BRITS STING EURO LEAGUE FLOPS
home nation quartet into semi finals
A revamp of the European Cup is back on the agenda following another season of domination by the British clubs in the first round of the competition, the quartet representing the UK taking the semi final places for the second successive season and the third time in four years. Holders Belfast will take on Totton in the pick of the last four ties, that a repeat of last years final meanwhile SL7 defeated finalists Long Eaton will face first time semi finalists Heath over two legs in the other. Heath were the only one of the four to lose a first round leg, and that defeat in Gyor was only by a single point, the Hungarians consolation aided by a heat 14 5-1 in which former Spitfire Odon Mathai (12+2) finished second to Enrico Schmitt, the visitors had wrapped up their aggregate victory a race earlier with a Olcay Fugleberg (15) winning 4-2. Totton had booked their pace in the last four for a fifth successive season as early as the end of heat nine of their second leg clash in Horsens, the Tigers went on to complete a 77-103 aggregate victory over the Danes, the second biggest in the history of the competition. For Long Eaton and Belfast their margin of first round success was limited to 16 points, the Rifles eliminating Prague from the competition for the third successive season following a draw in the Czech capital this week, while Belfast went through against Malmo following a 44-46 win on the road. Belfast’s victory was their third in a row away to a European League side, the latest completed by a last heat 5-1 in which busy guest rider Adam Lucas (15) completed his maximum, he’d scored paid 13 the evening before in Horsens for his contracted club.
Just five heat wins were enough to see Totton to victory in the first leg of their KOC second round tie with Belfast, the visitors winning the seventh meeting between the two sides in the competition, 44-46. With 11 of the 15 races ending 3-3 the victories in a heat two 5-1 for Marcus Gill (7+3) and that in a 4-2 from Simon Snow (10) in heat 14 were enough to give John Shuttler’s side the advantage heading into next weeks return. One top flight side is certain to exit and another two look set to follow following the first leg results, with Bradford held to a home draw by Swindon and Hallamshire going down 54-36 at Alfreton. A great team performance saw the Archers record their biggest ever meeting win in the competition, their top six scoring at least a point in all but one of their combined 27 outings to the track against the Sheffield based side, second strings Kieran Granthan (8+2) and Stephen Churchill (6+3) looking especially at ease against the visitors, they picked up a second place apiece against a visiting heat leader in successive heat nine and ten 5-1’s, while Grantham won the fourth home side maximum of the night in heat 14. Reserve Vanya Golub (8+3) meanwhile impressed for Swindon in their draw at Bradford, a result which leaves the Alleycats favourites to make it through to the quarter finals for the first time.
At just 19 years of age Harry Nicholls became the youngest British Champion ever in Bradford this week, the Brookwood teen scoring 14 to top a youthful podium. His Scorpions team mate Terence Slater played a part in securing the SL8 WU21 and 19 Champion his eighth WSO title, with the recent Brookwood addition defeating Russell Watts (13) in heat 20, which meant the SL6 winner had to settle for the runners-up spot this time around. Simon Snow (11) finished third for the second year in succession. Over in Pila a rider over double the age of Nicholls was riding to the Polish national crown, Epping’s Jacek Sokoloski (13) winning the meeting for the fourth time in his career.
Not much joy for Jacek Sokoloski (7) on the club front, with his Epping side without a league win in nine following a 44-46 home defeat to Heath in their latest top flight fixture. The Spitfires racing to their second away win of the campaign after fighting back from a six point deficit at the halfway point of the clash, Daniel Williams (15+1) and Olcay Fugleberg (14+1) adding to their 5-1’s in heats nine and 13 with a match winning 4-2 in the last.
Swindon extended their unbeaten run to five after following up their great cup result in Bradford by winning their latest division two fixture at Ernsford Grange, 44-46. Kenneth Flaa (13) and Martin Fors (11+1) secured Gareth Glover’s Alleycats their first away win of SL9 with a last heat 5-1 in a meeting they hadn’t led in until that point, while reserve Vanya Golub (10+1) again made a more than useful contribution at reserve. Swindon remain in the promotion places, albeit still six points adrift of leaders Sedgley who made if fours wins out of five on the road with a 43-47 victory at Milton Keynes, a last heat Shaun Talbot (17) wining 5-1 confirming the win in a meeting they had trailed in by 12!