Crown Edition - ENHANCED
Leaders suffer shock exit
Aucklandare into their first ever KO Cup final after 26 years of competing for the trophy. The founder members of the league have reached the semi finals on five separate occasions, but it wasn’t until their victory over Lyme Bay this week that they managed to win one of those last four ties, the Rhinos completing a four point aggregate success over the runaway league leaders with 5-1’s in both the final two races at the Rosebank. Lyme Bay looked comfortable in defending their eight point advantage from the first leg right up until the closing stages, they providing six of the first eight heat winners and three of the next six to lead by four on aggregate heading into heat 14. The top three had done their job, now it was up to the back up riders to finish the task. Alex Lowe and William Connor lined up in heat 14 with little confidence of success, combined their previous six outings to the track had providing their side with just a single point, and that form was repeated in the penultimate race as Robert Austin (8) and Kevin Hatch (6+2) picked up the easiest of 5-1’s for the hosts. Suddenly the scores were level. Still with Mario Mueler (11) and Morten Kaya (10) to come in the last the Buccaneers fans weren’t unduly worried, after all their record against Jean Zuntners (10+1) was 3-0 in their favour. Zuntners though would break that run of defeats, and decisively so, joining the unbeaten Erkki Arponen (14+1) at the front coming out of the second bend, some great team riding followed for another 5-1, Auckland winners by four, they were in the final.
Auckland are joined in the KO Cup final by Southampton who completed a 12 point last four win over second division side Stone Cross this week. A draw in the return leg at Boswell Gardens taking the Scorpions through to their third final in four years, they won their previous two in SL23 and 24 and will be favourites to make it three and move second on the all time winners list to Wimbledon (five) when they take on the Rhinos.
Champions-elect territory now for Lyme Bay who moved to within four points of securing their first league title since their maiden victory in SL17 with home and away wins. Maximum points again for the Buccaneers who extended their winning league run to five with a 44-46 victory at Wimbledon before making it six in a row at home to Harringay, 50-40. A handy paid eight on debut from new second string Luca Romano wasn’t enough to prevent a second home defeat for the Stars against the league leaders this season, Wimbledon led from heat two until the end of heat 15, Darren Corbett (14) and Morten Kaya (14+1) snatching the points for the visitors with a last heat 5-1.
Their league crown maybe slipping but Timperley look set to be back in Europe next season after consolidating their place in the top three with a third away top flight win of the campaign. That was returned at Eastbourne, 43-47, despite coming up against Darren Vernon (12) at reserve who picked up three race wins for the Hyenas. The rest of the hosts’ side though managed just two wins between them as the Titans top four led by Akos Fekete (15) dominated, especially in the closing stages when two 5-1’s and two 4-2’s in the space of five heats saw a 12 point turnaround in the scores in favour of visitors. Timperley end the week second, 15 points off the leaders but one ahead of Southampton who beat Haleswoen 44-46 on the road this week, Birkenhead lie fourth still some nine points of the Titans despite their 43-47 win at Eastbourne this week.
All change in the division two promotion race with Stone Cross moving up to third and Sawley down to fourth after a six point swing between the two sides this week. A 42-48 victory at Purton saw the Crusaders take their place in the top three for the first time this season, 18 year old Jamie Dixon’s heat two 5-1 alongside Danny Hodgson setting them on their way to what was the club’s fifth away win of the campaign, Dixon’s score of paid nine was his best in his career to date, a career which has seen him appear in 54 consecutive league meetings for the Crusaders since making his debut a third of the way through last season. Sawley meanwhile lost at home to Bullbridge, 43-47, the Bandits were ninth just four meetings ago but now lie just three points off the promotion places themselves.
Loughborough are back in the promotion places in division three after they won at Bolsover 41-48, while their number one Andy Daniel is firmly back in the World Championship after he made up three points on GP series leader Goran Seslar. Daniel (13) missed out on the Czech win, but only after a race-off defeat to Eastbourne’s Tom Coutness in Prague, Zoran Pekala (10) of Furzton finished third after winning a four rider race-off in which Seslar finished as runner-up.