Crown Edition - ENHANCED
SAINTS MARCH ON
Third KOC win for Southampton
Southamptonhave made the KO Cup competition their own in recent years with the Saints this week lifting the trophy for the third time in four seasons. On a high from securing the Division Two title days earlier with a home win over Grangemouth, their final opponents Auckland weren’t to be taken lightly, but the task of overturning a 14 point first leg deficit would prove too much for the Rhinos, who were participating at this stage of the competition for the first time in their 26 year history. Southampton have only lost two meetings by a double figure margin in the league this season, that largely due to the performances of their top three of Sergey Guerk (11+1), Goran Seslar (13) and Lee Andersen (5+2), and there weren’t about to let their guard down now, the Saints lead trio racing to seven heat wins in the return leg at the Rosebank. Such was their dominance that the aggregate victory was secured for Southampton by the end of by the end of heat 13, ironically a race in which both Seslar and Guerk were beaten by Jean Zunters (10), they visitors though kept at it to the end, with a victory from reserve Marcus Hays (5) in heat 14 and then a 4-2 from Seslar and Guerk in the last leaving the second leg tied at 45 points apiece, a result which ensured Southampton would finish the season unbeaten in their ten KO Cup fixtures. A draw in the cup was followed by another for Southampton away from home, this time in the league as they extended their unbeaten run in all competitions to seven at Rugby, the points ensuring the Saints would finish as league runners-up in SL26.
Further cause for celebration in the Southampton camp was given by Goran Seslar who became World Champion for the first time after winning the final GP of the campaign in Krakow. And in what style, the 30 year old Slovenian—making his debut in the GP series this season—scoring a maximum 15 in the Polish round to add to his one he scored in winning the Danish GP, that the third WSO event success for the rider in nine meetings, not bad considering he hadn’t one won prior to this season. Andy Daniel finished fourth in Krakow after losing out in a race-off for the minor podium places to Santtu Heikkienen and Tom Countess, his 11 points seeing him finish as runner-up by five points to Seslar, having gone into the meeting just a point adrift of him in the World Championship standings.
While Seslar was cleaning up in Krakow the next generation were fighting it out for the WU21 title in Timperley. This time it was the Brits who showed the way, Halesowen’s Jordan Baker (15) taking the title in a home nation 1-2 from 17 year old sensation Bradley Richards (13), who’ll surely be on the top step on the podium at least once in the next three years. Baker’s win was his sixth of his WSO career, this by far his biggest yet however with his only previous final victory earned in the British Under 19’s a couple of seasons back. Richards won that title this year, as well as three semi finals and the BU21 crown at Cradley, a meeting the Scot took by a point from Baker.
With Sawley losing at Swinton the bonus point for Stone Cross at Furzton was enough to see them promoted to division one with a meeting to spare. Stuart Smith’s side—who won the league title in SL1 and 3—will race at the highest level for the first time since SL8 after finishing runners-up in the division two table. Third went to Grangemouth, a position they sealed with a 51-39 home win over Bullbridge, a vastly quicker return for the Oilers to division one, they having been relegated from the top flight this time last year. Having started the week outside of the relegation zone the result left Bullbridge in ninth spot, below both Cradley in eighth and Wroughton—safe in seventh—on points difference alone. However the closures of both Cricklade and Furzton mean Bullbridge and Cradley will be back in the second tier in SL27.
A shocker for Sunderland in division three who miss out on promotion on points difference after losing both their meetings this week. Needing a point to go up the Stars dropped all three in a 55-35 defeat at Loughbourgh, the Barons securing their own place in the second tier next season as divisional runners-up behind Greenhill with that win. Still Sunderland would have fancied their chances of getting what needed at home against Stepps, but it was not to be, they losing out to the Serpents 44-46, Klaus Kauz (11) the home fans heartbreaker when he won the final heat ahead of Janne Vuorinen (8). Westward Ho—who led the table for two months of the season—snatched the final promotion place from the north-east side with a last day win at Coleshill, Paul Graham’s Warriors fighting back from 12 points down to beat the wooden-spoonists 44-46, scoring three 5-1’s in a five heat spell in the process.