Mansfield Make League Leaders Work Hard for their Victory
Report by Andy Foster
If there was an inevitability to this game that Long Eaton would win just by turning up, this was soon dispelled by a blistering first half from Mansfield where they racked up 30 points and secured a bonus point for scoring four tries. This left the visitors and newly crowned league champions knowing that if they wanted this win they were going to have to dig very deep into reserves to secure it.
Head Coach Wayne Robinson was naturally delighted with his team’s performance, “What a start! I was so pleased that the lads took the game to them. We had a difficult time at their place in the opening game of the season and this performance and result shows just how far we have come since September”.
As far as Long Eaton are concerned they are not champions by accident. For the most part they are a youthful side, full of zest and invention. Every time their back line had the ball they looked dangerous and it would be fair to say that they had to deliver every play in the book to finally put Mansfield away in the last few minutes of the game.
Mansfield were off to the best possible start by taking the lead from a Harry Brough penalty after just three minutes. This gave them the lead which they clung on to valiantly for well over an hour and only eventually relinquishing it with eleven minutes left to play.
Five minutes later, veteran Scrum Half Terry Davies, who appears undiminished after over 20 years of First Team rugby, dived over to set up the beginning of a fine afternoon for him, giving his side an 8 nil lead.
Long Eaton were never going to roll over of course and two minutes later they struck back with a fine try of their own slicing open the blue & whites defence to score under the posts bringing the score to 8-7. In reply Prop Jordan Flynn was on the end of some great work from Bobby Ogunode to sprint in 30 metres dotting down under the posts himself. Harry Brough converted the try to make the scoreboard read 15-7 to Mansfield.
Again, the opposition hit back with a try showing more guile and wizardry from their speedy backs reducing the lead to a slender 15-14. However, another Harry Brough penalty further extended Mansfield’s lead with 20 minutes gone to be followed by a blistering try from Winger Zane Chiapetta sprinting over in the corner untouched after a slick offload from Ogunode.
As the 30 minute mark approached Adam Rowbottom pounced to score Mansfield’s fourth and final try of the game which earned them the extra point. The conversion from Brough brought the score to an impressive 30 points to 14 leaving the visitors in no doubt that if they wanted to claim this scalp they were going to have to work very hard for it.
Just before half time Long Eaton registered another try bringing the first half to a close at 30-21 in Mansfield’s favour. More invention from the visiting back line just two minutes into the second half closed the gap on the home side’s lead to 30-26 and that’s where it stayed for the next half hour.
The Mansfield pack had dominance in the scrum all afternoon with Darren Marshall, Ian Coleman and Jordan Flynn outstanding taking full advantage of that at every opportunity. The lineout functioned perfectly led by Stalwart Lee Kirk with Will Smith and Phil Pogmore imperious. John Tasker, this week at No 8 and growing in confidence with every game, had probably his best performance in a Mansfield shirt.
Of course every blue & white man played his part but special mention must go to the Glenair ‘Mansfield Man of the Match’ Rob Marsden. A late starter to the game of rugby and now just completing his first full year in the game, he looked every inch the part in attack and never took a backward step in defence, with some superb and robust tackling.
In the final analysis, the league champions, although having to dig deep, kept up the pressure on some tiring Mansfield legs and in a telling period towards the end of the game this finally took its toll. Despite being held up over the line twice they eventually registered the score that would wrestle the lead from the home side with eleven minutes left on the clock. With the score at 30-32 a further try would extend that lead to 40 points.
With just three minutes left to play Harry Brough again slotted a well struck penalty to secure Mansfield the losing bonus point as well as bringing the game to an end with the final score at 40-33. This was a far cry from the early season encounter and a brought Mansfield a third-place finish in the league which is well deserved.
The league season has now finished but Mansfield have one game left and that will be on Saturday 5th May against Ashfield in the Notts Intermediate Cup to be played at the Lady Bay Ground, home of Nottingham Rugby Club. The kick-off is at 3pm and you can follow the action on Twitter @MansfieldRugby.