A brilliant individual try by Andreas Zacharia with just 30 seconds left snatched victory from the jaws of defeat for Mansfield.
It was a piece of vintage Zacharia as he picked the ball up wide, some 60 metres out, stormed his way upfield and proved unstoppable, beating the last defender before crashing over in the corner.
It snatched a 23-21 win for Mansfield at the end of a thrilling back-and-forth encounter against Kesteven at snowy Eakring Road. And it lifted the blue-and-whites into third place in the Midlands 3 East (North) division of the National League, albeit a long way behind the top two, Long Eaton and Ashby.
Zacharia’s heroics, combined with a thunderous tackle by Sam Holmes in the final play of the match that prevented the visitors coming back again, also let Mansfield off the hook because they had earlier turned an 18-7 lead into a three-point deficit.
Relieved head coach Wayne Robinson said: “For 70 minutes, our defence was fantastic. But the last ten minutes nearly cost us. Thankfully, the lads dug deep and got over the line.”
The snow-covered pitch was only passed fit to play after an inspection, but the decision was rewarded by an entertaining encounter in which there was little to choose between the two teams.
Ultimately, the difference was the home side’s ability to convert their territory into points, beginning with an early penalty from the boot of Regan Hubbard.
Kesteven responded by registering their first try under the posts to go 7-3 up. But to Mansfield’s credit, they didn’t concede any more points until those last ten minutes, thanks to some outstanding defence, a strong scrum and powerful running. The pack also set a platform, with the standout performance coming from man-of-the-match Kyan Johnson.
Mansfield’s dominance up front allowed Joe Ducker to take advantage of clean ball and score a brace of incredibly similar, visually exciting and impressive tries. Both required a lot of speed and nifty footwork, and one of them was converted by Hubbard.
In the second half, the bulk of possession and territory went to Kesteven, whose doggedness and determination was relentless. The break they needed came with a succession of penalties, from one of which they pegged the score back to 18-14 with a try and conversion. They kept the momentum going and, as time ran out, they added seven more points to edge in front.