Mansfield off the mark with losing bonus point

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Mansfield RUFC secured their first point of the season in the form of a losing bonus point as they went down 17-10 at Market Rasen & Louth.

This proved to be a largely erroneous performance from both teams as each suffered disruption and late changes to personnel.

The result of this saw veteran Wayne Robinson take up the full back berth, rolling back the years with a fine performance.

The disruption wasn’t just restricted to players either as the allocated referee failed to turn up too. Former RFU Council representative Alex Murphy, who had only just arrived in the country following an 18-month sojourn to India, was pressed into action from the second XV fixture.

To the casual onlooker, from the first scrum it looked like Market Rasen & Louth may well be having the upper hand in the set piece as they shoved the visitors backwards.

That impression was confounded shortly afterwards at the very next scrum when Mansfield pushed the home side backwards off the ball.

However Rasen, playing with the slope, began to assert themselves and secured a great deal of possession early on.

There was a strong feeling of inevitability that the Lincolnshire outfit were going to score soon as they kept up their assault on the Mansfield line.

With 15 minutes played the home No.8 did indeed crash over the line, but was denied having been adjudged to have made a double movement.

As the second quarter began and Mansfield had repelled all attacks, Callum Wood left the field after a heavy collision.

A few minutes later in an impressive move, Emmanuel Ogunode, capped a fine performance all-round by coming off his wing in a blistering run, which saw him scythe through the middle for a 40m burst upfield, giving his side a new-found confidence.

Having soaked up a huge amount of pressure from the home side, which yielded nothing, as the visitors defence held firm, it was now time for the Blue & Whites to assert themselves on the game. In a reversal of the first period it was now Rasen soaking up wave after wave of Mansfield pressure. However, with five minutes of the half to go, as the visitors were only metres from the opposition line, they knocked on.

To compound the misery they retrieved the ball only to knock on again, and before the official could blow to halt play, the home centre gathered up the ball and set off down the field. One pass later and they were under the posts with a 7-0 advantage.

Mansfield fought their way up the field again, forcing an error which allowed Ross Elms to record Mansfield’s first points with a well-struck penalty bringing the score to 7-3.

However, shortly after at the other end of the pitch, playing in time added on, the visitors produced an uncharacteristic error at the base of the scrum allowing the home side to pounce, extending their lead to 14-3 as the break beckoned.

As the second half got underway, both sides continued the previous trend of producing unforced errors at crucial moments, which resulted in a stuttering performance all round in many ways.

From a defensive perspective, Aiden McGregor and skipper Phil Donaldson led the way with some bone crunching tackles.

Liam Annable made an impression from the bench only to leave the field injured and the ever-versatile Alan Symcox switched from centre to No.8 and even scrum half with aplomb.

That said, Rasen had the upper hand again and sustained pressure produced an opportunity for them to have a shot at goal from a penalty, bringing the score to 17-3.

Mansfield refused to lie down and with Joe Symcox switching with his brother Alan between No.8 and centre the team mounted a comeback which ultimately secured the bonus point for them.

In a stint at No.8, Symcox junior was on the end of a sustained 12-phase attack from the Mansfield pack which saw him eventually crash over for a try. Ross Elms converted to bring the score to 17-10.

Special mentioned must be made for a welcome return of Josh Hall following a knee and recent shoulder injury coming off the bench and looking as though he’d never been away.

This is a young Mansfield team who are in a rebuilding phase after losing key personnel for a second year during the summer break.

There are signs of good things to come and once they find their feet and develop instinctive relationships with each other they are going to shock one or two sides coming to Eakring Road.

Mansfield host Newark this weekend and the kick-off is 3pm.

You can follow the action on Twitter, just go to @MansfieldRugby.