After a positive winning performance last week, Mansfield came in to the final game of the season looking to build on that platform. For large parts of the game they did just that. Nottingham Casuals were not only the winners of this league but had also gone all season unbeaten. They were not about to let that record fall at the last hurdle but Mansfield were coming in to this game with nothing to lose. For large parts of the game, the home team made the visitors look ordinary but, ultimately, Casuals have forgotten how to lose and took their chances when it counted. Mansfield were the architects of their own downfall at times but Casuals were worthy winners.
Head coach Wayne Robinson was happy in part but thought the performance deserved more: “I’m happy with how we played at points but we gave away a couple of soft tries and that really took the wind out of us.”
The home team started with no respect for the visitor’s winning record, putting their scrum under pressure and causing them to make mistakes. An early scrum saw the blue-and-whites dominate and after a long lay-off Harry Brough gladly took the opportunity to score the first points of the game. Looking back to his best he rounding several defenders to dot down. A successful conversion by Taran Elms saw the home team take a, perhaps, unexpected lead, 7-nil.
Mansfield coughing up a succession of penalties allowed the visitors to build their own platform. Some questionable defence allowed Casuals to nullify the early score and level things, 7 apiece.
While the home team were making a mess of the visitor’s lineout, scrum and disrupting things at the ruck they were also giving away too many penalties, incurring the wrath of the referee and being marched back 10m at least twice.
Casuals added another 3 tries to their tally in the first half. Only one of these tries was converted but that still left the half time score reading 24-7 to the visitors. For all the good the home team did, mistakes were costing them valuable points.
The second half started better for the home team with Kian Johnson beating a handful of defenders to score a much welcomed try. A successful conversion saw the score now read 24-14 and the gap between the sides now seemingly less of a mountain to climb.
The home pack were causing havoc in the ruck and punching through the defence, none more so than matchday sponsor Glenair’s Man of the Match Conway Evans, who had a superb afternoon.
Unfortunately, the next two scores belonged to the visitors and were almost gift-wrapped and against the run of play. A successful conversion saw the lead extend to 31-14.
Harry Brough added to his tally with a second try after seeing the ball put through some good phases and taking advantage of the space available. A tough kick was missed leaving the score at 38-19. The game was perhaps beyond the blue-and-whites at this point but they could still end the season with a 4-try bonus point. Casuals added two more tries to their tally, both coming against the run of play and from Mansfield mistakes.
Mansfield were able to finish the game with a bonus point try, though. Despite a succession of penalties on the opponent’s 5metre line no yellow card was given, however it did see the blue-and-whites bully the visitors until Phil Pogmore was able to burrow under numerous bodies and score the home team’s 4th try. The conversion was slotted to finish the game at 52-26 to the visitors.
Casuals were worthy winners in the end and showed why they are league leaders, they took their chances when it mattered. Mansfield will rue a season with 7 games lost by a single score and 5 of them by only one point. However, they can be happy with a lot of their performances, especially this one where they bullied and bossed around the team at the top of the table. For large parts, their performance did not correlate with their position in the league table. Concluding this campaign with a 5 point win last week and a try bonus point against an unbeaten team this week is a solid way to end what has been a tough season. Onwards and upwards!