Mansfield RUFC impress in defeat at in-form Old Northamptonians

Mansfield RFC
Mansfield RFC

Despite a 32-19 defeat at Old Northamptonians, Mansfield’s coaching team were greatly encouraged by a much improved performance from a side that included three Colts boasting a grand total of one first XV outing between them.

With a strong wind blowing across the pitch both sides failed with a penalty attempt in the first couple of minutes.

Then with just three minutes on the clock Old Northamptonians (ONs) signalled their intent as they broke for an early score out wide.

Probably somewhat annoyed at this early profligacy, the visitors immediately pressed back at the home side and a typical snipe and chip through from Adam Shaw just bounced an inch too low as Rich Donaldson was unable to gather for what looked a certain scoring opportunity.

Some rumbustious work from Andy Simms and Gareth Gripton provided a steady platform up front and man of the match Chris Hawkins with his front row partner, evergreen Ian Coleman, brought a much needed stability to the set piece.

As a Jonathan Williams penalty attempt bounced agonisingly off the posts on the nine minute mark, Mansfield continued to pressure a home side that showed great invention every time they had the ball.

Not many sides will go to ONs and still lose after amassing 19 points and scoring three tries.

On the half hour mark ONs struck again with a well-taken try to make the score 12-0.

As the half closed Alan Symcox was starting to make inroads from No.8 and, with some great defence by Ollie Stokes and winger Jordan Cleaver playing in the centre, Mansfield maintained that to the break.

Unfortunately for the Blue & Whites, the malady of conceding an early score continued and, with just two minutes on the clock, ONs made it 17-0.

Spurred on by this they continued to show their class and for long periods dominated territory and possession.

A further try was awarded after many felt the ball was dropped over the line, but the constant pressure eventually told and, with three quarters of the game gone, the home side added a further try.

All credit to the visitors as they began to bite back which made for an interesting last 20 minutes. Aided by a yellow card for the home side, Mansfield had a scrum on the 5m mark and pushed the home side back over their line.

Just as Alan Symcox touched down, the official awarded a penalty try, bringing the score to 27-7 after Jonathan Williams added the extras.

This was to be ONs’ fourth win from four games and it was easy to see why as they rallied again with some impressive and swift recycling to post their final score, bringing the tally to 32-7.

Determined to cap a fine display, Alan Symcox crossed in typical bullocking fashion after a superb diagonal kick from Williams set up great field position.

Josh Hall received a yellow card for Mansfield from the restart and was joined almost immediately by another transgressor from ONs as both teams finished with 14 men.

Two Colts and league debutants entered the fray for Mansfield in the shape of Scott Bailey and Richard Cawkill, together with Michael Wallace in only his second league outing. All impressed in the short time they were on the field.

With the game all but over Jonathan Williams rounded off an excellent afternoon with a coruscating break out from his own 22. Three passes later the ball ended up in the hands of youngster Scott Bailey, who had tracked for 60m to record his first senior try under the posts. Williams converted to bring the final score to 32-19.

There is no doubt that after a difficult season in National Three last year and an injury-ridden September, this side is starting to show some self belief to go with the undoubted talent on show. The tide is turning.

Mansfield host Paviors at home this weekend, which will also see Byron Edwards inaugurated as the new club president. Kick-off is at 3pm and you can follow the action on Twitter @MansfieldRugby.