Derby win, but Blue and Whites blow hot and cold

NMAC11-0788-3'Mansfield v Newark
NMAC11-0788-3'Mansfield v Newark

A scintillating start of tenacity, pace and brilliant ball handling saw Mansfield race into a 30-point lead over derby rivals Newark as they secured a 40-22 win.

It could have been more but after lapsing into torpor, nerves were jangling up to seven minutes from the end before thoughts of an epic comeback could be banished.

Wills was released and he drew the defence and passed for a second minute try from Hough.

On five minutes the score was doubled. Solid scrumaging allowed Wills the space to chip for Williams to go clear, he found Adam Shaw in support and one more pass had Calladine making the touch down.

In a near repeat the next move had Gripton showing neat hands to give Hough a run. Quick recycling and the ball went down the back line for Wills to make it try number three.

This was converted by Lee Shaw as was a penalty on 12 minutes after Simmons, twice, Grant and Pritchard powered forward.

More problems at the set piece and Mansfield turned a 5m line out into a drive with Simmons finishing the move for his first try.

Mansfield continued to keep play in the opposition half and move the ball at speed.

A Williams run saw Adam Shaw running in the try his performance deserved.

No conversion was made, but even with eight points from the boot going begging, Mansfield finished the first quarter 30-0 up and with the bonus point safely bagged.

Maybe that knowledge caused them to draw breath as Pritchard, Johnson and Wills were all held up within feet of adding more tries.

With half-time beckoning Newark once again were pegged back on their line.

The pressure was immense, but came at a cost as skipper Ben Holmes suffered a broken arm, which brings his season to a premature end.

If Mansfield thought they could start the second period with a repeat of the first they had a rude awakening.

Determined running from the kick-off saw Mansfield failing to line up a robust cover defence and, within two minutes, a try in the corner had put Newark on the board.

Despite Johnson ensuring the restart provided an attacking base, Lee Shaw angling kicks deep to the corners and Donaldson burrowing deep into the visitors’ half, the cutting edge of earlier was missing.

Indeed, it was Newark who showed it. Quick line ball off the top and incisive running through the centres opened up the field and on 52 minutes a converted try brought things back to 30-12.

Again Mansfield competed and secured the restart. Calladine, Hooper and Simmons drove play before Pritchard was halted illegally and Lee Shaw increased the lead to 21 points.

Two minutes later a Newark penalty cancelled that score out and it was obvious Mansfield were not pulling away. Worse still, as the third quarter ended just 11 points separated the sides.

A speculative long kick seemed to be covered by two Mansfield defenders.

A moment of indecision, one of those wild bounces only rugby balls can produce, and the sole chasing Newark man had the ball in his hands and the speed to touchdown under the posts.

If the most improbable of recoveries was to be resisted it required strong resolve.

More dominance at the set scrum ensured possession, Johnson put Adam Shaw into space and Wills, realising he would be short of the line, had Simmons on hand for his second try. Williams converted and, with the clock ticking down, the points were secure.

This was technically the treble for Mansfield over the old foes this season and Mansfield’s win saw them go above Ilkeston into third place.

Although Derby sit second, three points ahead of the Blue and Whites, and with a game in hand, the final positions are far from decided.

In Derby’s last four games there is just one home fixture and includes them going to local rivals Ilkeston and Matlock plus champions-elect Syston.

Mansfield must keep winning and hope for slip-ups, starting this Saturday with Spalding visiting Eakring Road (3pm).

The following Tuesday is their NLD Cup semi-final against Paviors at Burnt Stump (7.30pm).