MANSFIELD stormed through to the finals of both the Three Counties Cup and County Cup in the space of five days this week.
Firstly they beat Paviors 42-0 in the semi-final of the Notts, Lincs & Derby Cup last Tuesday night, followed by the club record 127-0 Notts County Cup semi-final slaughter of depleted minnows West Bridgford on Saturday.
Both games were played at Eakring Road.
In both competitions Mansfield fielded the strongest side possible.
However, with the league as their priority, currently being in a play-off position, on Tuesday night Paviors sent a weakened side to contend this round of the competition.
It was always going to be tough going but, without a full strength side, the challenge proved to be too much as Mansfield dominated the set piece and were generally faster in thought and deed throughout.
The Blue and Whites proved too strong in pretty much every department as the game progressed and, although Paviors held out for 23 minutes until the first score, it seemed inevitable that the home side would overcome.
The first try came from Joe Symcox as we entered the second quarter and was followed 10 minutes later with a penalty from Lee Shaw bringing the score to 10-nil.
Shortly afterwards, Joe Symcox who had an excellent game, bagged his brace of tries.
Although Mansfield continued to apply the pressure, the teams went in at half-time with the score at a credible 15-0.
However, as the home side’s dominance became apparent the first try of the second half came quickly from another Symcox, this time it was his brother Alan.
This was converted by Shaw, and some excellent forward play and nifty footwork at the back led to further tries came from Eddy Simmons, Tom Lowery and Russell Coleman, the latter converting his own score. all punctuated by a well struck dropped goal from Lee Shaw.
The final is to be held on 20th May at Kesteven RFC.
The second semi-final was against West Bridgford in the Notts County Cup; a competition the Blue and Whites have won a record 16 times.
West Bridgford play their rugby two leagues below Mansfield and unfortunately, due to unavailability, arrived at Eakring Road with 14 players.
If the task was hard enough before, then surely this was to make it impossible?
Indeed it proved to be the case as Mansfield racked up a record score of 127-0 and in the process scored 19 tries and converted 15 of them.
There were two key aspects to this encounter.
The first appears to be counter-intuitive to the scoreline but, to their credit, the Bridgford outfit never gave up.
They kept tackling and running to the very end and won a lot of friends at Eakring Road for their sheer endeavour.
The pace of the game proved to be too much and, although individual skill levels accounted for many tries, they inevitably ran out of defenders as phases were put together.
On the rare occasion that they had possession they did not choose the soft option of kicking the ball away, but defiantly ran it back at their hosts, an act which won them a great deal of respect from both the opposition players and spectators.
The second key element was that Mansfield, for the most part, kept their shape throughout.
It is very easy to see ‘white line fever’ take hold in a game like this as players often discard patterns and plays to make scoring their priority.
However, to their credit too this didn’t really happen.
By keeping to the ‘plan’ the scoring should take care of itself and this proved to be the case.
Further evidence of this was the spread of points as it was 66-0 at half time and that figure was almost matched with 61 points in the second half.
Some of the tries inevitably came from a piece of individual excellence, highlighting the difference in pace and power between the personnel of each team.
However, many tries were constructed from play that clearly had come straight from the training paddock, which pleased coach Steve Shaw.
“We were very pleased with the way we kept playing in both games,” he said.
“These are competitions we take seriously and it was important for us to dominate from early in the game, and the fact that we kept a clean sheet in both games was particularly pleasing.”
The point made is a valid one, because as Mansfield play in a higher league than their opposition they are potentially in a ‘no win’ situation.
If they won, it was expected and if they lost – well you can guess the rest.
Nevertheless, the manner in which Mansfield approached both games and the clinical element to their finishing was very pleasing for all concerned.
Try scorers were led by Tom Calladine with four, Tom Lowery, Ryan Hough, Russ Coleman, Alan Symcox and Adam Shaw all got two each and Lee Shaw, Tom Newton, Aiden McGregor scored one each as did the front row union of Eddy Simmons and Liam Grant.
Although it was a team effort, special mention must go to Lee Shaw whose goal kicking was exemplary throughout as he converted 15, with many of the kicks from touchline positions.
Adam Shaw also converted the last try with a stunning dropped goal from 40 metres.
The Notts Cup final will be held at Mellish RFC on Sunday, 29th April.
This weekend Mansfield return to league rugby to face a much sterner test as they travel to second placed South Leicester.