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Old Northamptonians 109 - 3 Mansfield

Emphatic defeat follows the highs of previous week

Last Updated: Oct 8, 2014 07:27am
Oak Tree, Mansfield
By Andy Foster
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Coming off the back of a hard fought and well deserved victory against old rivals Newark last week, a much changed and disrupted Mansfield side travelled to Old Northamptonians (ONs) perhaps more in hope than expectation against the third placed side. The end result was an emphatic defeat at the hands of a team clearly at the top of their game.

Anything written here may well sound like excuses, however, whilst a scoreline of this magnitude demands answers, we can cling on to the fact that there are some facts that mitigate to some small degree. Within the game of rugby there are many group and individual contests taking place all round the park; the front row battle, the back row tussle, half back mastery, the midfield three and the skill of the back three in open spaces all contributing to the game as a whole. From the blue & whites perspective not one of those units mentioned had played together before in the configuration that took to the field last Saturday. This does not help your cause.

Combine the lack of player familiarity with the unequivocal truth that there was some questionable tackling on display and things are not going to go your way. Then factor in the home side’s status as a stable unit, having played together for some time bringing vim and vigour to everything they did and the end result was painfully there for all to see. 

This takes nothing away from ONs who were simply excellent. For their part they brought an intensity to the game that is difficult to maintain for eighty minutes once a side has become totally dominant. However, maintain it they did and with a ruthlessness that seemed to gather pace as the game went on. They had amassed 66 points by half time and Mansfield’s contribution was a dropped goal ensuring they started the second half at 66-3. Despite actually starting really well the visitors just couldn’t contain the Northamptonshire outfit.

The second stanza only served to compound the misery with a try after four minutes. The next try did bring some light relief as the home side’s Centre crossed the line and in an attempt to ‘spread the love’ he flicked the ball to his mate so he could score and he dropped it. He made amends a few minutes later though as the scoring continued.

You may think it odd that in a game of this nature how any one player could have an outstanding game and it may well be ill advised to single out individuals too, because at some point every person on that field did something borderline heroic to try and stem the flow. However, it’s worthy of mention that two youngsters in the shape of Scott Bailey and Morgan Batson proved to be a shining light in the darkness. Until receiving a neck injury which forced him from the field Batson was seemingly everywhere and Bailey simply refused to lie down. Steve Repton also acquitted himself superbly in his debut game at Scrum Half playing under constant and relentless pressure whilst Liam Annable together with Josh Hall never took a backward step.

There’s no doubt that when the final whistle blew, and the scoreboard registered a three digit defeat, the hearts of the travelling supporters (the writer of this report included) bled a little at seeing their team suffer so much at the hands of a side who were intent on making every second and every play count. The ONs ran the ball from everywhere, barely electing to kick at all. They had purpose, pace and strength and demonstrated a very smart level of game management. 

The blue and whites were definitely comprehensively beaten by a better side and no doubt there are questions that require answers. For ONs, the planets seemed to line up sweetly for them producing a startling result. For Mansfield, with so many players unavailable and late cry-offs it makes the task even harder of course and those who played are left to ponder what more they could have done to prevent such a painful defeat. One hopes that they will all emerge stronger for the experience.

Mansfield host Paviors this weekend and the Kick-off is 3:00pm. You can follow the action on Twitter, just go to @MansfieldRugby.

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