Rugby side shows great talent
Mildenhall Eagles 17, Dereham 32
Dereham travelled for a first competitive fixture with league newcomers Mildenhall Eagles and left with maximum points, having ruffled a few Suffolk feathers along the way.
The Suffolk side, formed three years ago, boasts some experienced players from Newmarket and a potent attacking flair converted from American football and hailing from the nearby air base.
On a compact and bumpy pitch Dereham made the wise decision of playing a tight game to create space for their own pace men. Having much the better of the early exchanges, the first points were claimed by Marcus Evans from a penalty, quickly followed by a solo try from Jack Edwards who broke through Mildenhall's rush defence to show a clean pair of heels to the left of the posts.
Dereham inexplicably sat back and allowed the Eagles straight back into the game. First they failed to bring down Mildenhall's elusive winger as he cut across field before straightening and accelerating under the posts. Then through some more weak defence the home side broke down the left wing and went into a two-point lead.
Evans clawed the advantage back with a penalty only to see the lead change hands again through powerful running off the back of a Mildenhall ruck which produced the third home try. Dereham rallied before the break when Ruddy Gant picked up the ball from 20 metres and cut inside for a converted score for Dereham to lead 18-17 at half-time.
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The Suffolk side came straight back at Dereham, going desperately close to scoring twice in quick succession.
There was need to tighten the game up and Brooks made three quick substitutions for Dereham, bringing on Sean Murphy, Carl and Tom Edwards. Dereham turned the screw up front, causing Mildenhall real problems at the scrum and with the short driving game. It brought the visitors close to the home try line where a quick penalty found Gant in space for his second try and the first hint of daylight between the sides since the early part of the game.
Fish and Chester were bringing the Dereham defence up flat and Mildenhall were reduced largely to lateral running and speculative kicks into space. Lewis Rayner, Chris Bessent and Tom Edwards dealt effectively with the occasional break from deep, but the tide had turned.
Evans kicked Dereham into an attacking line-out position from which Dan Ponder collected cleanly, Lewis Smith turned the driving maul back in field and Carl Edwards dived over from short range to seal the win.
Dereham's captain Andy Brooks was pleased with the win. 'This was a better team performance and a valuable win away from home. We picked a good game plan and had the character to recover from a bad wobble before half-time.
'That makes it two wins from three in the league, but we know we face a really tough fixture in a fortnight when we face Ipswich. They are top of the league and scoring freely. We'll have to raise our game again, but the team has the talent to do it.'