An early score lays down marker

Newark 6 - 15 Mansfield

Last Updated: Jan 6, 2014 08:26pm
Oak Tree, Mansfield
By Andy Foster
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League position and form rarely count for much in a local derby and this game produced a thunderous reminder of what can happen when two proud clubs rise to the challenge.

Mansfield started this game and the New Year in spectacular style with a length of the field try from the kick off with less than a minute on the clock. Still smarting from a humiliating defeat in September on home soil at the hands of Newark, the blue and whites were in determined mood and keen to redress the balance so the scene was set for a thrilling encounter.

For the visitors it was the best of starts. From the very first kick, the ball was fielded and slipped out to Centre Ash Wills to run out of defence. He chipped the ball ahead to find Flanker and Skipper Phil Donaldson in attendance. He gathered the ball and recycled it quickly out to Lock Aiden McGregor who sprinted the final 35 metres to cross the line untouched for a 5nil lead.

Newark responded to this in the way you would expect a tough and uncompromising team to. They took the game to Mansfield and with a plenty of possession they started to build field position from which to attack. The resultant pressure caused the visitors to give away needless penalties and Newark had two shots of goal but came away with nothing in what was a tense opening quarter.

Both forward packs will know they have been in a game and neither took a backward step. Great defence from Joe Symcox, Liam Grant and Chris Hawkins shone through and Danny Ellis Showed his more subtle side in securing turnover ball at vital moments.

As the half wore on Mansfield were starting to exert pressure of their own and forced the home team into giving away a number of penalties, one of which resulted in a yellow card for Newark. Jonathan Williams now had the opportunity to further extend his side’s lead to 8 nil with a well struck penalty with thirty minutes elapsed. The tension mounted and despite the pitch starting to cut up and become ever more unsteady under foot, both teams attempted to run at every opportunity.

With three minutes left to play in the opening half the blue & whites struck again. Fly Half Jonathan Williams, who was comfortably man of the match, broke out of his 22 and fed the ball to Adam Shaw just over half way and he completed Mansfield’s second try in some style. Another superb strike of the ball added the extras and brought the score to 15 nil.

However, in the fourth minute of injury time and with Newark restored to a full compliment, it was Mansfield’s turn to suffer a man down as Liam Grant received a yellow card. The resultant penalty was successful and the half ended with the visitors leading 15-3.

As the second half started Newark received a second yellow card but this did nothing to dent their determination. They continued to attack as before, although may rue kicking away ball that perhaps should have gone through the hands. Winger Rich Donaldson capped a fine afternoon by running everything back on a day not best suited for outside backs and Although Mansfield’s scrum was constantly under pressure Number 8 Alan Symcox maintained control superbly to secure possession at every set piece.

Lee Shaw produced a fine fifty minutes at Scrum Half after a three month lay-off and was replaced by his brother Adam who had slotted effortlessly into the centre during the opening period. With just fifteen minutes played in the second half Mansfield now received their second yellow card, and the game’s fourth, as Chris Hawkins endured a spell on the naughty step. The penalty was successful and Newark closed the gap to 15-6.

The final quarter of the game was played largely around the midfield with each side making occasional forays into the other’s red zone. Although the conditions resulted in more handling errors than Coaches would like it made for a tense finish as neither side was able to dominate completely. Both defences were impressive and each provided a number of crowd pleasing hits as the game drew to its conclusion. With no further scoring Mansfield left Kelham Road with a 15-6 victory and pride restored.

Mansfield host Old Northamptonians at Eakring Road this week. Kick-off is 2:15pm and you can follow the action on Twitter, just go to @MansfieldRugby.


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