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Mansfield 12 – 24 Melbourne

Mansfield’s last home game falls short of expectations

Last Updated: Apr 11, 2016 07:37pm
Oak Tree, Mansfield
By Andy Foster
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The last home game of the season is normally a cause for celebration. However, this particular day was anything but. Melbourne had triumphed on a rainy Derby day earlier in the season at home so there was a double incentive for Mansfield to pick up a victory in the return encounter. This was a game that was not only a must win, but was more than winnable.  

Head coach Wayne Robinson was understandably reflective on what could have been, as he commented, “We did some good things, but needed more consistency. This was a game we could have won but we missed a few opportunities”. 

The first 10 minutes suggested Mansfield weren’t going down without a fight. The away team conceded six penalties and lost a player to the sin bin before the game had had chance to really warm up. Three of the penalties were in kickable positions. However, after the first attempt at the posts missed, the blue-and-whites decided to try a more direct approach, opting for touch. At the resulting lineout the ball was turned over and the red zone vacated with no points. 

Melbourne, still a man down, were the first team to register points. Finally getting a penalty after some time under pressure, the away team were able to put some phases together and score the first of their four bonus-point-winning-tries. A missed conversion saw them lead 5-0. 

Mansfield’s pack, with match day sponsor Glenair UK Ltd Man of the Match Tom Key leading by fierce example, were gaining dominance in the scrum and lineout. However, despite Key’s imperiousness and solid performances by Ash Stirland and Gareth Gripton, the final move simply wasn’t clinical enough. Mansfield were their own worst enemies at times. 

Matters weren’t helped any when Josh Hall was sin binned. Not wanting to waste the advantage, Melbourne turned the tables on the home team and applied sustained pressure of their own, eventually crashing over to register their second try. A successful conversion saw them lead 12-0. 

That tally could have been added to soon after, a wayward pass landing in the grateful hands of a Melbourne defender who set off on a 60 metre run for the line. An almost certain try was stopped by winger Joe Ducker racing from one wing to the other to help haul the runaway attacker down. Ducker’s defensive heroics are a sight to enjoy and his team needed his best efforts at that point. 

A scrappy section of play saw Mansfield win a penalty, lose the lineout then win a scrum from a Melbourne knock on. Stirland took the opportunity from a scrum on the front foot, beating three players to bring Mansfield back into the game. A successful conversion saw the half time score read 12-7 to the visitors.

Unfortunately for the home team, they spent much of the second half on the back foot. While Melbourne had a lot of possession, the remainder of the game was much of a stalemate. Mansfield did some good work in the loose, turning ball over and putting some good phases together. 

On one occasion and deliberate knock on by the visiting Winger ended a Mansfield move that looked odds on for a try. However, too often the crispness of the final pass was missing and the blue-and-whites just couldn’t find that finishing touch. 

A second try came from Tom Key after a penalty but it wasn’t enough at the end. Melbourne scored two of their own second half tries with one converted to secure the win for the visitors.  

A promising Mansfield counter attack late on was halted by foul play and although a penalty was awarded it proved to be insufficient to help the blue & whites cause as the home team were unable to capitalise on their bright opening quarter.  

Next week they travel to Nottingham Casuals for the final game of the season. You can follow the action on Twitter @MansfieldRugby

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