GATE OPEN FOR FINAL RETURN
Rams into Euro last four
Twice winners Ramsgate are back in the semi-finals of the European Cup for the first time in three years. Having lost their last two ties against Horsens—including in the SL19 Final—it proved to be third time lucky against the Danes for Phil Watmough’s side, who progressed into the last four by eight on aggregate. Taking a 16 point lead into the second leg the Rams had been clear favourites to win the first round tie at the halfway stage, however in the return in Denmark it was far from comfortable for the British traveller's, who conceded two 4-2’s and two 5-1’s in the opening six races. Ramsgate had to wait until heat eight to gain their first advantage of the meeting, Watmough’s tactical substitute pairing of Alexander Wagner (17) and Sacha Samarin (14+3) coming up with a timely 5-1. That was backed up by Jacek Wozniak (9) who claimed his first race win of the contest in heat nine and then a good second place finish as a substitute in heat ten. It was imperative that the Rams top three were in good form, because the bottom four just weren’t cutting it on the unfamiliar territory, the visiting second string and reserves beating just one opponent between them in the meeting! A Wagner/Wozniak 4-2 in heat 13 ensured there would be no late drama as far as Ramsgate were concerned, the tie put to bed with two races to spare. On to a seventh semi-final—a record for a British side—in which Kassel await. The Germans are through after beating debutants Manor by 16 over two legs. There was also success for European League sides Pila and Pori, who beat Don Valley and Southampton respectively.
Southampton are set to come out on top in the only all top-flight KO Cup second round tie after winning the first leg at Brighton, 41-49. The Scorpions—finalists four times in the previous six seasons—claimed their advantage after scoring three 5-1’s and a 4-2 in the final four races of The Elms contest, Craig Rowntree (14+2) winning the first two maximums and finishing second to George Farley (17+1) in the third. Denaby also picked up a first leg away win in their ‘last-16’ tie, trailing after the halfway stage of the meeting the Devils beat Bolsover 39-50 at Castle Park, the turning point coming in heat nine when both home riders failed to finish the race. Thomas Davis’s (6) victory in that was the first of seven in a row recorded by visiting riders, three of which were claimed by Zarek Jablonski (15) who went on to score his fourth maximum of the season. His fifth followed in the Devils league win over Brighton.
Ramsgate have extended their advantage over Don Valley at the top of division one to five points with the Vipers dropping their first bonus of the season in their defeat at Manor. For the Rams it was six points out of six in the week, with three returned in a 43-47 victory at bottom side Altrincham. The Panthers suffered their third home defeat of the campaign despite six different riders racing to heat wins for them, picking up a total of ten successes to the Rams five.
Shane Goodwin (11) is just one meeting away from making a return to the GP series after winning his World Championship second round tie in Kassel. The Gateshead and England star topped the standings in Germany by a point from Joe Clark (2nd) and current world number two Rubert Hanka (3rd). Disappointment though for fellow Brit’ Chris Speare (7) who missed out on the required top eight finish, and also for world number four Douglas Fread (2), whose awful year continued with a last place finish in the qualifier. Dunmow’s world number six Eddie Culina (14) won the second of this weeks ties in Kalmar, where George Farley (8) was also amongst the qualifiers.
A first home defeat since relegation for Laceby as they lost out to promotion rivals Merseyside 44-46 at New Station Road. Sebastian Lofstrom (15) completed the victory and his maximum with a last heat win over Bojan Kraka (12), the Marauders going in front in the division two clash for the first time two races earlier when Lofstrom and John Crisp (9+1) had combined for their side’s only 5-1 of the meeting. Laceby remain above Merseyside in the standings however, with the Avenues going on to win at Newquay later in the week. This time Martin Smith’s side were on the right end of a 44-46 score-line, they getting their noses in front thanks to a last heat Vladimir Anyukov (13) winning 4-2. Elsewhere Dunmow and Medeswell picked up away draws over London and Lye respectively, however it could have been so much more, with both conceding 4-2’s to their hosts in heats 14 and 15 of their meetings.
Dudley Wood made it five league wins in a row to top division three. They leapfrog Hertford after winning their top of the table clash at home, 46-44. Earlier they’d beaten West Midland rivals Birmingham 43-47 on their travels, where Michael Bennett top scored with 11.