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Pride Restored on the Road at Derby

Derby 17 - 10 Mansfield

Last Updated: Nov 24, 2014 08:02pm
Oak Tree, Mansfield
By Andy Miles
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Following last week’s disappointing home display, Mansfield travelled to Derby to face a side that it is fair to say are experiencing a similar indifferent season to the blue and whites. With the league effectively dividing into three this season, the top six seemingly clear and the bottom two five points adrift, the six teams in mid table are all contenders for the final relegation place.

With both Mansfield and Derby involved in this mid table battle it was always going to be a tense affair between local rivals who only two seasons ago were in the national leagues. The heavy rain of the previous two days and on the morning of the game made the going heavy; it was never going to be a classic, free flowing encounter.

With nine changes from last week’s starting fifteen, five positional and three eighteen year olds in the squad, the coaches were rightly proud of the performance in the final analysis. Senior Coach Neil Stent commenting “leaving with a losing bonus point and denying the visitors the extra point represented a moral victory for the team who had bounced back well after the disappointment of the previous week.”

Mansfield kicked off under a threatening sky, knocking the ball on and then penalised for being off side as they recovered the fumble. The next five minutes were all Derby as they applied pressure on the Mansfield line with a series of catch and drives from lineouts but never troubling a determined visiting defence. Mansfield eventually disrupted and cleared to half way and then proceeded to control the next five minutes had Derby had done the first five; the pattern of the game was established.

It took until the twenty-fifth minute for the pattern of play to change when a Mansfield scrum on halfway was taken against the head. The blind-side flanker made progress into the Mansfield half before showing good vision to release his winger who scored out wide, conversion successful and 7-0 to the home side.

To their credit the blue and white response was excellent, showing a team spirit lacking in the previous weeks performance.  A penalty for crossing gave Mansfield a lineout on the Derby ten metre line, ball secured and a deft chip over the advancing defence drifted inches away from the advancing Bobby Ogunode.

The game was to change again on thirty five minutes with an unfortunate yellow card for young Mansfield flanker Morgan Batson for retaliation as he tried to free himself from the clutches of his opposite number. Derby opted for the five metre lineout to press home their numerical advantage and set up the rolling maul only for an outstanding seven men defensive effort to hold them up over the line.

With forty minutes up and the threat seemingly averted, the visitors had a scrum mid-way in their half, unable to clear directly into touch, John Ross Ward kicked long in Derby territory where the home full back instigated one last attack. Not for the last time during the afternoon, Derby had an overlap out wide only for a lack of precision on the final pass to let them down, it was agonisingly close to being intercepted by full back Alex Miles who could only get his fingertips to the ball. Undeterred Derby were able to gather the loose ball and re-set the attack this time taking advantage of a disorganised Mansfield defensive line which offered only a token resistance in centre field, 14-0 to the home side at the break.  

The visitors clearly made good use of the half time break, starting the second period much the better of the two sides. A brief spell of kicking tennis found John Ross Ward on his own twenty-two, an intelligent chip wrong footed the advancing defence and then beating the remaining defenders to the loose ball to kick through twice more for a superb seventy-metre individual score.  

With the visitors restored to full complement on forty-five minutes it was now Derby’s turn to enjoy a period of dominance. A disrupted Mansfield scrum on their own twenty two was tidied up by Alan Symcox ably supported by younger brother Joe who was harshly penalised for holding on in the tackle. Derby took full advantage to restore their two score lead, 17-7 after fifty five minutes.

The home side controlled the next ten minutes and really should have extended their lead but for a lack of accuracy in the final pass with the try line beckoning, on three separate occasions they had overlaps out wide. To their credit, the Mansfield spirit never waned and they held out with every one of the seventeen man match day squad playing their part.

Having weathered the storm, at times riding their luck, Mansfield re-grouped for one last period of pressure. With ten minutes to go the blue and whites were awarded a free kick, quick thinking by Alan Symcox released Morgan Batson who made progress into Derby territory. A brilliant offload to Callum Wood running a great support line who was halted five metres short of the Derby line, the match official adjudging he didn’t release quickly enough.

With time running out, there is time for one last Mansfield attack. Another free kick on the Derby ten metre line, Symcox injects some urgency into the play with Wood in support; only a deliberate knock-on by the defender attempting to intercept the final pass halts his progress. What could quite easily have been a yellow card was only a penalty which John Ross Ward gratefully accepted to secure a losing point, final score 17-10.

Next week is a free weekend for the league campaign with Huntington & District the visitors to Eakring Road on 6th December, kick off 2:15; you can follow the action @MansfieldRugby. Next Saturday centre stage goes to the Vets team who take on an NLD Vets side at Eakring Road, kick off is 2PM.

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