A pulsating match went down to the last minute before unlucky Mansfield fell to the narrowest of defeats at home to Belper in the Midlands 3 East (North) division of the National League.
With only moments remaining, Mansfield led their high-flying visitors 23-17. But then Mansfield’s scrum succumbed to relentless pressure, and Belper drove over the line for a try.
The conversion was still to come, and the hosts still led. But the kick was expertly nailed, sentencing the blue-and-whites to a 24-23 defeat and the consolation only of almost upsetting the team lying second in the table.
Head coach Wayne Robinson said: “I’m gutted for the boys. We played really well for most of the game, but just couldn’t find the final result.”
Adventruous Belper had started the game strongly, committed to playing running rugby, and carved through the home defence to register the first points.
Mansfield responded well, though, and led 13-7 at half-time thanks to a penalty from Regan Hubbard and tries from full-back Adam Rowbottom and Mike Wallis, who drove his way over the line. But Belper were always dangerous, and only try-saving tackles from Hubbard and Zane Chiappetta prevented them adding to their tally.
The entertainment continued in the second half with both teams relentless in attack and solid in defence. Belper pulled the deficit back to one point, but Mansfield led 20-12 with a wonderful try from Chiappetta and after another try from the visitors, the home team added a penalty.