The 2nd XV travelled to Mansfield looking to keep their lengthy winning streak intact and in a tough encounter (should we expect anything else at Mansfield) came away with the victory that put them out of reach of their hosts in the table and kept the pressure up on Newark who sit above them.
A heavier home side pack suggested that the Elks may find it hard work in the unseasonal heat and sure enough the first scrum had the alarm bells ringing as the hosts drew first blood with an impressive shove. This said it wasn’t long before the wise old heads of the Ilkeston front five worked out a plan and solid technique, law massaging and bloody minded determination combined to even things up to negate the one potential threat that Mansfield posed.
As the first half progressed it was clear that Ilkeston were not going to accept second best and despite the odd handling error at times the visitors slowly gained control.
The first score came after 12 minutes when some good mauling work by the forwards was rewarded by good territory being gained and a break that took them close to the home side line. From the breakdown the ball was moved along the back line to full back Smith who joining the line stepped his opposite number and rode the covering tackle to crash over from close range. Chris Hallam
converted to provide a 7 – 0 lead.
The Elks faithful then had to wait until the 35th minute for the next score when further strong play by the forwards placed the hosts on the back foot. A Chris Hallam
break took Ilkeston deep into the Mansfield half and when quick ball was secured from the break down Garland was on hand to drive hard at the defensive line…off-loading in the tackle to Hicks in support the ball was moved on to winger Flynn who still had wok to do to beat the covering defence. Taking his opportunity well the young wing crossed in the corner. Hallam junior converted superbly from wide out and the Elks were 14 points clear.
As half time approached Coach Falls was overheard to say “14 XXXXXXX nil at XXXXXXX Mansfield at XXXXXXX half time…I’ll XXXXXXX take that!” (those who know Titsy will be able to fill the XXXXXXX’s in!). For sure 14 – 0 at Mansfield at half time is a rare treat…even better then 19 – 0 as the half wore down and almost out of the blue Marshall emerged from a skirmish and set off on a bullocking run to the Mansfield line from 30 metres out.
A great half lads.
With pride dented Mansfield are a dangerous side and they started the second half determined to put things right and it was clear that Ilkeston were not going to have an easy second period in the spring sunshine.
A feature of the second half was some clever tactical kicking by Ellis Hallam
that continually forced Mansfield into their own 22 and it was from one such kick that the next Ilkeston score emerged. A good chase by Flynn and Smith trapped the home side full back in his own 22 which forced errors and a poor clearance kick witnessed a slow retreating Mansfield pack caught off side and Hallam junior duly slotted the penalty that took Ilkeston ahead by 22 points.
The “wise old sages” in the travelling support were by now considering a score approaching the half century…surely another try would not only secure the bonus point but might just open the flood gates. Wrong again! A period of sustained pressure by Mansfield followed but not for the first time this season the Ilkeston defence held fast. Something had to give though and regrettably the visitors were quickly reduced to 13 men on the hour as first Hicks and then Maddock were dispatched to the sin bin for infringements made during the desperate defence.
During the 10 minute period of the in balance in numbers the Elks leaked 12 points as Mansfield clawed their way back. It could have been more but for some sterling and spirited work in defence that constantly spoilt the home sides ambitions.
Restored to parity for the last 10 minutes and Ilkeston pinned Mansfield back and another Hallam senior kick forced the home side deep into their 22. From the resulting mêlée the hosts were awarded a free kick which they elected to run and further aggressive competing at the breakdown rewarded the visitors pack with another kickable penalty and Hallam junior duly obliged.
The game ended shortly after amid some fisticuffs as the home side frustrations boiled over with the final score 25 – 12 in favour to the visitors.
A fractious second half never lived up to the expectation of the first but full marks to the 2’s for another gutsy performance that carved out victory…the 11th in succession.