Last gasp score denies Mansfield

Mansfield 12 - 13 Southwell

Last Updated: Sep 22, 2015 05:43pm
Oak Tree, Mansfield
By Phil Foster
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For the second week in a row Mansfield were denied victory by a last second try, this time from Southwell in a largely scrappy affair at Park Lane. The weather was perfect for running rugby; a bright and sunny September afternoon inviting both teams to throw the ball around a bit. However, endeavour notwithstanding, this was a scrappy affair all round, summed up by numerous penalties and unforced handling errors.


Initially, Southwell had the upper hand, starving Mansfield of the ball and benefitting from the blue-and-whites’ ill-discipline. Within the first 10 minutes, Mansfield had given away four penalties. By the end of the first quarter they had given away a further two penalties, lost a man to the sin bin and conceded a try.


At times, Mansfield’s decision making seemed rushed, a clearance kick from inside the 22 failing to make touch allowed Southwell to run the ball back, eventually setting up the situation that resulted in the visiting team going a man down. Southwell took advantage of this, breaking down the blind side to run in unopposed and register the first score of the game after 15 minutes. The conversion was unsuccessful but Mansfield had barely touched the ball and it looked like it could be a long afternoon.


That said, Southwell wouldn’t score again until the second half. Mansfield shored up their defence and stopped Southwell from utilising the numerous overlaps they had created. Liam Annable and Gareth Gripton responsible for some crunching tackles, one resulting in a stoppage as the tackled player struggled to regain his feet.


Whilst full of endeavour and heart, the blue-and-white attack never really got going. What little possession they had was often kicked away rather than put through the hands. When they didn’t kick possession, they turned it back over to Southwell through unforced handling errors. Whilst Mansfield have spent the summer preparing well, they were sporting an entirely different backline from last week and a new combination at centre. 


For their part, Southwell’s attacking game varied in consistency too for much of the afternoon. Dominant early on, their attacking plan seemed to consist of getting the ball to the centres and no further. Once Mansfield’s midfield defence became wise to this, the home team struggled to capitalise on their early promise on getting the ball out to wide open space.


A break by Ollie Stanford and punching runs by Annable failed to result in a 5 pointer, but hard graft and patience resulted in two penalties, deftly slotted by John Ross Ward, this week playing in his preferred position of fly half. The visitors went in to the break 6-5 in front.


The second half started with an exchange of penalties, first Ward slotted another for Mansfield, Southwell hit back with one of their own and, finally, Ward slotted a fourth to bring the score to 12-8 and the end of Mansfield’s points tally for the afternoon.


The remainder of the second half carried on much as the first half had; handling errors, a succession of penalties and a second yellow for the visitors. Whilst Mansfield were clearly showing grit and determination, a brace of yellow cards and a high penalty count was always going to hinder progress on the field.


At 12-8 in front with a matter of minutes to play, despite not crossing the whitewash, this was Mansfield’s game to lose. However, playing the final 10 minutes with a man down and under a barrage of pressure from a home team that were desperate to take advantage that’s exactly what happened. Whilst the ‘blue-and-whites’ frantic defence was repelling Southwell’s attacks, the one man deficit was there to exploit.


Exploit it they did, with the final seconds of the game counting down the home team finally managed to utilise the overlaps they had been spurning for the previous 79 minutes and send a man crashing over the line in the corner. 


The kick was missed, but it didn’t matter. The final score read 13-12 to Southwell, a first ever win for the Park Lane outfit against a Mansfield team in league rugby. Whilst full of heart and ambition, the visitors just couldn’t keep hold of the little possession they had right at the end. 


The blue-and-whites can take heart from much of what they did in relation to their effort and endeavour. However, there’s no sugar-coating the fact that they defended for far too long and struggled to hold on to possession for sustained periods making it much harder to build momentum and gain territory.


Next week, Spalding travel to Eakring Road. Kick-off is at 3pm and you can follow the action on Twitter @MansfieldRugby.


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