Mansfield came in to this game desperate for a victory. Tupton lay just 6 points below in the table and a loss would have seen Mansfield dangerously close to the league drop zone. Some were, perhaps understandably, anxious coming in to the game. However, after coming so close in the last few games, the home team were able to unlock some of the potential shown up to this point and run out convincing winners.
Head coach Wayne Robinson was, unsurprisingly, very happy with the performance: “This has been coming for a long time. I’m pleased for the boys and hopefully we can use this as inspiration for next week.”
Tupton’s are a physical side, as the fixture between these two earlier in the season showed with neither team giving up territory or possession easily. However, despite winning an early penalty the visitors lineout showed early signs of frailty when they were unable to secure possession and lost field position. They were able to clear their line but the territory was still for Mansfield to exploit.
Exploit they did, a lineout ball finding its way to first team veteran and matchday sponsor Sock Mine’s Man of the Match Terry Davies, whose fizzing pass to Zane Chiappetta saw him race 50 m and beat numerous defenders to register the first points of the game. The whole team shared the Man of the Match honours but Davies’ sublime shift at scrum half bought a much needed wealth of experience and a calming presence to the team and saw him as one of the standout players on the park. A successful conversion by Taran Elms saw Mansfield take a 7-nil lead, something that has been sorely lacking from home performances post-Christmas.
The home team were getting plenty of possession and territory but were often the victims of their own ambition. Exposing weaknesses in the visitor’s defence, they were sometimes too keen to offload the ball when it would perhaps have been best to take it to ground and regroup. That said, such ambition was welcomed with open arms by the Eakring Road faithful, who have been on a rollercoaster of emotions themselves this season.
A lineout secured by the home pack saw Mark Wallace, playing another stormer, punch into the heart of the Tupton defence before one of the aforementioned offloads was secured by Kian Johnson who beat numerous defenders through the centre to add to the home team’s tally. Another successful conversion saw the score read 14-nil to the home side with only minutes until half time.
While Mansfield held dominance in most areas of the park, the scrum belonged to Tupton. A strength for most of the game, this platform provided the away team’s one and only score. A penalty not far out from Mansfield’s line saw the visitors smartly opt for a scrum. Their lineout had been hit and miss so a scrum was a safe option to regain the ball. Regain it they did and they powered their way over the line for a score right on the stroke of half time. 14-7 to the home team at half time and still all to play for.
The home team received a penalty for a high tackle early in the second half, choosing to kick for the corner. The pack secured the ball and passed it on to Kian Johnson who beat 7 defenders before being bought to the ground through another high tackle. Seeing enough to award a penalty try, the referee ran right under the sticks, giving Johnson his second of the day. With a penalty try now being an automatic seven points, Mansfield didn’t even need to take the kick, the score rising to 21-7. As a result of the infringement. Tupton were reduced to 14 men for 10 minutes.
Both teams were doing their best to exploit the fine spring weather and play some running rugby. Ambition was flowing and both teams made mistakes, dropped balls, turned each other over. A back and forth of turnovers saw Mansfield eventually regain the hot potato of a ball, regather their composure and see Sam Holmes scurry over the line to claim the bonus point try, something not seen in many weeks. A tricky conversion was missed but Mansfield were now 26-7 in front. Still, Tupton were not going to just roll over.
While the Tupton scrum was still dominant, they were struggling to link phases together in open play, often dropping the ball or being unable to make their own ambitious offloads stick. Mansfield were beginning to turn the screw and from a 5 metre scrum were able to get it to Chiappetta who deftly rounded one would-be tackler and outpaced two cover defenders to dot down in the corner. Another tricky conversion was missed but Mansfield were now pulling out of sight at 31-7.
This was by no means a done deal, the home team still had to keep up their momentum or risk allowing the tenacious visitors back in to the game. Another fine run by Davies saw him beat two defenders and the deliver a soft offload to Chiappetta who beat another two defenders to secure his hat trick and Mansfield’s 6th try. An easier kick was duly slotted by Elms and a scoreline of 38-7 was a welcome sight to behold.
Tupton ended the game in possession, hoping to add something to their solitary score. However, as had been the story for much of the game, their skills abandoned them at a key moment and, after receiving last minute penalty, they turned the ball over deep in Mansfield’s 22 metre area. The referee awarded possession to the home team and blew the final whistle. Maybe not the perfect performance by the home team but a much more coherent and certainly satisfying one.
Next week, Mansfield host league leaders and unbeaten Nottingham Casuals in the last game of the season. Kick-off is 3pm and you can follow the action on Twitter @MansfieldRugby.