Malvern 16 Mansfield 3
A large crowd was entertained by an absorbing match at Spring Lane as Malvern put in an impressive display of running rugby, which was often matched by some dour defence from newly-promoted Mansfield. The Sherwood Foresters had a morale boosting opening day win against Scunthorpe and were rocked by the initial Malvern attack which gave them a penalty in the first minute. Robin Fransson, back from international duty with Sweden, put the ball over to secure the early lead. Malvern’s play was assured and controlled as they put in wave after wave of attacks, moving the ball well in the pack and the back line. However, Mansfield’s defence was resolute, foiling Malvern several times in the red zone as the home side continued to probe. With the strong wind behind them, Malvern should perhaps have utilized it more to get them into scoring positions, especially as they had around 90% territory and perhaps 70% possession in the first half hour. However, when Mansfield finally broke out of their own half they were unlucky not to score against the run of play, dropping the ball close to the line. This gave Malvern a wake-up call and they responded by running the ball back at the visitors through Richard Fleming and James Bennett, earning another penalty which Fransson put over for a slender 6-0 lead at the break.
With the wind now behind the Nottinghamshire side, play evened up more as expected, but it was still Malvern who looked the more dangerous side. The tackling in defence was clinical and stifled the visiting back line’s attempts to break downfield, whilst the Malvern pack was well-coordinated and efficient in both the rucks and mauls. Mansfield pulled back 3 points when Malvern infringed at the lineout, but Malvern tightened their grip on the game with the pack putting in the hard yards and playmaker Adam Dixon setting the backs away time and again. Nick Murphy went on a battering run in the 59th minute to take in the Mansfield defence, the ball was shipped out to Fleming and he used his strength to burst through for the only try of the game, Fransson again converting. With Mansfield still adjusting to the pace of the game at the higher level, Malvern controlled the last quarter to come out deserved winners against a Mansfield team who will provide a stern test to many sides.
The Waitrose Man of the Match Champagne was presented by sponsors Harrison Clark to Adam Dixon. Director of Rugby Andy Longley was pleased with the result. “It was a tough game against a team who will get stronger as they adjust to the pace of the game at this level. We were faced with some excellent defence, and to their credit the lads didn’t get frustrated. They just stuck to the game plan and eventually wore Mansfield down, and our superior fitness told in the end. There will be many more tough games like this as the season goes on, indeed the next match against Old Northamptonians will be one, against a side who are uncompromising up front and who like to run the ball around as we do.”
Spectators are invited to travel on the team coach to Northampton for the 3.00pm kick off.