Hard-earned win for Mansfield

On first view a 29-8 scoreline may lead you to think that Saturday’s game was no more than a stroll in the park for Mansfield, but how wrong you would be.

Huntingdon fought for every ball, contested every scrum and challenged for every metre of ground.

The early pressure from Mansfield gave penalties that were used to gain territory in the opponents’ half and try to gain supremacy in the line out.

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Accurate throwing from Chester Scott, coupled with well timed jumps from Donaldson, McGregor and Hall gave a constant supply of possession all afternoon.

On 13 minutes the pressure told and a break from Wills was stopped illegally, the penalty was awarded, and Williams stepped up to give the home side a three point lead.

Huntingdon came back and applied their own pressure, and when a strong driving maul was pulled down, the chance to equal the scores was taken.

Both sides were guilty of creating good scoring opportunities only for them to be lost as the final pass was either dropped, knocked on or simply not accurate enough to find the player that was waiting.

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As half-time approached it was Huntingdon who were breaking towards the Mansfield line.

Good defensive work from Bobby Ogunode and Alan Symcox held the ball up and the resultant scrum was awarded to Mansfield deep in their own half.

A strong scrum set the base for a quick release of the backs, and when the ball reached Ash Wills he broke the defensive line and was away.

With only the full back to beat and Adam Shaw in support it was an inevitable outcome. He committed the full back and slipped the pass to Shaw to run in under the posts for a fine try. Williams added the extra two points that on the balance of play gave Mansfield a well deserved lead at the break.

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The second half started as the first half finished, Huntingdon applying pressure but Mansfield containing it and breaking back.

A high ball was claimed by Mansfield captain Phil Donaldson, who set off on a typical charging run with support coming from Shaw and the break was on.

A powerful drive from Andy Simms cleared defenders and released Williams into space 25m from the line and Williams fed the ever willing Josh Hall.

No one was going to stop him crossing the line for a well deserved try which was part of a fantastic all round performance and saw match sponsor and club stalwart Tony Skillington make him man of the match. Williams again added the conversion from the touchline with a superbly struck kick.

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With the score at 17-3 Mansfield could not rest as Huntingdon came back strongly, still believing they could rescue something from the game. But whatever they tried, Mansfield contained.

The home side’s powerful forward pack was now enjoying the majority of possession, allowing the backs to make quick decisive breaks which the ever alert Adam Shaw was always keen to do.

It was from a solid scrum on halfway that allowed Symcox to pick and charge, drawing in defenders and creating space for Shaw and the quicksilver Wills to run at the line again.

This time it was Shaw supplying the final pass for Wills to run in the try. With the conversion missed, the hunt for the all important fourth try and a bonus point was on.

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Mansfield went straight back at Huntingdon, dominating a scrum in their own half, giving Williams time to put in one of his trademark 50m clearing kicks and forcing a line out 10m from the try line.

McGregor stole the throw with a tremendous leap, feeding Alan Symcox to charge at the line, the ball was lost forward and a scrum awarded to Huntingdon.

Mansfield attacked the scrum, driving the Huntingdon pack back across their own line when the referee awarded a penalty to Huntingdon allowing them the chance to clear.

Another line out for Huntingdon was disrupted and with the ball bouncing dangerously around midfield it was Shaw who kicked it on and chased into the danger area.

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Another kick towards the line, this time from Ogunode, saw the ball bounce awkwardly before being grounded by the Mansfield winger for the fourth try and the bonus point. Once again Williams added the conversion to give a home side lead of 29-3.

To their great credit with time almost up, Huntingdon tried to attack again.

This time the ball was moved through the hands and out to the right winger, who had shown flashes of pace in defence, but this time used his pace to race into the corner for a well deserved try.

The conversion was missed and, with no time to restart the game, it finished 29-8.

Mansfield visit Bugbrooke this weekend in a rearranged fixture cancelled by the bad weather earlier in the year.

Kick-off is 3pm and you can follow the action on Twitter, just go to @MansfieldRugby.

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