Mansfield RUFC bounce back from opening defeat with victory over Boston
Mansfield put their opening defeat behind them with a 20-13 win at home to Boston.
It was clear from the first whistle that Boston had come to play and they took the lead as early as the second minute.
Mansfield equalised mere minutes later, with Connor Taylor diving over in the far corner, to level the scores following a missed conversion.
While the conditions weren’t the best, neither team adapted well enough to put together any real meaningful phases.
The ball spent much of the game time on the floor, nothing unusual with the conditions as they were, but often this came as the result of an unnecessary offload or a speculative pass.
Added to this, the set pieces creaked all game. A large number of penalties were given away by both teams but it almost didn’t seem to be anything to worry about.
If the attacking team went for the lineout there was no guarantee it would amount to anything. Mansfield struggled to win their own ball and Boston struggled to throw it straight.
The weather surely made things difficult but these were consistent issues that plagued both teams even when the rain stopped and the conditions improved, if only slightly.
This back-and-forth of penalties saw Boston take the advantage again, a converted attempt at goal seeing them edge three points in the lead, 8-5.
Mansfield began to edge the penalty count but couldn’t do much with them, a large portion of the second 20 was played squarely in the home team’s own half.
Struggling to play out of this 20 metre no-mans’ land and with a misfiring lineout, it meant that putting together multiple phases became simply a way of getting themselves out of danger rather than creating attacking options.
It took a penalty and a clean lineout for the attack to finally fire. Good ball from the line saw some space open up for the backs.
A chip through the approaching defense saw John Ross Ward chase down an awkward ball, collect and score in the corner. A difficult conversion was pulled slightly wide but Mansfield had edged in front, 10-8.
The remaining 10 minutes of the first half was marred by ill-discipline from both sides.
The frustrations at repeated dropped balls and the inability for either team to take a real grip of the game was beginning to show and the referee rightly showed three players a yellow card, two from Boston and one from Mansfield.
The second half started in similar fashion to the first with the visitors quickly scoring to take a 13-10 read.
The second half was also marred by frustrations and ill-discipline. The Boston scrum, which had largely dominated the first half, seemed to creak a little and while the home team never fully overcame the visitor’s scrum advantage they did enough to at least win their own ball.
Clean ball was still something of a rarity but Mansfield took a chance when it came to them. Receiving the ball with very few options, matchday sponsor Stopford Associates’ Man of the Match Regan Hubbard managed to break a brace of tackles to score under the posts. A definite highlight from the standout player. With an easier kick, the two points were added to put the home team back in the lead, 17-13.
Another penalty attempt shortly after saw the home team extend their lead to 20-13, still enough for the visitors to take a losing bonus point but meaning at least a converted try was needed just to draw the game.
The remaining 25 minute of the game becoming a battle of attrition between the two.
Boston ran phase after phase of attacking play, winning a slew of penalties for their efforts, but they couldn’t breach an outstanding home defence. The visitors’ management of their possession could be called in to question as they had numerous overlaps down the left wing but failed to utilise them, instead relying on keeping the ball close to the ruck.
Mansfield’s defence was solid but they left themselves exposed multiple times. Clearer communication from the visitors could possibly have seen this mismatch exploited, especially as Mansfield were, at one point, reduced to 13 men, the ill-discipline and unyielding pressure beginning to take its toll.
To Mansfield’s credit, the one time Boston did try to exploit the overlap, the home defence was outstanding, managing to nullify a 3 man advantage to eventually turn the ball over.
A final penalty, mere seconds before full time, saw Boston given one last chance to at least claim a draw. Being forced to run the ball they did their best but, ultimately, a poor grubber kick was easily cleaned up by the home team who jubilantly kicked the ball off the park to hear a very welcome final whistle and claim their first victory of the season.
For all the positives about Mansfield’s defence, ill-discipline very nearly cost them. 25 minutes of sustained pressure is not the way to win games and some questionable game management decisions will need rectifying. A sour end to the game saw a Mansfield player yellow carded for the second time, meaning he was red carded and will now await a disciplinary. That said, bouncing back from a defeat last week to win what was an evenly matched contest in turgid conditions is always something to be positive about.
Next week, Mansfield travel to East Retford. You can follow the action on Twitter @Mansfieldrugby