Rifles unbeaten run continues
Tottonare facing the biggest challenge yet to their two year reign as league champions, with Long Eaton gunning to regain the crown they won in SL6, the Rifles 55-34 victory over the Tigers this week extending their unbeaten run in all competitions to ten. The margin of success was their biggest yet in their 29 competitive fixtures with Totton, Federico Sorrentino (14), Ondrej Valis (13+1) and Adam Lucas (10+1) all beaten just once as they smashed their previous best victory against the Tigers, a 50-40 Division One Cup first round win early on in SL7. Long Eaton’s record breaking win has taken them to within points difference of Totton at the top of the division one standings, they now have two more wins than their rivals in the league in SL9, with six on the road compared to the Tigers three. Their sixth was earned Caversham at the start of the week, where a last heat Sorrentino (14+1)/Lucas (14+1) 5-1 secured a 42-48 win for the visitors at a track they have now won at three times this year, in all the visitors claimed 13 of the 15 race wins in the meeting, including in heat 12 when Jiri Sebrank (8+1) was gifted the three points by a crucial Duncan Jordan retirement, a Rifles 4-2 in that taking Martin Smith’s side in front for the first time in the clash. In-between their two league meetings Long Eaton recorded wins in both the European and Division One Cups, in beating Totton 49-41 in the first leg of the final of the former they have giving themselves every chance of landing that trophy for the first time next week, while a Lucas (12) inspired 42-48 victory at Brookwood eased the club through to the final of the Division One Cup, in which again they will take on Totton for the silverware.
The rivalry of a generation continued in Oslo where Adam Lucas (14) and Harry Nicholls (13) battled it out for the WU21 title, this was no test of endurance though, it just a display of some fantastic racing by a pair of riders already at the top of the sport despite still being in their teens. In beating title hopeful Klement Flora (12) in heat one Lucas banished thoughts that this years experience could be a repeat of SL8, in which the Long Eaton man finished down in 13th spot in the final, the victory over the Slovak the first of three straight on the night, the third decisively coming against Nicholls in heat 12. Off gate two Lucas got his rival coming around the first bend, Nicholls squeezed for room on the inside having been outpaced by his fellow Brit. Nicholls went as wide as he dared on the spacious Oslo circuit to pick up speed, but attempts to pass Lucas ended in failure, the title he won in SL8 now Lucas’s to lose. Nicholls was handed the opportunity to fight back by Lucas, who was beaten by Kapolcs Vancura (10) in heat 16, however Nicholls fluffed his lines in heat 19, a poor gate leaving him last around the first corner, two passes saw him claim second, however Lucas went on to win the last and take the title by a point.
A second 44-46 league win in two seasons at Cranford has taken Epping to within four points of safety in the top flight, the clash of the two promoted clubs going the way of the Stags after Antony Davey (7+1) and reserve Peter Brodnik (7+1) answered a Yellowjackets heat 13 5-1 with one of their own in the penultimate race of the meeting. Jeremy Hyatt (11) went on to secure both league points for the visitors by inflicting Mikhail Markowski’s (13) first defeat of the night in the last, Hyatt’s two points for second spot turning a certain draw for Epping into a second away league win of SL9.
Leaders Sedgley were the only side in division two to pick up an away point this week, a draw at bottom side Herne Bay good enough to extend their advantage over Houston at the top to seven points. A successful week for the Sprites who also made it through to the final of the Division Two Cup following a 51-39 semi final win over Wavendon, their first final in any version of the competition will be against Herne Bay, who surprisingly saw off Houston by 16 points, their comfortable victory completed with a 55-35 home win over the Colts in which second string Glenn Fitzgerald (9) raced to two heat wins.
The final of the Division Three Cup will feature newcomers Shetland and Stoke, unsurprising the latter completing a last four win over Stirling this week having won in Scotland last, second string Martin Herzberg (10+1) one of four riders paid for double figure scores for them as they won the return 51-39 at home. Shetland meanwhile successfully defended their 14 point first leg advantage at Buxton, the Bees challenge over as early as heat 12 of the return, in which reserve Kenneth Skinner (7+1) won a second 5-1 of the night for the Ponies. In the league a 43-47 victory at Ferndown saw Stepps close to within three points of the promotion places, Liam Thomas scoring an 18 point maximum for the Angels, who had trailed their hosts by eight early on in the clash.