasen’s posts. This was a great team try with tough tackling and sharp passing exposing a rare opportunity through Rasen’s defences and a successful conversion gave Durham a 7-0 lead after 10 minutes.

The change in Rasen’s body language as they lined up for kick-off was clearly visible. Even so they took the game to Durham and equalised soon afterwards after Durham had been guilty of loose passing on the edge of their own 22. A try under the posts was their punishment and the match remained level at 7-7 at half time. You could feel that Durham knew they deserved the lead and were determined to regain it in the second half.

Durham started the second half where they had left off in the first with tenacious tackling and ball recovery. An early Rasen penalty, kicked to touch near Durham’s line, was well defended and Durham pushed upfield. Their first penalty of the half was placed very well ten yards from Rasen’s line and Durham’s subsequent maul looked ominous for Rasen until a last ditch clearance saved their bacon. Pressure from Durham was constant at this point and a couple of 5 yard scrums to Durham followed with one, in particular, almost leading to a score, only a handling error denying Durham a try on the overlap.

Play was all in Rasen’s half until a long clearance led to a penalty for Rasen which Durham defended well only 5 yards from their line. Durham’s clearance to the half way line set up a ruck which then fed a strong Durham push which was then released for a mazy run and try ten yards to the right of Rasen’s posts. This was only fair to Durham who had asked all the questions of Rasen during the game. A tricky conversion came up against a strong cross wind and sailed just wide, but Durham had their lead – 12-7 with ten minutes to go.

From that point, very strangely, it never seemed like Durham were going to lose their lead and so it proved. Their defence held, their passing, tackling and recovery were of high quality and Rasen were held mainly around the half way line, never seriously threatening Durham’s line. The whistle blew to loud applause and Durham had their second and most impressive victory of the tour by 12 points to 7. Wow!!

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Match details

Match date

Sun 15, Apr 2018