With 10 changes to last week’s team, some of which were in personnel and others positional, Mansfield travelled to Glossop where both teams engaged in an arm-wrestle of a game that tested the Blue & Whites to the full before they reached the NDL Three Counties semi-finals with a 14-8 win.
Only in extra-time did Mansfield overcome a spirited home side that was reduced to 12 men at one point.
It was this level of indiscipline that ultimately undid all their good work and the pendulum swing in Mansfield’s favour in the final minutes.
Proceedings started well with just four minutes played as Jonathan Williams made a searing break through the middle, supported by Adam Shaw, only to see the final pass go to ground.
In many ways that was the highlight of the half as a full 30 minutes of stalemate had elapsed before Glossop crossed the line.
A good deal of the game had been played between the two 10m lines, and during this period Mansfield enjoyed plenty of possession. However the home side defended well to keep the visitors at bay.
Despite the best efforts of Chris Hawkins, Phil Donaldson and Patrick Johnson taking the ball forward the Blue & Whites couldn’t penetrate a staunch home defence, spearheaded by the home number seven, who was quite outstanding defensively.
It was two minutes into injury time when Jonathan Williams finally got his side on the scoreboard with a well-struck penalty to bring the score to 5-3.
The second half started much like the first with another coruscating break from Williams, but again it did not bring about the right result.
Former Colt Mike Wallace entered the fray at prop and looked every inch the part.
After 10 minutes Glossop extended their lead to 8-3 with a penalty kick.
The following period saw the home side grow in confidence as they began to dominate in territory and possession.
However, as the game wore on, Glossop became frustrated with decisions not going their way and incurred the wrath of the official more and more.
As we entered the final quarter 17-year-old Anthony Symcox, the youngest in the Symcox dynasty, entered the fray at second row and made an immediate impact with a fine debut, taking up the ball at every opportunity.
Mansfield stuttered their way through the game and, although they were awarded two penalties in the final minutes and elected to run both of them, they still couldn’t breach the home defence.
It wasn’t until the official had finally had enough and sin-binned two Glossop players in quick succession did the visitors finally make inroads.
With 51 minutes showing on the clock Richard Donaldson, who had moved from the wing to replace Adam Shaw at scrum half, finally broke through to score his first ever First XV try to level the scores and take the game into extra-time.
With the score at eight-apiece the game was consigned to extra-time.
Within a minute Glossop had a third player binned as the tension mounted.
The home side could have gone uncontested at the scrum at this point, which was an area of the game that they had dominated all afternoon. To their credit they decided to press on regardless and front up.
Another youngster Scott Bailey joined the action on the wing and Jonathan Williams extended the lead on the stroke of half-time.
He then added a further penalty in the second period of extra-time to bring the score to 14-8 in his side’s favour.
The game ended and Mansfield progressed through to the semi-final, but only after coming from behind and forcing extra-time.
Mansfield are next back in action on 4th January against Newark at Kelham Road. Kick-off is 2.15pm and you can follow the action on Twitter, just go to @MansfieldRugby.