Champions! Ely Tigers top the table thanks to final day Thetford triumph

Ely Tigers celebrate their title success. Photo: Steve Wells

Ely Tigers celebrate their title success. Photo: Steve Wells - Credit: Archant

Ely Tigers were crowned champions of the Eastern Counties Division One on the final day of their campaign thanks to a 44-24 triumph over Thetford.

Having all-but secured their status as champions, the Tigers knew a win against their Norfolk rivals would be enough to seal their passage into the London Three North-East division as winners, and they got off to the best possible start after Scott MacFarlane surged over the try-line following some smart work from Lloyd Palmer, who pinched the ball from a Thetford lineout. Joel Scott Paul was on hand to add the extras, and Ely looked set to secure a dominant victory.

Ely’s strong start was made even better soon after when a piece of quick thinking from Matt McCarthy saw him exploit the Thetford defence to crash over for a second try. John Dibb added a third try after some superb Tigers interplay, lead by star man Mitchell Kennett, who worked wonders in the Ely second row all afternoon.

Some sloppy play from the hosts was seized upon by Thetford shortly after, with the visitors running in a try of their own to reduce the arrears and show that the Tigers’ final game of the season wouldn’t be a walk in the park.

Unfazed by Thetford pegging them back, the Tigers mounted another attack, and soon found a fourth try of the afternoon through Sam Benzie, who darted through the Thetford defence to touch down.

Ricky Neale soon caught Thetford napping, and added a final try of the half after controlling a Tigers maul.

Perhaps sensing the job was done, the Tigers took their foot off the gas in the second period and allowed Thetford to run in three tries – all from quick-tap penalties.

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Conceding three tries in quick succession gave Ely a kick, and they responded with another try from Neale, who dotted down after a strong rolling maul, which Thetford simply couldn’t handle.

With time running out, Ely made sure of the victory and their status as league champions thanks to Nathan Brooks’ individual effort and a final try of the season for Kennett.

The Tigers will return to the London North-East Three division for their next league campaign, where they could face Wisbech, after the Fen side moved into second in the league standings thanks to a 22-12 victory over promotion rivals Wymondham.