A late lapse in concentration signalled a narrow 20-17 defeat for Mansfield in a tense affair at home to Bakewell Mannerians in the Midlands 3 East (North) division of the National League.
Mansfield edged ahead 17-15 in a low-scoring second half, and looked to be heading for victory after weathering a Bakewell storm.
However, with only minutes to go, the visitors were handed one last chance when an indiscretion resulted in a five-metre penalty. The hosts assumed they would opt for a scrum and aim to drive their way home, but it proved to be a fundamental error because, instead, Bakewell took a quick, tapped penalty that saw them run, almost uncontested, to the line for the winning try.
Mansfield’s head coach Wayne Robinson rued the blunder afterwards. He said: “We turned our backs for a second and that was enough. It’s tough for the boys, but it is something that we’ll learn from.”
In dense fog and on a soggy pitch, conditions were difficult for both sides. As they tried to put consistent phases together, the match was littered with dropped balls, misdirected kicks and some questionable decision-making, leading to much frustration.
Bakewell largely dominated the scrums, and went in front with an unconverted try, but Mansfield fired back and a deft inside pass saw impressive youngster Will Norton-Lane break through a tackle to score their opening try, which was converted by John Ross Ward.
This back-and-forth exchange of points continued for the rest of the first half. A superb try-saving tackle by covering winger Steve Davison stopped one Bakewell attack dead, but they still regained their lead with a converted try that put them 12-7 in front.
A drop goal added to their tally, only for Mansfield to respond with one of the best tries of their recent history. Ross Ward made a break inside his own half and travelled 20 metres before offloading the ball to Davison to trigger a move that led to man-of-the-match Harry Brough going over to score. Another successful conversion by Ross Ward cut the deficit to 15-14 at half-time.
The visitors bossed most of the second 40, but couldn’t make their pressure tell and were often architects of their own downfall against a solid Mansfield defence.
Instead, it was the blue-and-whites who edged ahead thanks to a kick at goal by Ross Ward, only for them to be denied at the death by that heartbreaking lapse.
The defeat left Mansfield in eighth position in the 12-team division with a record of three wins and four defeats from their seven matches so far.
They sit just two points ahead of Bakewell, for whom this was only their second victory of the campaign after six defeats from their previous seven fixtures.
This Saturday, Mansfield travel to next-to-bottom Rolls-Royce.