Mansfield in Relegation Danger Zone

Mansfield 5 - 55 Derby

Last Updated: Mar 23, 2015 06:52pm
Oak Tree, Mansfield
By Phil Foster
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Mansfield edged closer to the abyss that is relegation with a disappointing performance on Saturday, conceding 50 points to a Derby team that are sitting comfortably in mid table. There is still time to salvage something but it will require a performance better than that shown this weekend.

Head coach Neil Stent was left rueing another performance that resulted in no bonus points: “We should have taken something away from this game. We had chances to build momentum, we just didn’t deliver when we had them.”

Derby started confidently, setting their intentions out almost immediately. They had a point to prove, only narrowly beating Mansfield earlier in the season, a series of missed opportunities showing a scoreline closer than the game suggested. It took ten minutes for them to register their first score, setting phases together to power their way over the line. A successful conversion saw them take the lead, 7-0.

This game, much like most of the home team’s performances at Eakring Road this season, was not short of endeavour and industry. The forwards worked tirelessly, doing their best to turn over the opposition ball, Match sponsor Lee Dowdall Wealth Management’s Man of the Match Danny Ellis carrying and tidying up ball on the front line. The backs trying to slot phases together in order to break through a tight Derby defence.

However, in their attempts to find the chink in the away team’s armour the blue-and-whites only damaged themselves, wild passes and dropped balls seeing any phase play unravelling. One such incident saw a pass go to ground only for Derby to pounce like a grateful cat and take play 50 metres back into Mansfield’s half.

Mansfield, under pressure from the steady battering ram that was Derby’s attack, conceded too many penalties, gifting possession back to the opposition and starving themselves of any opportunity to thread a few phases together. One such penalty saw Derby take a lineout, from which they scored under the posts. At the end of the first quarter Mansfield were 14-0 down. They needed possession to get themselves back into the game.

Unfortunately, the restart allowed Derby to score almost immediately. Tackles were falling off and the cracks in the damn were now becoming almost too many to handle. Mansfield needed to find a way to patch up their defence and start playing in the opposition’s half. 21-0 after a successful conversion.

A plethora of penalties kept Derby in the ascendency, Mansfield appeared to be committing almost all of the cardinal sins of rugby. While a rose-tinted-spectacle-wearing supporter may say the referee was being unduly pedantic it would be remiss to suggest he was having any effect on the game. When Mansfield did have the ball they simply couldn’t keep hold of it; a forward pass here, a knock on there. A penalty allowed them the opportunity to build something from a lineout, but a dropped ball saw the momentum swing back to the away side, a situation that happened with alarming regularity.

As if to compound their misery, a Derby scrum saw them win their own ball and progress 80 metres upfield to register their fourth try and, with it, a bonus point. A successful conversion bought the score to 28-0.

When Mansfield did keep hold of the ball they caused Derby problems, a penalty just inside Derby’s half saw the referee march the away side back 10 metres for dissent, Derby showing that, when under pressure, their confidence can evaporate too.

A quick tap, a piece of industry lacking so far in the game, saw Mansfield register their first, and only, points of the game, a try welcomed by all watching on the sidelines. This made the score at half time 28-5.

Sadly, the second half saw Derby add another 27 points to their tally and Mansfield lost any chance of building a comeback. The fact is, tackles were missed, penalties were conceded, balls were dropped and a yellow card for foul play in a ruck saw the blue-and-whites spending most of the half on the defensive.

A final score of 55-5 was not easy viewing for spectators or pleasing for the players on the pitch. This performance was not without ambition and industry, but when a team makes as many mistakes as the home side did on Saturday it becomes very difficult to build any momentum. The bounce of a rugby ball is a fickle thing, sometimes it bounces into your hands, sometimes it is tantalisingly out of reach. This team will have been humbled by the path this season has taken, but will have to collect the pain and hurt they are feeling and burn it as fuel for the rest of their journey.

Mansfield have showed they are a group of talented players, and with a youthful streak running through the core of the side it is clear they are a team still trying to find their collective identity and this will surely come in time. 

Next week the team travel to Huntingdon and District, you can follow the action on Twitter @MansfieldRugby.

Photo: Danny Ellis receiving the Man of the Match award from Match Day Sponsor Lee Dowdall of Lee Dowdall Wealth Management.






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