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Eakring Road Thriller

Mansfield 12 - 13 Dronfield

Last Updated: Mar 9, 2016 10:47pm
Oak Tree, Mansfield
By Phil Foster
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An emotional atmosphere hung over Eakring Road on Saturday as the club bid a final farewell to loyal members and personal heroes. With the flag flying at half mast, the players put on a performance to be proud of. 

Head coach Wayne Robinson was proud of the performance the players put in, but disappointed with the final result: “I thought from the first whistle to the last we were outstanding. We really fought as a team and made them work for their victory. On another day, we might have come away with the full 4 points.” 

Dronfield came into this game sitting high at the top of the table. While it would be unfair to say they were expecting an easy run out against a team hanging precariously close to the drop zone, it would not be unfair to say they were not expecting the ferocity they encountered. 

From the first whistle, the blue-and-whites attacked with vigour and enthusiasm. While the conditions weren’t perfect; rain, wind and sun all greeting us at some point during the course of the game, the game flowed as well as it could. With dropped balls and turnovers aplenty, the home team worked decent field position and territory. 

Unfortunately, as is often the case with top vs bottom clashes, Mansfield conceded an inordinate amount of penalties, stretching into the high teens by the end of the game. Despite being in control and playing most of the first quarter in Dronfield’s half, the home team gave away penalty after penalty, halting momentum and allowing the away team to clear their lines. 

The lineouts were fairly evenly matched all game, both teams losing their own and stealing each other’s ball. It was from a rare Mansfield penalty that the deadlock was first broken. Opting to go to touch, the forwards executed a smart lineout manoeuvre. Holding back from engaging with the line until the maul had formed, the away team were expecting a free kick for obstruction, as had previously been awarded. However, while Dronfield held back, the ball popped out to the waiting Josh Hall who looped round to the wing, crashed through two defenders and dotted down for the game’s first score. A fantastic touchline conversion from fly half John-Ross Ward saw the home team lead, 7-0. 

A Dronfield penalty would be their only score from the first half, a nicely slotted kick seeing the score read 7-3. 

That score could have been higher but Mansfield rallied round to halt any gathering momentum. Hall was, rather harshly some might say, sent to the sin bin shortly before the end of the half for an infringement in the middle of the park and, sensing an advantage, Dronfield decided to forego the attempt at 3 more points. That tactic nearly paid off, if not for a spectacular try saving tackle from match day sponsor Tony Skillington’s Man of the Match, Joe Ducker. 

The second half started as it would continue for much of the next 40 minutes; Mansfield conceding a penalty and Dronfield trying to build momentum. Having built some ascendency in the scrum, the visitors couldn’t really do much with the ball, opting to either kick it in the hope of breaking Mansfield’s stern defence, or coughing up the ball through a knock on or forward pass. They had to settle for a second penalty to bring the score to 7-6. 

The blue-and-whites were handling the pressure of sustained attack after attack superbly, contesting well at the breakdown and stabilising the scrum enough to limit any potential attacks. A turnover just inside their own half saw them counterattack; prop Tom Key setting up a ruck platform and then feeding quick ball through the backs, first to Pete Alldread, then to Olly Stanford before a slick offload to youngster Jack Sebecko saw him race 30 metres to register a second try and, without doubt, one of the best tries to have graced the Eakring Road turf this season. A missed conversion saw the score stay at 12-6 but Mansfield were not going to let this game go easily. 

However, sustained pressure from the visitors and a succession of penalties saw much of the remainder of the game played in Mansfield’s half. Despite ferocious defence and a tenacity that has been missing for large parts of the season, Dronfield managed to finally break through the wall and register their own try. Even more heartbreaking for the home side, the try was scored just to the left of the uprights, making the conversion as simple as possible and edging Dronfield into the lead, 13-12. 

That would be the final score. Yet another conceded penalty saw the away side go for one last shot at the posts but it hit the upright. On another day, with a different bounce of the ball or an extra decision going their way, the riches would have belonged to Mansfield. This time, however, it was not to be. 

Still, a losing bonus point and a performance that will surely send a message to other teams in the league is a huge positive to take away. A young team still trying to find their feet they may be, a pushover at home they most definitely are not. 

There is no game next weekend due to international matches and then Mansfield travel to West bridgford on the 19th March, kick off is 3pm. You can follow the action on Twitter using @MansfieldRugby.

 

 

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