Head coach Wayne Robinson spoke of his delight after a blistering first-half performance by Mansfield gave newly-crowned champions Long Eaton a scare.
Long Eaton, who have won 21 of their 23 matches so far this term in the Midlands 3 East (North) division of the National League, eventually triumphed 40-33.
But not before Mansfield had racked up 30 points, four tries and a bonus point in an opening half that was a fitting way to round off their league campaign.
Robinson beamed: “What a start! I was so pleased that the lads took the game to them.
“We had a difficult time at their place in the first match of the season, but this performance showed how far we have come since September.”
Long Eaton are not champions by accident. They are a youthful side, full of zest and invention. But Mansfield got off to the best possible start by taking the lead from a Harry Brough penalty after just three minutes.
Five minutes later, scrum-half Tarry Davies, veteran of 20 years of first-team rugby, dived over for his side’s first try, and although the visitors replied with a try of their own, it was soon 15-7 to the blue-and-whites as prop Jordan Flynn sprinted 30 metres to dot under the posts after terrific work by Bobby Ogunode.
Again, Long Eaton hit back with a try stemming from guile and wizardry by their speedy backs. But the hosts’ lead was extended by another Brough penalty, followed by a superb try from winger Zane Chiapetta, who went over in the corner after a slick offload from Ogunode.
As the 30-minute mark appoached, Adam Rowbottom pounced to score Mansfield’s fourth try and the conversion from Brough brought the score to 30-14, leaving Long Eaton in no doubt that they would have to dig very deep to avoid a rare defeat.
To their credit, they did just that, reducing the deficit to nine points by the interval and then to four points early in the second half.
Mansfield held on to their lead for well over an hour and it was only in the final 11 minutes that Long Eaton finally managed to get on top with a couple of matchwinning tries.
Every home man played his part in the performance. The pack had dominance in the scrum, with Darren Matrshall, Ian Coleman and Flynn outstanding, while the lineout functioned perfectly, led by stalwart Lee Kirk, with Will Smith and Phil Pogmore imperious and John Rasker, at number eight, enjoying his best game in a Mansfield shirt. But special mention must go to man-of-the-match Rob Marsden, who capped his first full year in the game.
Mansfield finish the season in a highly creditable third place, albeit 39 points behind top dogs Long Eaton, and now hope to top it off with silverware when they take on Ashfield in the final of the Notts Intermediate Cup at the Lady Bay ground home of Nottingham Rugby Club on Saturday, May 5 (kick-off 3 pm).