For many in the Mansfield RUFC ranks, Saturday’s first of a 26-game league campaign could not come round soon enough – but it ended in a 29-7 home defeat by Market Rasen and Louth.
Coaches Steve Shaw and Keith Calladine have been monitoring players’ recovery from injuries, work commitments and any other of the stumbling blocks that made last season one to put down to experience.
Shaw’s mood on Saturday morning his mood was buoyant and, when asked for team new,s he said “It’s the same team as picked on Tuesday and as per programme,” which was a simple sentence he never had the luxury of using last term.
This season brings with it many mouthwatering local derby games, with Matlock away and Newark at home in September just for starters.
From the kick, there was a good catch by the visitors. But, from the first contact, Adam Shaw emerged with a bloody nose.
It looked like it could get tasty, but alas the first 10 minutes was like watching two boxers weighing each other up, neither side looking like they meant it.
Jo Symcox was the first to show any urgency when he got the ball and made one of his trademark breaks as he powered through the Market Rasen defence, only to lose the ball in an attempt to ship it out.
Ash Will’s run of bad luck with his hamstring saw him leave the game and the frustration on his face said it all.
On 12 minutes the game suddenly burst into life with Jonno Williams darting into the visitors’ 22, but the powerful run was halted illegally and from the quick tap penalty Lee Shaw drove over to score, only to get injured in the process. But he was patched up to kick the conversion.
William’s positional play and kicks began to turn the visitors’ defence, but they coped well.
The visitors tested the Mansfield defence with forays and kicks and on 22 minutes they were rewarded with a try when naive play by Mansfield allowed them in to score a converted try under the posts.
From the kick-off Rasen attacked again and, but for an unlucky (or lucky) bounce, the home side were able to clear their lines from what seemed to be a certain score.
On 30 minutes Joe Symcox burst through several tackles only to be stopped short of the 22.
Lee Shaw was stopped just short of the line and looked dangerous, but he was hurt in the process and his game was over, replaced by Will Limb going on the wing and Williams moving to fly half. On 38 minutes the visitors moved the ball from deep in their own half, drove into the home half and finished off the move with a well worked try, converted by their No. 10’s trusty boot.
Two minutes later a mix-up in Mansfield’s defence saw Rasen extend the lead with a good opportunists try, scored and converted for a 21-7 interval lead.
The second half coughed and spluttered along with the only highlights provided by a few good runs, stopped far too easily by both defences, a penalty dispatched again by the visitors’ number 10 and, on 70 minutes, a strong maul that drove Mansfield back and Rasen scored an unconverted try.