Last-gasp try denies Mansfield victory again

HIGH FLIER -- action from the match between Mansfield and Southwell.
HIGH FLIER -- action from the match between Mansfield and Southwell.

For the second week running, Mansfield were denied victory by a heartbreaking try in the dying seconds -- this time at Southwell in the Midlands 2 East (North) division.

With only moments to play, the game was Mansfield’s to lose as they led 12-8. Sadly, they did just that as a barrage of pressure from Southwell became too much to bear for a side playing with a man down.

Frantic defending was repelling the home team’s attacks until Southwell finally managed to utilise the overlaps they had been spurning for the previous 79 minutes and send a man crashing over the line in the corner.

The conversion was missed, but it didn’t matter because the final score was 13-12 to Southwell, and a first-ever win for the Park Lane outfit against a Mansfield team in league rugby.

The blue-and-whites can still take heart from the effort and endeavour they showed throughout. But there’s no sugar-coating the fact that they defended for far too long and struggled to hold on to possession for sustained periods, making it much harder to build momentum and gain territory.

Now they will be hoping to pick up their first win of the new season when Spalding, who have also lost their opening two matches, travel to Eakring Road this coming Saturday (kick-off 3 pm).

The weather at Southwell was perfect for running rugby. A bright and sunny afternoon inviting both teams to throw the ball around a bit. However, it was a scrappy contest, summed up by numerous penalties and unforced handling errors.

Initially, the home side had the upper hand, starving Mansfield of the ball and benefitting from the blue-and-whites’ ill-discipline, which resulted in the concession of six penalties by the end of the first quarter, plus the loss of man to the sin bin and the game’s first try.

Mansfield did shore up their defence and stop Southwell from scoring again until the second half. Liam Annable and Gareth Gripton were responsible for some crunching tackles, one of which led to a stoppage as the tackled player struggled to regain his feet.

But the blue-and-white attack never really got going. What little possession they had was often kicked away rather than put through the hands. And when they didn’t kick possession, they turned it back over to Southwell through unforced handling errors.

A couple of penalties, deftly slotted by John Ross Ward, meant that the visitors went in to the break 6-5 in front.

The second half started with an exchange of penalties, first Ward kicking another for Mansfield before Southwell hit back with one of their own and, finally, Ward bagging a fourth to take the score to 12-8. But that was the end of Mansfield’s points tally for the afternoon.

The remainder of the half was much like the first, comprising plenty of grit and determination but also handling blunders, a succession of penalties and a second yellow for the visitors.