Mansfield RUFC coaches Steve Shaw and Keith Calladine said farewell to the club in the best possible way with a record 19th and sixth consecutive Nottinghamshire County Cup victory as they beat local rivals Paviors 20-18 at Newark RUFC.
Perfect conditions greeted the two sides, who were both looking to finish in style after what can best be described as indifferent seasons.
The fixture held added significance for Shaw and Calladine with it being their final game.
Paviors got proceedings underway, the evergreen Wayne Robinson taking responsibility and Jonno Williams cleared long to the Paviors’ full back, who fluffed his lines.
An early engage gave Paviors a free kick from the scrum, who showed early attacking intent with a quick tap, crossing halfway, where Mansfield were again penalised for being offside.
A majestic strike from the Paviors’ scrum half bisected the posts and it was 3-0 with less than a minute on the clock.
Paviors again showed ambition, running back the restart to halfway, earning another penalty as Mansfield held back the winger.
A scrappy line out was tidied up by Will Limb on the ground, but no advantage was forthcoming for a Paviors knock-on. This time Paviors were penalised at scrum time for not driving straight, and Williams cleared.
Phil Donaldson took the line out and offloaded to a rampaging Alan Symcox, who in turn took play to the Paviors’ 22, earning a penalty as the tackler failed to roll away. Williams slotted the three points to level the scores with four minutes played.
The next 10 minutes were played out in the middle third with the occasion seemingly taking over as both sides made basics errors.
On 14 minutes Mansfield won a line out on their own 10m line. Williams broke and made ground to halfway, only for the ball to be turned over at the breakdown.
Paviors showed more adventure, winger Jonty Green cutting through the defence before off-loading to Tom Chalkley, who scored out wide. A superbly struck conversion made the score 10-3 to Paviors.
Paviors were now starting to dominate, particularly in the scrum, and were unlucky not to extend their lead when they charged down a clearance only to then knock on with a clear overlap out wide. On 27 minutes Mansfield had a chance to close the gap when Paviors were penalised for jumping across the line out, but on this occasion the usually reliable boot of Williams pushed the kick wide of the posts.
Alan Symcox claimed the restart and battered his way deep in Paviors’ territory before offloading to Jonno Colley, who in turn was halted short of the try line.
The ball was recycled quickly and passed along the line releasing winger Bobby Ogunode, only for the final pass to be correctly ruled forward.
Mansfield made a change in the front row with Danny Ellis replacing Ian Coleman, but this did nothing to reverse the fortunes of the Mansfield eight with Paviors dominating.
On 35 minutes the referee lost patience with the Mansfield pack as another indiscretion resulted in a yellow card for Liam Grant. Paviors took full advantage, another excellent kick at goal extending their lead to 13-3.
Mansfield had the opportunity to narrow the gap straight from the restart as Paviors illegally blocked the kick chasers, but again Williams pushed his kick wide and the remainder of the half was played out in midfield.
Mansfield needed to improve in the second period and Josh Hall replaced Andy Simms in the second row.
Williams kicked off and immediately Paviors were penalised for coming in at the side at the breakdown, Williams rediscovered his kicking boots to close the gap to seven points.
With the sin bin over, Sam Johnson replaced Chester Scott at hooker.
Mansfield were now growing in confidence, an interception by Ogunode taking play to the Paviors’ 22 where Adam Shaw kicked through the loose ball and Paviors knocked on.
Paviors once again disrupted the scrum and cleared their lines.
On 55 minutes Symcox picked off the base of the scrum and released Shaw, who in turn put Ash Wills through.
Once again the Paviors defence held firm, but the Blue and Whites recycled quick ball and Williams broke before offloading to Rich Donaldson, hitting the line at speed, only to be halted agonisingly short.
A yellow card for the Paviors’ No.8 resulted, but there was more concern for Mansfield as Williams left the field to be replaced by John Ross Ward.
With the pressure now building on the Paviors’ line Mansfield had another penalty 10m out.
A quick tap put Wills into space, who was halted just short, but he managed to offload to Johnson coming round the corner who touched down next to the posts. Ward was successful with the conversion and the scores were now level at the midway point of the half.
With Mansfield now in the ascendancy, Symcox claimed the restart on his own 22 and Wills took it on to halfway.
Ogunode continued the move and good interplay between forwards and backs took play deep into Paviors’ territory where Adam Shaw broke the line to score, Ward added the extras and Mansfield led 20-13.
With the large crowd now in full voice it was all to play for in the last 15 minutes and the atmosphere was electric.
Both sides continued to probe with the Mansfield back row pair of Donaldson and Limb edging it at the breakdown.
On 72 minutes Paviors again won another scrum penalty then failed to find touch. Ogunode gathered and carried deep into opposition territory and a knock-on at the breakdown gave Paviors the scrum put-in.
Ball secured, Paviors released their backs and only a great tackle by Wills halted the attack.
Paviors recycled, but more great work from Donaldson drew the penalty.
With Williams now restored to the fray, he cleared long, but the line out throw was ruled not straight. Paviors won a penalty from the scrum and pushed the ball deep into the Mansfield 22, setting up a driving maul which Mansfield halted illegally.
That brought a yellow card for Donaldson with eight minutes left on the clock.
Paviors pushed the ball into the corner, in a carbon copy of the previous play, setting up a driving maul, this time successful and the try was scored in the corner.
With the difference now two points, a successful conversion would have levelled the scores, but the previously imperious boot of the Paviors’ kicker pushed a difficult kick agonisingly left of the posts.
With the clock showing 40 minutes played, the referee indicated five minutes remaining.
It was everything to play for and Mansfield were still a man down
Paviors claimed the restart and make good progress, but the Blue and White defence was not conceding anything.
As the decibel level and tension rose, Paviors ran everything to exploit their numerical advantage but were repelled by a resolute and determined defensive effort.