Mansfield 21 – 21 Bakewell

Mansfield rue missed opportunities in thrilling draw

Last Updated: Sep 12, 2016 07:53pm
Oak Tree, Mansfield
By Phil Foster
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The first league game of the season kicked off at Eakring Road on Saturday with a thrilling draw between Mansfield and Bakewell, two teams getting used to life in this new league. 

Head coach Wayne Robinson was pleased with an improved performance but recognised that there was a number of missed opportunities: “we played extremely well in parts and certainly could have won the game, we created enough chances we just need to find that finishing touch”. 

Whilst the game ended up being a tense encounter, the opening minutes were more than a little nervy. Bakewell took advantage early on and scored within the first two minutes. A successful conversion saw Mansfield 7-0 behind with barely a chance to comprehend what had happened. 

The remaining 78 minutes were thankfully much more combative, the home team enjoying a dominant scrum and much tighter defence than in previous weeks. The work of veteran font row stalwart and former captain Lee Kirk, returning to the first team after a number of years away, bolstered the pack and helped organise a solid defensive effort.  

A much more industrious side to Mansfield saw some good phase play put together, recycling possession and winning a penalty. A quick tap and go in the face of a certain three points was a bold move but fortune favours the brave and it resulted in Sam Holmes breaking through the defence to register his second try in two weeks. A successful conversion by John Ross Ward saw Mansfield back in the game at 7 apiece. 

Whilst the weather was much better than the previous week, it still proved to be a scrappy affair at times, both teams being able to nullify each other’s attacks with robust defence around the park. Mansfield were putting phases together well but were struggling to make that final pass count. 

An exchange of missed penalty attempts saw the score remain 7 apiece and neither team could quite break the deadlock. Mark Wallace in the pack lead the defence whilst Joe Ducker and Jack Sibecko made darting breaks down either wing. Match day sponsor Stopford Associates Man of the Match Ryan Hill provided good link work between the pack and the backs and Ryan Haywood tidied up numerous high balls at full back during an impressive performance. 

It was Mansfield who registered the next score, with Joe Ducker managing to benefit from good Mansfield recycling to scoot round the structured Matlock defence. It looked like he’d been bundled into touch, but the referee deemed it to be illegal and awarded a penalty try. The resulting kick from in front of the posts was duly slotted and Mansfield took the lead for the first time, 14-7. 

Mansfield’s grip on the lead was put under pressure when they lost two men to the sin bin just before half time. First, Regan Hubbard was dispatched and, only a couple of minutes later, after successive penalties, Mark Wallace joined him in the bin for playing the ball on the floor. 

It took until the second half for Bakewell to utilise the numerical advantage. Despite solid defence from the blue-and-whites, the numbers eventually told, Bakewell bringing the scores even again with a converted try, 14-14. To the home team’s credit, this was the only try conceded during their time down to 13 men, a commendable defensive effort. 

Mansfield were the next to score, Ryan Hill bounding through to help the home team take the lead. A third successful conversion took the score to 21-14. 

Bakewell’s third and final try, and the final try of the game, was an example of how the ball in rugby can make or break a game. A quick tapped penalty saw Bakewell progress up the field before knocking the ball on. Mansfield managed to regather the ball and try to launch a counter attack. Unfortunately, mere seconds after the referee had called advantage over, Mansfield also lost control of the ball allowing Bakewell to punt it towards the line and, taking advantage of the bounce, dot the ball down for the chance to equalise the game. A successful conversion saw the score read 21-21, which would eventually be the final score. 

It’s clear that this team has done a lot of growing since last week, there was a real sense of cohesion and drive, bolstered by the experience bought in to the pack and the growing confidence of some younger players. Whilst the killer touch may have evaded them at times, the endeavour and industriousness was in plentiful supply. 

Next week, Mansfield travel to Belper. You can follow the action on Twitter, @MansfieldRugby.


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