Injury-plagued Mansfield gained no reward for their efforts as they were beaten 32-10 away to sixth placed Northamptonshire outfit Bugbrooke last weekend.
The game, much like the weather, started brightly enough with both sides competing vigorously in the tight exchanges and then showing great ambition by distributing quick accurate ball out to their lively backs.
Head coach Neil Stent said: “The scoreline didn’t really do our effort justice in the end.
“We competed well for long periods and I was impressed with the attitude and team spirit displayed by the Mansfield players throughout.”
With so much free-flowing rugby something had to give, and on the 10-minute mark a failed interception by Mansfield allowed the Bugbrooke centre to break loose.
He then executed an inch-perfect pass out wide for the home team to touch down in the corner. The conversion was missed and it was 5-0 to Bugbrooke.
The question now was, could Mansfield bounce back from this early setback? It didn’t take long for us to have the answer.
Just four minutes later, after some great work from the pack gathering momentum with phase after phase, skipper Phil Donaldson broke from the back of a maul to put Mansfield level.
After an electric first 15 minutes the game started to settle down with both packs trading blow for blow in the middle of the park.
The rest of the half played out in much the same way and the first half ended in a keenly contested five points each and all to play for.
Bugbrooke started the second period with a high degree of intensity, replicating the way they started the first half.
With just one minute registered on the clock they broke through the midfield and a slick pass out wide rewarded them with their second try. The conversion was missed again and Bugbrooke led 10-5.
It was déjà vu because just four minutes later Mansfield levelled the score again.
Will Limb broke out of his own half where he found Donaldson with a pass,who took play upfield before releasing Russ Coleman, who smashed through two Bugbrooke defenders to score in the corner.
The home side proved to be resilient and were determined to regain their advantage.
As the third quarter drew to a close, following sustained attacks from Bugbrooke, Mansfield were reduced to 14 men as the referee’s patience ran out after repeated Mansfield offending, resulting in Danny Ellis taking one for the team and being despatched to the sin-bin.
Confusion ensued following this as the 10 minute sin-bin period appeared to go well over time much to the dismay of the visiting coaching staff.
This was to prove decisive in the final analysis as during this period Bugbrooke were able to take full advantage of the extra man to score two further converted tries in addition to a penalty.
This extended their lead to 25-10 and it was now looking like a long road back for the Blue & Whites.
Ellis returned to the pitch after his extended absence and Mansfield started to put Bugbrooke to the test with strong attacking rugby from forwards and backs combining well.
However, the home defence stood strong and with the last play of the game, well into injury time, a speculative boot downfield resulted in a try and conversion for the home team.
Despite the unflattering scoreline this was a keenly contested game and Mansfield did well, given the pre-match disruption.
Both skipper Donaldson and Coleman had an excellent afternoon, being jointly named ‘men of the match’.
This weekend sees the team taking a break, returning to action on 21st March when Mansfield host Derby at Eakring Road.
The kick off now reverts to 3pm and you can follow the action on Twitter, just go to @MansfieldRugby.