Missed opportunities cost Mansfield dear as they went down 12-8 at Belper in their second match of the new National League, Midlands 3 East (North) division season.
Mansfield took the lead with a penalty from Ryan Hill after just three minutes, but they failed to build on it, allowing the Derbyshire outfit to run out deserved winners.
It means Wayne Robinson’s side are still waiting for their first victory since suffering relegation last term. “There were plenty of try-scoring opportunities, but despite having enough possession, we could not make it count when it mattered,” bemoaned head coach Robinson.
Belper, who finished seventh in this division last year, were bidding to bounce back from a heavy 43-5 defeat at the hands of Lincoln in their opening fixture of the new season the previous weekend. They elected to play down a deceptively acute slope in the first half and made the most of the advantage, enjoying the lion’s share of possession and forcing Mansfield to defend for most of the time in their own territory after Hill’s opening penalty.
The home stand-off, who had a fine afternoon, was a thorn in the side of the visiting defence and threatened to breakthrough constantly. As Mansfield tried to run out of defence, a pass was intercepted, only to be spilled on the way to the line. But Belper made amends just four minutes later when a carbon-copy of that move resulted in a try under the posts and they led 7-3.
The hosts had enough dominance to put the game away and it was only some robust defence from the blue and whites that denied them up to the interval.
In the second half, the roles were reversed as Mansfield had the slope and, with it, came most of the the territory and possession. This time, Belper were forced into long spells of defending, and after 25 minutes, a sustained period of attack led to the blue and whites finally making it through the home rearguard with a try from Nathan Hill and edging ahead at 8-7.
However, a missed conversion and a further missed penalty prevented Mansfield from extending their advantage, and only two minutes later, Belper pounced for the decisive try that won the match. It came as they broke out of their own half and loosened the stranglehold Mansfield seemed to have on the game. After a try-saving tackle from Ryan Hill, the home side recycled the ball well and scored out wide.
Mansfield still had chances to snatch the game, with one particular opportunity going begging late in the half when an overlap was ignored.
There is now a break in league action until Saturday, October 1 (kick-off 3 pm) when Mansfield entertain Leicestershire outfit Birstall, who have suffered two defeats in their first matches of the new campaign. After going down 25-17 at Grimsby, they were hammered 64-0 by Lincoln.