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Mansfield 24 – 32 Lincoln

Last Updated: Nov 8, 2016 06:24pm
Oak Tree, Mansfield
By Phil Foster
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Halloween saves its final scare for the weekend as a profligate ten minute spell sees victory slip away

 

Mansfield were in the driving seat for an upset against league leaders Lincoln on Saturday. However, a period of ten minutes saw the visitors take a 15 point lead and, ultimately, secure victory. The disappointment was compounded with the result seeing the home side one point off securing a losing bonus point. 

The blue-and-whites started positively, some well-used early possession saw multiple gains around the base of the ruck. Unfortunately, some errors saw the visitors clear their lines with a penalty and Mansfield had to regroup and try again. 

Try again they did, deciding to take the lineout from a penalty rather than taking a shot at goal.   The lineout was lost but re-gathered successfully after loose play from Lincoln. Matchday sponsor Tony Skillington’s Man of the Match Tim Pritchard got his hands on the ball and dutifully took advantage, scoring his second home try since returning to the first team just under a month ago. It’s fair to say that Pritchard’s return, along with hooker Lee Kirk and stalwart Liam Grant, have bolstered the blue-and-whites’ pack, allowing youngsters like Sam Holmes to really flourish this season. 

The resulting conversion was successfully kicked by fly half Ryan Hayward, bringing the score to 7-0. 

It would be unfair to say Lincoln were expecting to simply turn up and win this game. However, there was some uncharacteristically loose play from the league leaders, conceding penalties, turnovers and lineouts to an increasingly confident home side. 

Another penalty saw Hayward extend the lead to 10, a confident display from the youngster playing against a pack full of size and intimidation. Unfortunately, a serious looking injury to one of the visiting players saw a lengthy period of stoppage. Fortunately, said player was able to walk off the pitch to a warm round of applause from both sets of supporters. 

Such stoppages always run the risk of seeing momentum change. However, the home team managed to avoid this potential pitfall as it was the visitors who conceded the next penalty, as well as 10 metres and a yellow card to add salt to the wound. Unfortunately, the resulting penalty kick was missed, but there was still a numerical advantage to be had. That would have to wait until the second half. The referee’s whistle saw the half time score read 10-0 to the blue-and-whites. 

The second half belonged to Lincoln and showed why they are the top of the table. While most of the possession belonged to the home side, the visitors took their opportunities when presented, scoring 3 unanswered tries, 1 converted, to take a 17-10 lead.  

Mansfield’s defence for the most part was outstanding, stopping the away side from profiting on numerous midfield attacks. The scores would soon be level, Ant Hawson busting through from midfield and Hayward converting to bring the scores to a tantalising 17-apiece. 

On reflection of the game as a whole, this seemed a fair score, both teams had played with vision and intensity and a sharing of the points seemed a reasonable outcome. However, Lincoln are not at the summit of the league table for nothing and with a period of roughly 8 minutes had blistered into a 15 point lead, the score reading 32-17. Frustratingly for the home side, these scores were not as a result of constant pressure on the try line, rather they could have been prevented if not for a brief lapse in an otherwise impressive defence.  

The day ended on a bright note for the home side, though. Cleaning up a loose ball, Oli Stamford managed to get the ball to Joe Ducker who proceeded to weave through half of the visiting team before dotting down just shy of the posts. A second yellow card for the visitors for a high tackle while Ducker was in the process of scoring could have taken the shine off it, but a great score it was. 

Again the conversion was successful but there wasn’t enough time for the blue-and-whites to launch a comeback. Agonisingly short of a, some would say deserved, losing bonus point, the final score read 32-24 to the visitors. A loss it may have been, but a performance of that calibre, minus a shaky ten minute spell, bodes well for the rest of the season. 

Next week, Mansfield travel to Long Buckby in the RFU Provincial Cup. You can follow the action on Twitter, @MansfieldRugby.


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