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Sitting just three places from the bottom of the table, Burton came to play and were full of ambition and pace. Mansfield were similarly full of vim and vigour.
What resulted was a well-paced, flowing, if not error-filled, 80 minutes of rugby.
Mansfield came away with the spoils but the points didn’t come easy, a combination of their own mistakes and Burton’s dogged defence making things difficult.
Head coach Nathan Hill was frustrated but pleased at the end result, saying: “I think we left a few more points out there but I’m happy to take five points away at the end of the game.”
The first quarter of the game saw Mansfield build a nice lead without really finding their stride. While there was plenty of ambition, plenty of pace and a willingness to spread the ball wide that had perhaps been under-utilised in previous weeks, it was persistent Burton offending that saw the biggest difference between the teams.
Four penalties slotted by Taran Elms, who was exceptional from the tee, saw the Blue-and-Whites amass an early 12-0 lead.
With so many penalties conceded so early in the game, Burton were fortunate that they managed to keep 15 on the pitch. That indiscipline would catch up with them later.
Mansfield had ample opportunities throughout the rest of the first half but were frustratingly profligate at times.
While it would be harsh to say that they ‘only’ scored two tries in this period, as they were very good tries, a bonus point could easily have been achieved before half-time.
That final pass, so often the bane in Mansfield’s attacking prowess, was too often either over-run or under-powered, leaving the loose ball free for Burton to pounce on.
That said, the Blue-and-Whites did score two very good tries and were able to largely control the set piece.
While the scrum was a back-and-forth contest all game, the home team were able to nullify much of Burton’s possession at the line out, robbing them of a useful attacking position.
They were competitive in the rucks which saw numerous turnovers with matchday sponsors The Ladies of Mansfield Rugby Club’s man of the match Adam Smith having an impressive overall game.
This meant that when a penalty was kicked to the corner, Mansfield were able to secure their own ball, put a good driving maul together and open their try count with Oliver Avison coming up from under a pile of bodies. A successful kick from Elms saw the lead extended to 19-0.
Burton’s first try came from some rare possession at the lineout.
A penalty to the corner was successfully retained and a powerful drive saw them overpower the Mansfield defence, set up a ruck mere metres from the tryline and then barrel over from close range.
It showed what the Burton pack could do and, while there will be no complaints from the home fans, it’s a shame that more couldn’t be made of the power in the mauls. A successful conversion got Burton on to the scoreboard at 19-7.
Mansfield got their second try before half-time, another powerful drive seeing the Blue-and-Whites coming up with the spoils. Another successful kick saw the half-time score read 26-7.
The second half saw much of the first half’s frustrations continue.
Burton were wasteful in their own way as they were able to really stifle the Mansfield attack at times but not capitalise on the disruption they caused.
At one point, Mansfield had a maul set up on the Burton 5m line and were surely going to score.
However, Mansfield dropped the ball, Burton seized it and two phases later had cleared their lines with a wonderful 50-22 meaning they had possession at the line out.
An attacking opportunity for the Mansfield now saw them defending just 20m from their own line.
However, Burton couldn’t secure their own lineout ball and the advantage was lost. This was essentially the story of the game.
Burton’s efforts were not helped by receiving two yellow cards, their discipline issues that began in the first quarter continuing to haunt them.
That said, there were four more tries scored in this half, each of them wonderfully concocted and executed.
A bit of territory and pressure saw Burton score first, an unsuccessful conversion following.
The penalty from the second of Burton’s yellows saw Mansfield able to make that final pass stick and saw Avison claim his second, crashing over just to the side of the posts allowing Elms a relatively easy shot at goal. The kick slotted, the score was 33-12 and just one more needed for the bonus point.
The final two tries were the result of some excellent interplay and offloading, one each for either team.
Mansfield’s came first with some crisp passing unleashing Jed Ducker, who was able to evade a couple of defenders and set up a nice run to the line for Nathan Hind.
A tricky touchline conversion was missed but the home team had secured the try bonus point.
The final try, Burton’s third, also came from some slick offloading, though there was a rawness to this one that lacked the finesse of a well worked training ground move and had all the hallmarks of good support play and knowing where your teammates would be.
Set up by a burst of speed from the winger, it was a procession of offloads that could easily have gone to ground but were held well and saw a try scored right in the corner. A tricky conversion was missed.
This was an entertaining game with plenty of ambition, plenty of pace and plenty of tries.
Burton will need to work on their lineout, but they were able to use their pack to good effect at times and have some really evasive runners in the backs, especially at scrum half.
Mansfield will be frustrated at the tries that should have been but they were able to disrupt the lineout well, their defence was excellent for 80 minutes and when the execution was slick it was difficult to deal with.