Strickland stars on debut for Thetford Rugby Club at Mildenhall

Mildenhall 10 Thetford 35

Thetford stumbled to victory in a hard fought derby at Mildenhall to stay top of Eastern Counties Division Two.

With new star Michael Stickland joining the squad and the return of Tony Watson it was thought this would be a standard day at the office for the leaders. But a blistering start by Mildenhall let them know they were in a game. Even after captain Liam Burnell kicked an early penalty to put Thetford in front it was still Mildenhall making all the yards.

After some sustained pressure from Mildenhall they were rewarded with a well earned try when they dissected the Thetford defence to score under the posts. They missed the conversion.

Thetford went back to basics to pin the home side back. After some excellent work in the tight, the forwards went on a roll into the Mildenhall 22, from where Jason Lumbard picked up from the back of the maul and charged over to score a converted try.

From the restart Thetford were caught napping and Mildenhall shipped the ball outwide to scored in the corner.

Burnell read the riot act under the posts and Thetford responded immediately. Martin Sands blasted over with his trademark brute strength and guile to put Thetford back on top with another converted and they led 17-10 at the interval.

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In the second half they moved up a gear to get the result needed.

Damian Smith-Taylor got on the score sheet after a well-worked backs move. Burnell and Tony Watson both kicked penalties to add to the tally and with the last play of the game, Roger Cash capped a wonderfull performance at No 8 with a try from well orchestrated back row move which left him one on one with the Mildenhall No10.

“This was a potential banana skin for us and half way through the first half it didn’t look good for us,” said Burnell. “I’m just glad the lads fronted up in the second half.”

Stickland was man of the match after coming on as a substitute winger and making two try saving tackles.