Mansfield hangs on for the win by their teeth …
This, the second to last Pennant run out for Group 2 Mansfield 3rds, had its highs and lows.
Down to 15 men by the time Saturday came the 3rd XV outfit yet again put in a tremendous effort away from home in the deepest Lincolnshire fields known as Kesteven. They dub themselves the “The Black Army” and it is probably rightly so as they are a difficult side to beat down in Woodnook, their fortress so to speak.
With the weather quickly deteriorating Mansfield started the sharper, applying strong phases in numbers with the slope to assist. The sides seemed evenly matched in the weight department but Mansfield seemed to have Kesteven over on the age count!
Reduced to 15 men due to injuries before the game a few players played out of position and are worth a mention ….. Zack Walters running the wing where he usually would Hook, Simon Stuart playing scrum half who normally would be centre/wing and Andy Jane marshalled in the centres his usual position blind side flanker! All did the team proud putting in outstanding performances. The team appreciated lads!
It wasn’t long before Mansfield went 5 points up with Lee Kirk try. Starting from a line out on the opposition’s 22 Mansfield forwards sealed the ball, drove on through to the 5 metre where Kirk made one last run from deep to catch the ball and drive through 3 defenders to ground the ball. This lifted the Mansfield spirits in the now hail storming conditions.
Kesteven did not really show their hand until just before the half time whistle which is testament to Mansfield’s tenacity in attack even in defence. They were quicker out wide but struggled to get to grips with this concept and kept trying through their bulky forwards only to find that Mansfield were up to the task up front and more.
Persistent offsides by the home side saw Mansfield receive a much deserved penalty within range for fly half Mark Williams. At 8 nil up at half time Mansfield’s confidence rose further.
Turning around at the break saw the weather deteriorate further, “Welcome to Lincolnshire!” bellied the referee.
Something even worse than the weather turned too in way of Mansfield’s most experienced prop Bob White going down with an aggravated back injury. In need of treatment White left the field of play never to return leaving the Blue and Whites down to 14 men and an uphill slope with hail stones in their faces….the game surprisingly took a turn at this point of the game!
Nevertheless the 3rd xv showed true grit for the next 10 minutes quashing any attack that Kesteven threw at them until the blacks realised all they had to do was ship it out wide to their notably faster wings. It took them 10 minutes to score though with dogged defence from the Mansfield 14. Alas when the score came on the 60 minute mark it was also converted to bring the score to 7-8!
Kesteven scored a similar try 10 minutes later down the same left wing to take them to 12-8 after a missed what seemed like a simple conversion. Mansfield’s game plan from here on in was to drift quickly and cut the ball off at the pass so to speak. The centres got up in Kesteven’s faces quickly to upset their rhythm, new boy Andrew Jane excelling with all his flanking experience. The ball from here on in was very slippery and Kesteven spilled a lot of ball giving Mansfield the edge up front. This showed as Mansfield trudged up the field with a 7 man pack. Roberts now on the front row from No.8.
Their efforts paid off with a quick penalty 10 metres out that saw a quick tap from Will Rushby to Oliver Newbould who powered over almost untouched to take the score to 12-13 to Mansfield.
A minute later yet another player had to leave the field of play. Phil Gundel had to retire with a broken to the nose.
Down to 13 men, less than 10 minutes to go and a point ahead, Mansfield really only had to play the clock out but that is not the Mansfield way. The stick was resolutely stuck up the preverbal jumper and again trudged up the wet, miserable park. Leg pumping stuff in the conditions but it 8 minutes both sides scrummaged 8 times. Kesteven seemed to have an advantage in this discipline and tried to resort to winning the game through their out done forwards again. Then, with 2 minutes to go they spun the ball out wide missing two passes straight to their double try scoring winger. A 30 yard run in with only Mansfield’s fly half to beat saw Williams up end the flying wing to spill the ball, pick up and run back at the tiring Kesteven. The ball passed through several hands over to Mansfield’s left wing where Stuart kicked up field hoping for the final whistle.
It was not to be, the referee called a lineout to Kesteven! They took a quick one again trying to get over Mansfield’s line before the end. Their No.8 who had a powerful game broke a tackle deep to take Kesteven into Mansfield’s 22 and quick hands again saw the ball passed out only to be stifled half way by Rushby wrapping up their centre who spilled the ball. Peter Steffen picked up and edged up field then put the ball into touch to the relief of the referees whistle for fulltime.
It was a glorious win for Mansfield 3rds having never won at the The Black Army’s ground and with 13 men.
Mansfield have their last league encounter at home next weekend against Nottingham Moderns 3pm Kick Off.