Kent fans were treated to an extraordinary game of rugby league as the London Broncos played the first of two matches in Ebbsfleet.
Broncos reversed a 28-point half-time deficit to beat Sheffield Eagles 36-28 at Ebbsfleet United’s Kuflink Stadium.
The win, believed to be rugby league’s biggest deficit reversal this millennium, was inspired by six tries within 33 minutes and as many successful conversions by Kent-born man-of-the-moment Oli Leyland.
The result was made even more special owing to the Broncos’ first appearance in Kent since 2013 while routine pitch maintenance is carried out at the Cherry Red Records Stadium in Wimbledon.
Hundreds of new fans and schoolchildren, who received complimentary tickets to the game, enjoyed the remarkable turnaround from pitch side.
And Broncos’ interim head coach Mike Eccles hopes to see everyone back in their seats this Sunday when the Broncos host promotion hopefuls Featherstone Rovers at the Kuflink Stadium for a second time in as many weeks.
“It was the perfect advert for rugby league, and a fantastic introduction to our first-time supporters who may never have watched the sport before,” said Eccles.
“Connecting more people living in the southeast with rugby league forms part of our long-term objective at London Broncos.
“To have local lad Oli Leyland play an important role in our result meant so much to him and I know plenty of youngsters who enjoyed a coaching session with Oli building up to kick-off enjoyed watching him kick six successful conversions.
“This Sunday is a new challenge, though, and our attention will immediately shift to Featherstone.
“It’s another important game for us and we’ll need the backing from our fantastic fanbase again which really helped get us over the line against Sheffield.”
The triumph against Sheffield marked the Broncos’ third Betfred Championship win this season and moved the squad to within two points of 11th-placed Whitehaven.
Eccles praised the character and willingness of his squad at full-time and described the rollercoaster fixture and result as a proud day for the club.
“It was what I would describe as a proper London Broncos performance,” said Eccles.
“Sheffield played really well in the first half, but we embarrassed ourselves and after making great strides away from home in recent weeks it was disappointing for the team, the club and everyone in attendance.
“Although it required breaking records we never knew existed at the time, we asked the squad to realise the game was not out of our reach at half-time. I know the capabilities of this squad, and my team and I never stopped believing in our chances of getting a result.
“It was an unbelievable team effort and I’m proud of every single one of them.”
Kick-off at Stonebridge Road this Sunday against Featherstone Rovers in the Betfred Championship is at 3pm.