Mansfield can’t halt play-off hopefuls Bedford

editorial image

By defeating Mansfield 38-12 at home in a bruising encounter at the weekend, Bedford inched their way towards the play-offs by moving into third place in the Midlands One (East) League.

The home side were good value for their win and played some excellent rugby, especially in their backs.

And, as well as they played, they were also gracious enough to concede that some lacklustre defence at times from the visitors helped their cause somewhat.

Mansfield head coach Neil Stent had to contend with a very late replacement as travelling second XV fly half Ryan Hill had to be pressed into action just before kick-off.

He said: “It wasn’t the best preparation, but Ryan came in and did a brilliant job.

“Our defence let us down at crucial times and there were a lot of bodies out there carrying injuries. We had a late surge again and did well, but bonus points are eluding us.”

What made Hill’s appearance all the more remarkable was that he is only just 17 years old and this was his first team debut.

It was something of a baptism of fire for the youngster, but he acquitted himself superbly with some excellent distribution and will only grow in confidence.

It didn’t take long for Bedford to show their intent as they pushed the ball neatly down the line for a try in the corner after just five minutes. The conversion was missed and Mansfield had to go back with something positive to stem the flow.

This they did and what followed was a sustained period of Mansfield pressure. However, after half an hour of this they still had nothing to show for it.

During that period the pressure was clearly taking its toll as the penalty count against Bedford was mounting alarmingly against them, so much so that an indiscretion from the full back elicited a lengthy lecture from the match official.

Throughout his address the referee had his hand in his pocket and all onlookers were convinced he was going to issue a card.

He did indeed pull out a red object, but it turned out to be his handkerchief at which point he blew his nose and play resumed. The look on the face of the full back was worth the entrance fee alone!

A further indiscretion just before the half-hour mark did indeed lead to a yellow card for Bedford.

The resultant missed penalty, the second of three relatively easy opportunities during this period of pressure, highlighted Mansfield’s problem of not being able to take these gifts when they come along.

The scoreboard remained unsullied for the visitors and we went in 5-0 at half-time.

Just six minutes into the second half and Bedford had added two penalties of their own plus a try to extend their lead to 16-0.

It wasn’t that Mansfield were not creating opportunities because they certainly were, but some resolute home defence combined with some questionable decision-making resulted in some excellent stuff just not quite producing the finish promised.

A slick break through the centre by the home side’s powerful midfield resulted in another try as the third quarter drew to a close, and at the half-hour mark they added a further try from a driving maul to bring the score to 28-0.

Typically just when all seems lost this Mansfield team spring into action. They are nothing if not defiant and brought more pressure of their own as they did in the first half.

A couple of driving mauls set up a line-out opportunity close to the line, and a catch and drive led to Alan Symcox, this week playing in the second row, crashing over from close quarters.

A welcome return to action from Russ Coleman after a long injury lay-off saw him add the extras to bring the score to 28-7.

With just three minutes left to play it was Coleman who struck again as Mansfield were awarded a penalty just a few metres from the line and the quick thinking winger tapped the ball and dived over on the corner.

His own conversion agonisingly struck the post and the score remained at 28-12.

Frustratingly a defensive error gifted a further try to Bedford as their speedy backs snapped up the ball and raced over to extend their lead further to 33-12.

Perhaps fittingly Bedford had the final say as reward for their industry with a fine individual effort from 60m that brought the score to 38-12 and the game was over.

Mansfield host Belgrave this weekend. The kick-off is 2.15pm and you can follow the action on Twitter, just go to @MansfieldRugby.