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End of Season High for Kettering

Kettering 97 - 7 Mansfield

Last Updated: Apr 22, 2015 10:57am
Oak Tree, Mansfield
By Andy Foster
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With relegation guaranteed Mansfield travelled to Kettering fully aware that the season had not gone according to plan and this last outing was always going to be a tough one against a Northamptonshire side who have enjoyed a fine campaign.

To compound the pressure, through an unfortunate set of circumstances, the team had to take to the pitch with thirteen players as others en route were delayed. Only one other player actually made it and brought the numbers to fourteen with 20 minutes played.  This highlighted perfectly the problems of injury and availability that have dogged the side all season which has resulted in being unable to field the same side twice.

The players who took to the field on Saturday for Mansfield performed heroically in many ways but the phrase ‘chasing shadows’ which is often used in rugby, was never more apt than in this game. 

Kettering started with the confidence of a side who were sitting very comfortably at fourth in the league table plus an away win against the blue & whites under their belt. Although the visitors defended bravely the numerical advantage told after eight minutes with the home side recorded their first try spinning the ball out wide as the inevitable overlap was exploited.

Kettering were probably a little guilty of ‘white line fever’ at this point as the next ten minutes saw them squander four very clear scoring opportunities as the last pass was either hurried or a dummy thrown that should have gone out. Mansfield for their part simply had no option but to take the man carrying the ball and try not to get sucked into taking two players. This they did with aplomb. 

The penny finally dropped for the home side that if they let the ball do the work and exploit the inevitable overlap situations then points would come. They cleverly changed their approach and after eighteen minutes fed the ball sweetly down the line to score their second try. As they continued with this strategy more tries followed and the half time score made unpleasant reading for the visitors as it read 52 nil.

Although Kettering scored early after the break to bring the score to 59 nil, in an act of defiance Mansfield then had all the ball for a ten minute period during which debutant James Armson, who acquitted himself well all afternoon, crossed for the visitors only try. The conversion was successful from Alan Symcox and the ignominy of a blank score sheet was averted.

If that gave Mansfield a boost then what followed left them somewhat deflated. Isaac Marsden, playing with a maturity and commitment beyond his years, pulled off a brilliant 50 metre corner flag tackle on the opposition Flanker to deny him a try in the corner. However, the match official deemed it to be a high tackle and duly awarded a penalty try. The home Flanker graciously conceded he didn’t score but the decision was made.

The rest of the game played out predictably with further tries coming as a result of Kettering being smart and moving the ball out quickly taking advantage of tired legs and heavy hearts. For their part, the visitors never stopped running and tackling, they were just outnumbered and as painful as it was, the reality is that you simply cannot take to the field short against a team like Kettering and expect anything other than what transpired.

It is always a little unfair to single out players in such a game as everyone ran themselves into the ground, however special mention must be made of another debutant James Phillips who also shone through despite being thrown in at the deep end. 

Mansfield must regroup and pick themselves up as they now face Paviors in the Notts County Cup Semi-Final at Burntstump Park on Saturday. The Kick-off is 2:15pm and you can follow the action on Twitter, just go to @MansfieldRugby.

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