What a difference a week makes! Seven days after crashing to a 62-8 loss, Mansfield picked themselves up to batter Bakewell Mannerians in a must-win fixture to ease their relegation fears.
On the day the club celebrated its 60th anniversary, Mansfield secured five valuable points to beat bottom-of-the-table Bakewell 46-12, with Josh Hall scoring a hat-trick of tries. And although they are not out of the danger-zone yet, particularly with a trip to leaders Market Bosworth coming up this Saturday, their much-improved display lifted them to third from bottom in the National League’s Midlands 2 East (North) division and should fill them with confidence.
Head coach Wayne Robinson said: “We did a lot of reflection during the week, and this was the performance we really needed. To come away with five points was the plan, and all we could ask for.”
At times, a frenetic game made it clear that here were two teams desperate for points. As they vied for dominance, both turned over a lot of ball, which bounced back and forth with alarming regularity.
But Mansfield built a platform in the first half that would allow them to break free later. When an early penalty, within kicking range, was put into the corner, Hall bagged his first try from the resulting line out.
Fly-half John-Ross Ward missed a difficult conversion, and Bakewell responded by tearing through the home defence for an impressive try of their own, which was converted to give them a 7-5 lead.
But by the interval, Mansfield were back in front at 12-7 after winger Joe Ducker had danced his way to the line for a try that was converted by Ward. And although the closing stages of the half were fragmented and fractured, with Shaun Morgan receiving a yellow card, the blue-and-whites were delighted to have their noses in front.
In the second half, with coach Robinson’s encouraging team-talk ringing in their ears, they really turned the screw as Bakewell tired.
Hall capped another superb afternoon by scoring two more tries, powering through the defence to ensure the scoreboard kept ticking over. And his back-row colleague Ash Stirland continued his run of form with a bullock-type charge of his own, beating numerous defenders and dotting down for the first of his two tries. While youngster Jack Sibecko was the beneficiary of good phase-play to score another try to add to his growing tally.
Some loose play by Bakewell also led to another score from Ducker, who hoofed the ball upfield, perhaps more in hope than judgement, and then win the footrace, outpacing two defenders to dive on the ball.
With a drive from a line out, Stirland made it eight tries in all for Mansfield, one of their best of the season. And two conversions from youngster Ryan Haywood, who impressed after coming off the bench with a confident performance as replacement for Ward, completed the win.
Other notable performances came from Emmanuel Ogunode, Gareth Gripton and Danny Ellis in the engine room, while the man-of-the-match award went to Mark Wallace, who was imperious in the ruck.