Eagles stun Mildenhall Tigers to land KO Cup after thrilling final

The Eastbourne Forman IT Eagles won the National League KO Cup for the fourth successive time on Saturday (October 13).

Eastbourne Eagles celebrate at Arlington
Eastbourne Eagles celebrate at Arlington

They stunned the Mildenhall Fen Tigers in the second leg at Arlington as they clawed back a 14-point deficit from last night’s (October 12) defeat at West Row.

It was a night of drama at Arlington as Eastbourne kept a firm grip on the National League KO Cup.

In the end, they were clear winners on aggregate as they gradually applied more and more pressure to their opponents. Mildenhall have been the stand-out team of the National League this year but Eastbourne’s steady, step-by-step improvement over the season have come to fruition at the right time.

The team refers to this process as ‘the pendulum’ which they believe has been swinging in their direction for some months.

Some will argue the hard rows were hoed last night at West Row in the first leg.

Early doors the home side threatened to run away with the tie but the Eagles dug in and turned a 20-point deficit at one stage to a final defeat in the first leg of ‘only’ 14 points.

It left the tie finely balanced.

Eastbourne didn’t make the most confident of starts tonight but the visitors were in trouble when they lost reserve Sam Bebee and captain Jordan Jenkins in crashes.

And when Eastbourne upped their game, Mildenhall had nothing left in the tank.

Captain Mark Baseby has long said the 2018 Eagles were a work in progress which would be at its best in October when the trophies are handed out.

He said: “The boys were incredible tonight. I knew we could do it. There is a strong belief in our team and we seem to work well under pressure.

“Our top two tonight (Georgie Wood and Tom Brennan) were absolutely incredible. Jason Edwards, Charley Powell and Ethan Spiller were great but what about heat 14 when Brooksie (Charlie Brooks) stepped up to the mark.

“It was an unbelievable team performance, as it was last night.

“Mildenhall thought they were going to have it all. We have nicked one off them.”

Team manager Connor Dugard said: “We were the better team over two legs, simple.

“I was a bit upset when I saw posts on Facebook saying that Eastbourne had thrown it away after the first leg.

“What’s the point of having a two-legged tie if you think it is over after the first leg? It is never over.

“We carried the momentum from those last five heats yesterday (Friday) and I think we can do it again in the league.”

Dugard had high praise for reserve Charley Powell. “He was unreal tonight. I don’t think people realise the pain Charley Powell is suffering from his crash last night. He can barely walk but he still put in a shift in. “This team is absolutely unreal.”

Dugard was delighted that the Eagles had once again landed silverware.

“It is incredible. People have said we are second fiddle to Mildenhall. Yes, they built a good team but clearly Eastbourne built a better one.”

EASTBOURNE 58: Tom Brennan 13+1, Georgie Wood 12+2, Ethan Spiller 9+1, Charlie Brooks 7+3, Mark Baseby 7+1, Jason Edwards 6, Charley Powell 4+2.

MILDENHALL 32: Drew Kemp 13, Josh Bailey 6, Ryan Kinsley 6, Matt Marson 6, Jordan Jenkins 1, Sam Bebee 0, Danny Ayres r/r.

Eastbourne win 96-84 on aggregate.