Mansfield Misfire in Opening Game

Last Updated: Sep 16, 2015 10:49pm
Oak Tree, Mansfield
By Andy Foster
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The new league rugby season dawned on Saturday; Nottingham Casuals were the visitors to a warm, sunny late summer day at Eakring Road with the home side eager to build on last week’s impressive cup win against Ashbourne. 

Head Coach Wayne Robinson saw his men lose narrowly to a well drilled Casual XV, he said, “There’s no doubt we need to be smarter in our game management and decision making. Casuals performed well for 80 minutes and we only managed it for brief periods and that is simply not going to get results”.

The home side chose to start up the incline in the first period and received the kick off in front of an expectant and vocal home support. Both sides made their intentions clear from the off demonstrating a desire to run the ball. A Casuals clearance was half charged down before finding touch, a quickly taken lineout by Lee Shaw found wing Bobby Ogunode in space but a fumble denied meaningful progress.

Mansfield were forced to re-shuffle the pack after only five minutes when lock Andy Simms had to leave the field with a bad cut over his eye. The two sides cancelled each other out in the opening exchanges as they both blew off the early season cobwebs, until the lively Ogunode collected the ball on half-way before making progress to the Casual’s twenty-two. An infringement at the breakdown gave Mansfield a penalty, a quick tap from the ever alert Shaw allowed him through virtually unopposed for the score. A superbly struck conversion from John Ross Ward gave the home side a seven point lead with only six minutes played.

Casuals had an opportunity to get themselves on the board when flanker Joe Symcox was penalised for holding on at the restart but the kick was wide of the mark. The blue and whites controlled the next ten minutes with their forwards well on top at the set piece but it was Casuals who were to next trouble the scorer with a quickly taken penalty on sixteen minutes, conversion missed the score was now 7-5.

The score appeared to give Casuals a belief that was perhaps absent in the early exchanges and they had chance to add another three points almost immediately but once again the kick was wide. The next phase of play saw the rampant Casuals pack take play up to the Mansfield line with a series of pick and drives. A resolute home defence was tested to the full eventually giving away a penalty in front of posts which was this time gratefully accepted to give the visitors the lead 8-7.

On twenty four minutes an infringement on the ground gave the visitors another penalty and more significantly a yellow card for the influential Shaw. The visitors took full advantage extending their lead to 13-7 on thirty four minutes with an unconverted try. With Shaw now returned to the fray the home side once again looked dangerous as he started a blind side move two minutes before the break only to be bungled into touch agonisingly short of the line. Mansfield continued to press only to be undone by simple handling errors allowing Casuals to clear their lines. The half time whistle blew advantage to Casuals and everything to play for.

Casuals got the second period underway, Symcox gathered and made good progress earning a penalty as the tackler fails to roll away. Wills kicked the ball to the corner for a five metre line out only for Casuals to steal and clear to the 22. The blue and whites showed brief glimpses of what they are capable of but the third quarter belonged to Casuals who comfortably defended Mansfield attacks and looked dangerous on the front foot.

It wasn’t until the last ten minutes when the blue and whites found any cohesion in attack, replacement full back Gareth Wagstaff chased his own kick which was well taken by his opposite number who was taken man and ball. A penalty resulted which was kicked to the corner and line out ball secured, the home side drove towards the line. The match day sponsor, Stopford Associates, Man of the Match James Hooper was industrious throughout and well worth the accolade. He is pictured alongside James Armison who collected the Second XV Man of the Match award in their victory over Casuals.

An excellent collective defensive effort from Casuals kept the home side at bay but the penalty count was rising, now 6-2 in favour of Casuals in the second period. The referee finally lost patience on 72 minutes yellow carding the visiting lock for infringement on the ground although general consensus was that it was a case of mistaken identity and the influential Fly Half was lucky to escape sanction. Mansfield opted for the scrum from the resultant penalty, number eight Liam Annable picking up from the base to crash over. Ward was again successful with the conversion to give the blue and whites a slender 14-13 advantage.

With 74 minutes on the clock the referee indicated eleven minutes to go following a couple of lengthy stoppages. Casuals re-grouped and took the game back to home side and were eventually rewarded for their confident response when a good back line move instigated from ten was finished out wide by the winger. The conversion was missed but crucially Casuals now had a four point lead with time running out. Try as they might Mansfield were unable to respond, the confidence and fluidity of the previous week had deserted them, final score 18-14 to the visitors.

A difficult opening day at the office for the Blue and Whites, some positives to give encouragement but nowhere near the high standards set last week. Individual errors and naivety in their game management, mistakes that were punished by Casuals ultimately cost Mansfield the game. Next week a visit Southwell, kick off is 3PM and you can follow the action on Twitter @MansfieldRugby.


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