RUGBY UNION: Bonus point win in a dominant display
A clinical performance by Spalding produced four well-taken second-half tries to earn a bonus point win.
With Richard Cooke injured, Ash Piccaver took over the captaincy and he was able to recall Mark Haighton, Harry Sharman and Kieran Bailey.
Luke Turner, Jason Steels, Will Shields and Fin Peters were ruled out while Harry Brown was suspended.
Early in the first half, in typical fashion, Mansfield’s game plan was to retain the ball in their forwards – playing to their strengths with pick and drives and challenging fiercely at the breakdown.
Also prominent was their experienced fly-half who controlled the early play and seized the first opportunity with a drop goal.
Mansfield’s scrum had the initial edge but Spalding improved, especially in the second half.
Spalding’s lineout was superb with Bailey out-jumping his opposite number at the front and Haighton turning back the years in a dominant display. Bailey also managed to steal at least three Manfield lineout throws.
As the half progressed, Spalding started to secure more possession – especially through forceful running by fly-half Dan Adams and outside centre George Brown, resulting in Mansfield conceding a penalty 10 metres from the try line.
Quick thinking by Sharman saw him take a quick tap penalty, catching Mansfield’s defence asleep and with the aid of a dummy pass, he sailed past his tacklers to score, with Ashton Capes converting.
Early in the second half, Piccaver led by example with several powerful breaks.
After five minutes, he broke down the blind side then evaded a couple of tackles and ran in from 20 metres for an unconverted try.
Five minutes later it was the backs’ turn. The ball was spread wide and inside centre Willis Ingleby kicked deep towards the corner. With two Mansfield defenders covering back, Capes chased down more in hope but the ball broke free under challenge and he was over for Spalding’s third try.
George Berry came off the bench, replacing Brown in the centre, and made an impact as he put in a superb tackle when Mansfield attempted to break Spalding’s stranglehold.
Adams was on hand to collect the ball and crash over and with Capes converting, the try bonus point had been secured.
Mansfield resorted to relieving kicks downfield to ease the pressure but they had not reckoned on Spalding’s full-back Ben Williamson.
Never failing to catch the high ball, he had an open invitation to run the ball back, always beating the first tackle, if not the second, establishing many counter-attacks.
Left-wing George Douglas capitalised as he was on hand and a kick forward followed by a chase saw him collect the ball and run around the defence for his try with Capes converting.
With 80 minutes up, Mansfield had rarely threatened the try line in the second half and with just a dropped goal conceded in the first half, this was an excellent afternoon for Spalding.
Spalding: Waudby, Coupe, Smith, Hudson, Haighton, Piccaver, Bailey, Sharman, B Shields, Adams, Douglas, Ingleby, G Brown, Capes, Williamson. Subs: Berry, Barrett.