Mansfield RUFC beat old rivals Spalding to reach NLD semi-finals

Contending with late injuries and a reshuffled team, Mansfield progressed through to the NLD Cup semi-final after toughing out a hard -fought 30-23 win against Spalding who were clearly intent on spoiling the party.

It has long been the case that league form counts for very little in knock-out cup competitions and this contest was no exception.

Spalding play one league below Mansfield and sit fourth from bottom.

Mansfield are fifth from top in their league but for long periods of this game both sides were evenly matched, such is the allure of what is seen as a local derby these days and the chance of reacquainting old friendships and rivalries.

In the final analysis it became a battle of two eights – number eights that is.

The Mansfield No.8 Tom Calladine posted a hat-trick of tries for the second week running and both he and the Spalding No.8, who had an exceptional game, were instrumental in their side’s fortunes as the game progressed.

His first score came after just five minutesm following a poor kick out of defence by the home side.

This was gathered by Joe Symcox and offloaded to Eddy Simmons, who burst through two tackles to slip the ball to Calladine for the try.

The conversion was missed, but the Blue & Whites went straight back into the opposition’s territory from the restart.

After just eight minutes Mansfield had scored again following some great forward work.

The ball was recycled and found Alan Symcox in the centre, who continued his run of tries by touching down just wide of the posts.

Coleman converted and at this point Spalding looked rattled and they were in danger of letting Mansfield run riot.

In broken play situations the visitors ran straight and hard and always had the potential to cause havoc.

However, the set piece worked well for the home side and Mansfield by no means had it all their own way in the scrum.

Their line-out functioned well too and at this point the Spalding No.8, just back from playing for the RAF, started to make his own impression on the game.

Two blustering runs from the back row took them deep into the 22 and, from a line-out, they spun the ball out wide to record their first try with 20 minutes played.

Two minutes later a Spalding penalty brought the score to 12-10 and the game was starting to even up.

With half an hour played, the visiting pack put together some impressive forward drives which resulted in a try out wide for winger Russ Coleman.

The conversion was missed and just five minutes later the Lincolnshire side struck back with a well taken try of their own, led on by their No.8, which brought the half time score to 17-all.

Mansfield struck first again after the restart with a Coleman penalty after just two minutes and, following a frenzied three minutes of action where the ball was zipped around the pitch, it ended up with Tom Calladine securing his second try, making the score 25-17.

Spalding struck back with a penalty after 10 minutes and the scoreboard now read 25-20 with everything to play for.

Two minutes later saw a seminal moment in the game.

Although the two No.8s had both made a significant impression and were able to show their strength and guile throughout the game, Tom Calladine was about to display why he edged out his opposite number in the man of the match stakes as he demonstrated his more subtle skills on offer.

A kick out of defence was gathered by the No.8 and he ran back at the defence with seemingly nowhere to go.

However, after a deft chip over the top, which was gathered on the full, he then had the temerity to outsprint would-be cover tacklers to score in the corner.

As impressive as that was, there was no time to bask in the glory as just three minutes later Spalding hit back with a penalty and at 30-23, which was to be the final score, the game took on an air of attrition as both packs slugged it out for the remainder of the match.

Calladine also took an enforced 10 minute rest courtesy of the match official for a technical infringement.

With 10 minutes left on the clock the game was now being contested around the middle of the park and, although both sides had their fair share of possession, neither side managed to trouble the scoreboard again.

Mansfield’s pack was impressive throughout with Donaldson scavenging well and McGregor bringing his athleticism to the line-out and general loose play.

All this contributed to secure a fine win against a Spalding team who, on that performance, will clearly work their way up their league.

The NLD Cup semi-final beckons but that is for another day as Mansfield are back in league action on Saturday.

The Blue & Whites travel to Manchester, who are looking for their first win in this league and it will be a guarantee that the Eakring Road outfit will be in no mood to oblige.