Resolute defence and willingness to keep playing helped Mansfield snatch victory from the jaws of defeat on Saturday as they won 24-18 at Belgrave.
A last gasp solo try by Jonathan Colley did for a Leicestershire outfit who had dominated in terms of territory and possession for much of the second half.
Head coach Neil Stent said: “We really struggled for cohesion for much of the game.
“They were excellent at scrum time which didn’t allow us to build a really strong foundation to launch from.
“I’m really pleased with the way the lads battled back into it though and kept playing showing great character by snatching the win right at the end.”
What looked to be a bright start was soon eclipsed by a determined home side, intent on wrenching themselves out of the ominous position of the bottom three in the league.
This was evidenced as they dominated the first scrum and continued to have the upper hand in that department all afternoon.
They quickly sent their big forwards into closes exchanges which resulted in a try just wide of the posts after only four minutes. Inexplicably the conversion was missed and the score remained.
After just nine minutes Belgrave executed an impressive and ultimately unstoppable catch and drive from the lineout, forcing Mansfield back 20m, crashing over the line for a 10-0 lead. Within two minutes of that the Blue and Whites were off the mark with a John Ross Ward penalty, bringing the score to 10-3.
As the second quarter progressed it was clear that Mansfield were going to get very little from the scrum and an alternative offensive had to be employed.
The only was problem was that every attempt to run wide was thwarted by some determined midfield defence.
Eventually the amount of possession told and, after camping in Belgrave’s 22 for several minutes, Alan Symcox eventually broke through several tackles to register his side’s first try. John Ross Ward added the extras to level the scores.
However, the home side were about to have the final say of the half as they slotted a penalty in injury time, ensuring that they turned around for act two three points ahead at 13-10.
It looked at this point as though the game could go either way.
However after five minutes of the restart an altercation, involving several players, skewed things somewhat, resulting in Jonathan Colley and the home lock being singled out for 10 minutes of contemplation time.
There’s little doubt that this affected both teams in what was becoming a fractious and bad tempered affair.
Consequently things became very scrappy, although the home side were gaining the upper hand in territory and possession.
John Ross Ward, playing at full back, was pressed into action repeatedly as the last line of defence and he produced two superb try-saving tackles to keep his team in the contest.
As the game entered the final quarter Dan Littlewood was also dispatched to the sin-bin and predictably the home side took full advantage by securing their second try and what looked like an unassailable lead of 18-10 with 15 minutes to go.
Right on the half-hour mark and very much against the run of play, Ward danced his way through three would-be tacklers with some nifty footwork to drag the visitors back into contention. He then converted his own try and it was game on. The home side continued their assault and, with plenty of ball and ground in their favour, they will no doubt look back on this game and wonder how they contrived to lose it. Mainly because they were still battering away at the visitors with only minutes left on the clock but the Mansfield defence held firm.
As far as attack was concerned Mansfield lacked the silky smoothness of the co-ordinated sorties seen in previous weeks and they had to rely on snatched opportunities often coming from the home side’s mistakes.
However, what we do know of this Mansfield team is that they just keep playing.
Finally the hitherto unbreachable midfield defence eventually cracked as Jonathan Colley broke through several tackles to crash over the line under the posts for a match-winning try with just two minutes left to play.
Ward took the two points on offer by adding the conversion and Mansfield had taken the lead for the first time.
The home side were unable to come back from this as the game played out with Mansfield in possession for the remaining moments resulting in a win for the visitors and Belgrave gaining the consolation of a losing bonus point.
Mansfield turn their attention to NLD Cup action this weekend as they travel to Newark for a 2.15pm kick-off. You can follow the action on Twitter, just go to @MansfieldRugby.