The red and greens kicked off the New Year with a win, but there were few fireworks as both sides were suffering from a festive hangover.
It was Mansfield who made the stronger start playing with the slope advantage and after three minutes Rasen conceded their first penalty, but fly half Alex Miles’ kick was wide of the mark.
Mansfield maintained the pressure using their big forwards to batter away for an opening and as they laid siege to the Rasen line the referee awarded a penalty try. Miles slotted the conversion as Rasen reflected on a poor start, but the visitors were soon on the attack although a lack of patience produced unforced errors that acted as a release valve for Mansfield.
With two penalties in quick succession Rasen were building field position and edged closer to the line with a catch and drive that was eventually held up for Mansfield to clear the danger.
An innocuous Mansfield kick was easily fielded by Peter Everton, but the fullback’s own kick was a disaster, falling straight into the arms of lock Aiden McGregor, who charged in under the posts from thirty meters out chased by a disconsolate Everton. Miles made no mistake with the conversion and Rasen were left to rue another error that had thus far punctuated their game.
However the early exuberance of the home side started to wane as the Rasen pack began to dominate the set scrum where Mansfield had no answer to the powerful red and green eight. After a series of penalties close to the Mansfield line where Rasen continued to opt for the scrum, the referee was left with no alternative, but to award a penalty try. Centre Meehal Grint landed the simple conversion for the final score of an error strewn first half that saw Rasen 14–7 adrift at the interval. Rasen had clawed their way back into the game, but made an inauspicious start to the second half as they gazed leaden footed at Mansfield’s kick off allowing the home side to gather the ball unchallenged. In a replay of the first half Mansfield had the better of the early exchanges and again Rasen presented Miles with a penalty opportunity, but the fly half had been overly ambitious with the distance and his kick fell well short of the posts.
Slowly, but surely Rasen gained their composure and stole a lineout in the Mansfield twenty two. Following a patient build up as the ball was taken through several phases; prop Ollie Cole demanded the ball as he cut back against the Mansfield defence to crash over the whitewash from short range.
Rasen were still behind, but the pendulum was swinging as the rigours of the dominant scrum were starting to take their toll on the home legs. With the defence stretched winger Will Pridgeon looked to be in the clear only to be pulled back for a forward pass.
Moments later scrumhalf Chris Everton, returning after a seven week injury break, took a quick tap penalty to release fly half Dan Robinson. The youngster’s silky running took him clear of the first line of defence before he sent an awkward pass to the supporting Dave Starling. The skipper expertly gathered the ball to finish the move and put Rasen ahead for the first time in the match. Grint added the extras and two minutes later following the yellow carding of Mansfield flanker Liam Annable, Rasen produced a sublime piece of rugby straight off the training paddock.
Quick off the top ball from the penalty lineout was flashed out to the backs where Grint cleverly held the defence before popping the ball to Nick Harvey entering the line at speed from the opposite wing for an exquisite touchdown. Grint’s reliable boot secured the extra two points and Rasen were now the dominant side.
A yellow card for Dave Starling’s deliberate knock on in the 33rd minute gave Mansfield a glimmer of hope, but the damage had already been done and Rasen held out for a first win in 2015.
The Christmas break had evidently affected both sides, but the volume of unforced errors and a lack of patience in the first half were clearly to Rasen’s detriment. With a dominant scrum and more composure Rasen showed what they are capable of and the final score was a gem that worked to perfection.
The high penalty count was again a cause for concern, but as the mental attitude hardens with the seasonal break becoming a distant memory this ought to be remedied and a five point bonus win on the back of an average performance was a satisfying way to begin the New Year.
This Saturday sees another away game at table topping Syston with a 2.15pm kick off.
Teams: Rasen: Haig, Alldridge, Southwell, Dearden L, Pytlik, Starling C, Pryer, Chamberlin, Everton C, Robinson, Pridgeon, Grint, Starling D, Harvey, Everton P. Subs: Cole (Southwell), Inman (Harvey), Norman (Everton P)
Mansfield: Grant, Palmer, Ellis, Simms, McGregor, Scott, Annable, Hall, Symcox A, Miles, Limb, Symcox J, Wood, Morsden, Stamford. Subs: Littlewood, Morgan, Johnson