DESPITE a fine first half dispaly, Mansfield were eventually sunk 41-3 by high-flying Nuneaton on a rain-soaked surface on Saturday.
The first half performance left many wondering which team was at which end of the table.
The Blue & Whites were abrasive and positive in their approach to the game, and with a scoreline reading 8-3 at half-time, it appeared that this game could have gone either way.
However, the Nuns are not placed third in the league for no good reason, and their second half performance ensured that they ran out worthy winners.
Coach Steve Shaw will no doubt tire of hearing that his side produced a ‘spirited’ performance, but in truth, that is what is was.
For the best part of an hour the Mansfield pack drove aggressively into their midlands counterparts and their dominance at the scrum, although painful viewing for the home support, was clear for all to see.
It was an evenly-matched competition early on and Lee Shaw was just wide with a penalty after seven minutes.
As the game unfolded it was 26 minutes before Nuns recorded their first score which came from a charge down kick on the halfway line.
They swept upfield and quickly recycled the ball to claim the try and conversion. Ten minutes later they added a penalty to extend the lead to 8-0.
Just two minutes later Mansfield replied with a Lee Shaw penalty of their own on the stroke of half time and the first stanza ended 8-3.
The second half started with Mansfield pushing Nuns off two scrums in succession and it looked like a promising start but the home side applied some pressure of their own and a poor kick out of defence was punished.
The home backs ran the ball back and although many, including a number of home supporters felt the ball was held up, the try was awarded.
This was followed by a second try five minutes later, which came from an impressive and energy sapping 30 metre driving maul, but there was doubt whether the ball had actually crossed the line.
Notwithstanding the controversy, the way the Nuns had taken both tries at this point in the game was impressive and decisive as it had taken the wind out of the visitor’s sails and created an unassailable lead for them as the score read 22-3.
It is fair to say that Mansfield’s kicking game had let them down on a number of occasions throughout the game.
As the third quarter drew to a close the home backs impressed again with some great running and although the try was well deserved and impressive, the swallow dive that accompanied it was unwelcome.
With five minutes to go the try of game was scored by the home side’s backs as the ball was transferred through several pairs of hands and they crossed in the corner bringing the score to 34-3.
Although Mansfield tried to run the ball back they were unable to make quite the impression they had in the first half and in the dying seconds Nuns crossed again.
Mansfield take a break from league action this weekend when they face Nottingham Casuals in the Notts County Cup. This is trophy Mansfield have won an unprecedented 17 times and they will be in no mood to relinquish their grip on this Cup lightly.
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