Injuries forced Eddy Simmons to move in one place to hooker from his customary role of tight-head prop - and it was a move that clearly agreed with him as he racked up three tries in the first 15 minutes; a feat which none of the club’s ‘old timers’ can ever remember happening before.
The first came after just two minutes as the visiting pack pushed Old Northamptonians (ON’s) back at the first scrum which forced a penalty.
Skipper Tim Pritchard, who had a fine afternoon returning from injury, opted for the punt to the corner and from the resultant lineout Simmons drove over.
The conversion was missed but just four minutes later at another lineout, this time it was ON’s throw-in but Simmons stole the ball and barnstormed his way over for his second.
Russ Coleman converted for a 12-0 lead.
Although ON’s were consigned to relegation before this game they were not going to go quietly into the night and after 10 minutes they recorded their first try to make the score 7-12.
Five minutes later and Eddy Simmons struck again. Following several phases of play the ball found its way to him and he despatched two would be tacklers to record a quite remarkable hat-trick after just 15 minutes. Coleman converted which brought the score to 19-7.
By the end of the first quarter Mansfield had recorded their bonus point try as Joe Symcox, emulating Simmons, drove over from a lineout, which Coleman converted.
Three minutes later, following a searing break through the middle by Alan Symcox, the ball was transferred to Tom Lowery, who outsprinted the cover defence to cross the line for another converted try making the score 33-7.
After half-an-hour Ryan Hough got into the action with a try of his own, following a Joe Symcox break out, and Coleman’s conversion recorded an energy-sapping 40-7.
However, it would appear that ON’s had seen enough action and wanted to have some for themselves.
The home full-back was superb all afternoon, together with the scrum half they made ground at every opportunity and they were the catalyst for an excellent second half from the Northamptonshire outfit.
A typical jinking run from the full-back earned the ON’s their second try right on the stroke of half-time and the half finished 40-14.
It’s the period in the season when every squad is suffering from injury issues and players are either carrying niggling injuries or playing out of position to cover for absentees.
Both teams had to contend with these problems and were managing their way through this scenario, so given the circumstances, to their credit; they produced some outstanding running rugby between them.
So much so that ON’s forced their way back into the game so well that they in fact won the second half by a credible 21 points to 15.
Mansfield’s highlights were a formidable front row performance in the shape of Holland, Simmons and Grant and the work rate of Phil Donaldson who was a nuisance to the opposition all afternoon in the loose.
Although a Coleman penalty brought the score to 14-43 and the Mansfield scrum was completely dominant the ON’s scrum half caught the defence napping from a quick tapped penalty to set up a lovely try under the posts after 18 minutes.
Just two minutes later, as a result of the simple things done well, Ryan Hough bagged his brace of tries for the visitors, which Coleman converted and the score stood at 50-21.
The final Mansfield try was a second for Tom Lowery who covered a full 50 metres and with three defenders in front of him, their lack of communication allowed him to continue his sprint straight through the middle of them to touch down and bring Mansfield’s final score to 55 points.
With 15 minutes to go ON’s hadn’t finished and they continued to battle manfully to the end.
Their efforts were rewarded with two more richly deserved tries and a bonus point to round off a thoroughly entertaining afternoon.
Coach Steve Shaw is aware that, although there were indeed moments of excellence throughout the game, concentration lapsed at times and ON’s made them pay for it.
“We know what we are capable of and the boys are keen to end the season on a high,” he said. “We have two tough league games to get through and then two cup finals and we will need to be at our best consistently from here on in.”
After a blank weekend, the next challenge comes from fourth placed Longton this Saturday who inflicted a painful defeat on the Blue & Whites at their ground, a week on Saturday.