Mansfield RUFC’s season picked up in spectacular style with a bonus point 38-29 win against local rivals Newark on Saturday.
Having secured their first point of the season last week at Market Rasen, a buoyed Mansfield took to field in much more confident form in a firecracker of a game at Eakring Road.
Delighted first team manager Richard Walters said: “Mansfield played a power game today, which is very difficult to sustain for 80 minutes.
“Some of the boys were dead on their feet with 10 to go, but winning in this style is always pleasing.”
Senior coach Neil Stent added, “A performance like this has been on the cards for a week or two now and I’m really pleased for the lads that they were able to do it in front of some great home support.”
Some good early pressure resulted in a penalty awarded to the Blue and Whites after three minutes. John Ross Ward coolly slotted it between the posts to put the home team up 3-0 and get the game off on the right track.
However, an injury break shortly after interrupted the momentum and Newark took full advantage, scoring a well-taken try to put them in the lead. The conversion was missed, bringing the score to 5-3.
Another Mansfield penalty allowed them to regain the lead and it was clear that this was going to be another tough local derby.
The restart from Newark fell into the hands of AIPS Man of the Match and skipper Phil Donaldson who, with an exquisite inside pass, allowed Josh Hall to set off on a barnstorming run through the centre of the park, only hauled down once he’d got inside Newark’s 22.
Quick recycling of the ball saw Joe Symcox embark on one of his trademark battering-ram-like forays that resulted in him dotting the ball down to the cheers of the crowd. The conversion was missed and the score read 11-6 to the Blue and Whites.
Another penalty from Ward after half an hour nudged Mansfield further in front. But a Newark penalty shortly after allowed them to keep in touch as the game edged towards the final five minutes of the half.
The remainder of the half saw some scrappy play from both sides as they tried to break through solid defences.
Mansfield pressure and inventiveness saw them cross the whitewash for a second time, however a forward pass saw the resulting try being disallowed and play being brought back for an earlier Newark infringement, the referee also seeing fit to send the guilty Newark player to the sin bin.
The penalty was missed, leaving the score at 14-8 as the half-time whistle blew.
Mansfield’s confidence, bolstered by an impressive first half, continued to rise after Colt Morgan Batson burrowed over after two minutes of the second half to score his debut try, crowning off what has been an impressive start to senior rugby. The conversion was missed, but Mansfield were opening up a lead.
In previous weeks Mansfield’s ambition had been evident, but inexperience and an unstable roster of players had seen some nervy play and a lack of confidence.
Whether it was the benefit of four games together or simply the desire to win a local derby, that nerviness seemed to disappear and some excellent counter-attacking, deft touches and intuitive interlinking saw Mansfield placed deep in Newark’s 22.
A transgression by the Newark pack resulted in a second yellow card and Mansfield opting for a scrum 5m from the line.
Alan Symcox, out of position at scrum half and playing superbly, powered over after breaking through Newark’s defence to register another score. The extra two points were added, bringing the score to 26-8.
Their tails up, Mansfield again pinned Newark back in their own half and, after another transgression, this time for offside, Newark were reduced to 13 as another player was sent to the bin.
The resulting lineout saw Mansfield set up a driving maul that Newark’s depowered forward pack had no answer to and Aiden McGregor crashed over to jubilant cheers from the home support. The conversion was missed, leaving the score at 31-8.
There was barely any time to breathe before the crowd were treated to another mesmerising try. Full back Ward broke through the middle with some twinkling footwork, opening up space for Bobby Ogunode.
He was able tear through the centre of the park evading the Newark defence and dot the ball under the sticks. A successful conversion bought the score to 38-8.
It was an impressive start to the second half that saw Mansfield take full advantage of a 13-man Newark side, scoring 24 points in just 20 minutes
Newark, now back to 15, are never down and out and showed typical grit and determination to claw their way back into the game, scoring a try of their own shortly after, a successful conversion bringing the score to 38-15.
Another try came shortly after, with a successful conversion bringing Newark up to 22 points and right back into the game as both teams looked to be tiring.
The remainder of the game saw Mansfield repelling wave after wave of Newark attack, before a succession of penalties saw the home team on the wrong side of a yellow card decision.
Newark took full advantage with a quick tap to score under the posts and add the two points.
That would be the last play of the game, the final score seeing a Mansfield victory and a team performance to be proud of, Mansfield will only get better after this galvanising display.
On Saturday Mansfield travel to third-placed Old Northamptonians and you can follow the action on Twitter @MansfieldRugby.