A cracking game of rugby between arch local-derby rivals, Mansfield and Ashfield, proved that the sport is very much alive and kicking in the district.
In what was both sides’ penultimate match of the National League, Midlands 3 East (North) division season, Mansfield came out on top 30-23 to move into seventh in the 12-team table.
But determined Ashfield never stopped competing and although slipping to the foot of the table, they grabbed a losing bonus point and will be hoping to gain revenge on their hosts when the two sides clash again in the final of the Nottinghamshire Intermediate Cup at Nottingham’s Lady Bay ground this Saturday (kick-off 2 pm).
Mansfield were delighted to sign off their home campaign with a flourish, and head coach Wayne Robinson said: “I am proud of the way the boys played. This was a positive way to end the season at home.”
However, it was Ashfield who had the best of the opening half. They opened the scoring with a deftly slotted penalty, and only a thunderous tackle by Adam Rowbottom prevented them adding a try too.
As the hosts found their feet, a few crisp passes saw the ball fall to centre Joe Ducker who, as he has done for most of the season, broke through defensive tackles to register the first try, which was converted by wing Regan Hubbard.
Ashfield responded with a try and conversion of their own to lead 10-7 and although Hubbard levelled, the visitors went 17-10 up after adding another converted try. Therefore, the blue-and-whites were highly relieved to cut the deficit to two points by half-time. Industrious work by sponsors’ man-of-the-match Phil Pogmore and his pack enabled scrum-half Steve Mower to scamper through the middle of the ruck and score.
The second half opened with an Ashfield penalty, but from then on, Mansfield picked up, inspired by numerous solid drives by the forwards. Their growing dominance was rewarded with a try by replacement scrum-half Steve Repton, who sprinted 30 metres to go over, and more pressure led to Mike Wallis slipping through the lineout to put them 25-20 ahead.
Ashfield’s kicker, who had a fine afternoon, slotted another penalty, but Mansfield sealed their win when, after several phases of possession, centre Andreas Zacharia stormed through for a powerful run to the line and the final try of the afternoon.