Plucky Mansfield gave leaders Lincoln a fright of Hallowe’en proportions before succumbing to a 32-24 defeat in the Midlands 3 East (North) Division of the National League.
In a performance that bodes well for the rest of the season, the blue-and-whites led 10-0 at half-time and were still very much in the game at 17-17 midway through the second period.
But then Lincoln showed why they top the table with a flawless record of seven wins from seven as they blitzed Mansfield in a ruthless ten-minute period that shot them in to an unassailable 15-point lead. The home side’s frustration was compounded by the fact that they missed out on a losing bonus point by just one point.
Starting positively, the blue-and-whites went ahead when Tim Pritchard, chosen by matchday sponsor Tony Skillington as the man-of-the-match, scored his second home try since returning to the first team just under a month ago. It confirmed how Pritchard’s comeback, along with hooker Lee Kirk and stalwart Liam Grant, has bolstered Mansfield’s pack, allowing youngsters like Sam Holmes to really flourish this season.
The resulting conversion was successfully kicked by confident, young fly-half Ryan Hayward, who soon extended the lead with a penalty.
With Lincoln guilty of some uncharacteristically loose play, conceding penalties, turnovers and lineouts, and also losing a player to injury, they failed to get on the scoresheet in the opening half.
But in sharp contrast, the second period belonged to the visitors, and it wasn’t long before three tries, including one converted, had surged them into a 17-10 lead.
Back came Mansfield and when Ant Hawson burst through from midfield and Hayward converted, they were on equal terms again, with few complaining about the fairness of the scoreline. It was such a shame that a few brief lapses in their otherwise impressive defence allowed Lincoln to suddenly power into a 32-17 advantage.
At least the day ended on a bright note for the home team as Oli Stamford managed to get the ball to Joe Ducker, who weaved his way through half the Lincoln side before dotting down just shy of the posts for a superb consolation score.
The result left Mansfield ninth in the 12-team table with two wins, one draw and four defeats from their seven matches so far. This Saturday, they take a break from league action as they travel to Northamptonshire outfit Long Buckby in the RFU Provinical Cup.