Thrilling Fight Back by Mansfield

Mansfield 28 - 32 Stamford

Last Updated: Jan 25, 2016 09:42pm
Oak Tree, Mansfield
By Andy Foster
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It’s no exaggeration to say that Mansfield’s performances this season have been like the winter weather: unpredictable. The second half of the campaign so far has produced some disappointing results with a lack of tries and 3 losses on the bounce.


However, that all changed on Saturday as the blue-and-whites put up a much improved performance to overturn a 20 point deficit and come within touching distance of a much needed win.


Head coach Wayne Robinson was nonetheless pleased with the way his team finished the game: “We started slowly and conceded 12 early points that, plus a yellow card just after half time really hurt us. I’m proud of the way the boys fronted up, they didn’t let their heads go down and battled hard to the end.”


Those 12 points were conceded within the first 10 minutes, two tries, one converted, one unconverted, allowing Stamford to put their mark on the game and establish some momentum. Previous performances suggested that this could be a long afternoon for the Eakring Road faithful. However, Mansfield heads didn’t drop and a brace of penalties by John-Ross Ward helped put the home side on the board, 12-6.


Whilst the rain stayed away, it was a chilly day and this was evident in both team’s performances. Dropped balls and turnovers kept the momentum swinging like a pendulum until another Ward penalty bought the score to within 3 points. The home scrum was exceptional against a strong opposing pack, it’s been a while since Mansfield have enjoyed this kind of dominance in the set piece and credit must be given to the tight 5, spurred on by Josh Hall and match day sponsor Future Products Ltd man of the match Gareth Gripton, who helped steady the forward effort and stabalise the set piece.


Stamford were not to be caught that easily, though, and with their forwards impressive loose work producing quick, clean ball, the backs were able to put phases together that often created overlaps out wide. However, Mansfield’s scramble defence has been excellent in previous weeks and this was no different, winger Joe Ducker often covering 3 men and doing enough to disrupt what could have been dangerous ball for the visitors.


A penalty lineout did allow Stamford to increase their lead, as they snuck out of the resulting ruck and crossed the line unopposed. A successful conversion saw the half time score read 19-9 to the visiting outfit. A last attack just before the break again saw the home defence stand firm as offload after offload came from a counterattack. 


The second half began with an all too familiar site: a Mansfield player getting yellow carded. On average, teams who lose a man to the sin bin concede 7 points. Stamford bettered this average by scoring two tries, both unconverted, to bring the score to 29-9 and Mansfield staring down the barrel of a heavy defeat.


However, save for one more penalty kick to take their total to 32, that would be the end of Stamford’s points in the game. Mansfield’s pack really kicked into action and showed their dominance by exerting consistent pressure on the visiting defence, forcing them into conceding a penalty and losing a man of their own to the sin bin. 


Building on the scrum dominance, the home team opted to drive Stamford backwards and treated the blue & whites faithful to a rare sight – a pushover try! Josh Hall picking up and dotting down just outside the posts. A successful Ward conversion bought the score to 32-16 and a sense that this game was far from over.


Excellent work by Ducker, who is really growing into his role in the first team, powerful drives by Marshall, Gripton and Bruce Arnold saw Mansfield beginning to create territory and momentum. Pete Alldread took advantage of this growing confidence to score a spectacular try carving his way through the visiting defence, scoring Mansfield’s second score of the game and putting them within touching distance of a losing bonus point. Ward slotted another conversion to put the score at 32-23.


The home team’s possession and territory continued to benefit as good phases were being built up. There’s still some inconsistency in decision making and the speed of the Stamford defence continued to make life difficult at times, but this was a much more confident Mansfield side that were willing to recycle the ball instead of trying to offload in unnecessary situations. 


This confidence paid off as another drive by the pack saw the Stamford defence scrambling to cover their own line. Somehow, the ball bobbled loose and, despite three Stamford players trying and failing to kick it into touch, the evergreen Bruce Arnold reacted quickly, pounced on the loose ball and dived over the line to bring Mansfield the much needed bonus point. 


The final score read 32-28, Ward’s difficult touchline conversion falling short. But for a key decision here or there and a terrific second half fight back the game that was very much for the taking but just slipped out of Mansfield’s reach. Those 12 early points conceded proved the difference and if the blue-and-whites can stop that from happening in future games then they’ve proven they’re a capable side who can play some fantastic rugby.


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


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