Last quarter collapse for Mansfield in vital derby clash

Two guys central in the photo ' two guys passing the ball over, left to right.
Two guys central in the photo ' two guys passing the ball over, left to right.

In terms of league position, if Mansfield and Newark were both flirting with the danger zone, the visitors became much more acquainted with it on Saturday following an emphatic 41-5 defeat at the hands of their local rivals as they swapped places in the league table.

Head coach Neil Stent could offer little in the way of consolation, saying: “We had a reasonable first half, but there’s no doubt our defence in the final quarter seemed to dissolve. There is much to work on.”

Indeed it did dissolve, but if the final quarter became the stuff of rugby nightmares, the first half offered more in the way of hope and expectation.

There was plenty of to and fro in the early exchanges and, although the home team posted their first score on the 10-minute mark, Mansfield were very much in the game at this stage.

After half an hour Newark crossed to make it 10-0. The heavy winds that plagued most of the country made all but the simplest of kicks a lottery as Newark were unable to add the extras. For their part, Mansfield were denied six points from penalty attempts as well.

For the second quarter most of the game was played out in the middle area of the paddock as the visitors were unable to capitalise on field position when the swirling wind appeared to be in their favour.

As the half-time whistle approached, Will Limb was despatched to the sin-bin for what appeared to be a team ticket for persistent offending.

The home side came out in determined mood for the second stanza and were awarded a penalty for their efforts after just five minutes, which extended their lead to 13-0.

They might have secured a try seconds later too, if not for a last ditch tap tackle by Aiden McGregor, who covered much ground all afternoon in defence.

Newark finally worked out that their size and power in the midfield was an area that would pay dividends for them and they exploited it well.

As we entered the final quarter, a yellow card for the home side this time did not stop them extending their lead further through this channel as the score reached 20-0.

However, it wasn’t all doom and gloom as Steve Repton, stepping in at scrum half for only the second time this season, produced a very credible performance and it is only work commitments that surely prevent him from claiming that berth permanently.

This allowed Mansfield skipper Alan Symcox to return to his favoured position of No.8 where he proved to be a thorn in the Newark side all afternoon.

It was from a scrum just inside the Newark half that Symcox picked up and slipped up the blind side, feeding winger Bobby Ogunode. With one man to beat, he fed Symcox back on the inside for him to race the final 25m to the line untouched, bringing the score to 20-5 with 10 minutes left on the clock.

This was to be a crucial 10 minutes as it turned out.

Instead of that score galvanising the visitors into action, more and more cracks started to appear in the plaster of their game and it wasn’t long before much of it fell off the metaphoric wall.

With just five minutes plus injury time to go, there was a total collapse for Mansfield as their defence evaporated.

This allowed Newark to run in three more tries, as well as the visiting supporters being made to suffer the ignominy of seeing Dan Littlewood shown a red card and sent from the pitch.

Newark were good for their win, of that there is no doubt, and the result is that the teams have switched places in the league with Mansfield now in the red zone.

Things do not get any easier this weekend as the Blue & Whites host Old Northamptonians, who are sitting comfortably in the play-off position just behind Syston.

The kick-off is 2:15pm and you can follow the action on Twitter, just go to @MansfieldRugby.