Mansfield returned to winning ways at Eakring Road on Saturday with a powerhouse display that saw them overcome Spalding 34-7 and pick up five much-needed points.
With the snow seeing the previous week’s fixture cancelled, this meant a two week break since the home team’s last match. Spalding were much in the same boat, requiring as many points as possible from their remaining fixtures to avoid relegation.
With the snow all but vanished and the conditions clear, crisp and dry, this had all the hallmarks of a thrilling game of rugby. Mansfield were victorious but were made to fight for all five points by a dogged and determined Spalding who never stopped fighting.
First XV Coach Neil Stent, wearing a smile for the first time in a while, was clearly pleased: He said: “I’m happy with how we performed, we’re starting to put some good phases together and to get four tries against a determined Spalding was a positive.”
The game started on a positive for Mansfield, a penalty allowing them to try and assert some dominance. A much improved scrum from the home team allowed them the platform to attack but Spalding’s defence stood firm and not only turned over Mansfield’s attack but also won themselves a penalty.
Both forward packs worked tirelessly all afternoon in defence, winning turnovers for their teams and generally disrupting play making it frustrating for the backline to get a good, clean supply of possession.
The first score came from the home team. A scrum in the middle of the park, followed by some good recycling and phase play, saw Aiden McGregor bundle himself over. The resulting conversion was missed but Mansfield were 5-0 ahead.
Mansfield added to their lead when McGregor threw the most sublime of reverse passes to allow young winger Isaac Marsden a clear run under the posts. This time the kick was simple, taking the score to 12-0.
As the hosts continued to build on their confidence, their industriousness around the field was apparent in prop Danny Ellis, dummying and sidestepping two would-be defenders to drive Mansfield further upfield.
This helped spur Mansfield on, allowing scrum half and match sponsor Hall Fast’s man of the match, Alan Symcox, to deliver a trademark burst from five metres to score Mansfield’s third. The kick was successful, taking the score to 19-0.
However, Spalding were not about to roll over and it was only exceptional defence, winger Emanuel Ogunode with two try saving tackles and Symcox with an intercept, that kept Spalding scoreless. The half-time whistle blew with the score remaining 19-0.
The second-half started brighter for Mansfield, a penalty within two minutes allowing them to pressure the Spalding line. The resulting field position saw the home team work into a position for Callum Wood to find a gap and add the much-needed bonus point try. The conversion was missed, the score 24-0.
The next ten minutes were all Spalding as they pressurised the Mansfield line, scoring a deserved try and conversion to get them on the board, 24-7.
Their industriousness didn’t stop there, the pressure continued and Mansfield were forced to give penalties away allowing Spalding field position and territory.
However, the defence on the floor once again proved to be Mansfield’s best weapon and saviour and a turnover in their own 22 saw the home team deliver one of the best tries seen at Eakring Road this season.
Started by Joe Symcox with a bullocking 20 metre run, the ball was kept alive by Symcox before McGregor decided to take on the defence himself, drawing two men and offering another perfectly timed inside pass to set Josh Hall on his way to the line and cap a length of the field effort that set the sidelines alight.
The conversion was missed, but with the score at 29-7, Mansfield’s grip on the game had become iron-tight.
However, Mansfield conceded a penalty straight after scoring. After conceding four more penalties in quick succession the referee decided he’d seen enough and sent Alex Miles to the sin bin.
The last word belonged to Mansfield. After absorbing Spalding’s pressure without conceding they worked their way back to the Spalding line, winning a 5m scrum with the clock running out.
Hall picked up his second of the afternoon as the Blue-and-Whites’ scrum, enjoying a dominance it had rarely seen this season, drove Spalding backwards.
A missed conversion being the last play of the game, the final whistle blew with the score reading 34-7 to the home team and five very precious points picked up.
Next week Mansfield play Paviors in the rescheduled league game at Burnt Stump. Kick off is 2:15pm and you can follow the action on Twitter - @MansfieldRugby