Crown Edition - ENHANCED
ROYALS CROWN SLIPS
Rugby set for second tier return
Champions as recently as SL22, Rugby fans are already getting used to the idea of division two racing once again, they end the week 12 points adrift of safety having won just one of their last 11 in the league. Leaders Southampton were the latest side to visit Rowan Arch and come away with the points, and with their championship rivals Eastbourne next up there, the fixture list isn’t getting any easier soon for David Grainger’s side. Rugby certainly had their chances against the Saints, early on going eight points up thanks to back-to-back 5-1’s, Tom Parsons (7+2)—back at reserve following the £62,000 arrival of Craig Martin (2)—winning the first of those in heat two, Ricky Lewis (14) the second. The problem for the hosts though was that only one other rider would win a race for them on the night, in fact Gareth Kitchen’s success in heat four was the last by any Royal bar Lewis for the remainder of the meeting. Heat seven saw the momentum switch decisively to the visitors, Lee Andersen (9) and Darryl Skingsley (6+1) presented with the points by Kitchen and Janis Vanin, the former falling on the opening lap, while the latter’s primary chain broke on entering the second lap, resulting in a Southampton 5-0. When you have the likes of Sergey Guerk (15) and Goran Seslar (10+1) against you, you don’t want to be gifting your opponents back-up riders points, and it was Guerk and Seslar that would complete the job, 4-2’s from the pairing in heats 13 and 15 securing the Saints—who end the week three points clear at the top—their fifth away win of the campaign.
A run of four league victories has taken Wimbledon to their highest position of the season, they up to fifth following wins over two sides below them in the standings this week. Those successes included a last gasp 44-46 victory at Grangemouth, Pazman Sabados leading home Roman Saenko (14+1) for a points clinching heat 15 5-1, the young Hungarian finishing with season best figures of 14 from five, and proving that he his capable of taking on a lead role in the Stars side as the influence of Saenko and Ari Vento (10+1) declines. Despite the defeat—the club’s second at home this season—and later loss at Lyme Bay, the seventh placed Oilers remain ten points clear of the drop zone and look capable of extending their run in the top flight to a club best second campaign, they having been relegated on their previous two season’s (SL14, SL22) at the highest level.
A 44-46 win at Purton earned Coleshill top spot in the Division Two Cup first round group and a place in the semi finals of the competition, a heat 14 Thomas Petter Gjesdal (7)/Matthew Daniels (8+1) 5-1 taking Andy Harvey’s side through to the knock out stages, where they’ll face holders Cricklade. The Crocs finished second to Lakeside in Group A, the Aces topping the standings following an 18 point home win over Sunderland in their final first round fixture, next up for Trevor Walker’s side is a tasty looking semi final tie with Bullbridge.
Lakeside have dropped out of the promotion places in division two for the first time in three months, a 20 point defeat at Stone Cross—in which the host’s Zoran Pekala (15) scored his first maximum since the Crusaders beat the Aces in the opening week of the campaign—slip behind Cricklade in the standings, who were winning at Cradley, 43-47. Just six heat wins required for the Crocs to earn their second away win of the campaign, the points secured with the minor places in heat 14. Elsewhere Timperley extended their advantage at the top of the table to three points with a 40-50 win at Sunderland, the success was their tenth in a row in the league, which along with their earlier 32 point home win over Cradley beats a club record eight successive wins set in SL18. Coleshill meanwhile followed up their cup success with a 44-46 win at Sawley, a heat 13 4-2 won by David Lee (11) good enough to earn the points which sees them end the week off the bottom of the standings for the first time in a month.
Leaders Wroughton made it seven unbeaten in division three with a 44-46 victory at Rochdale, the points going their way despite having found themselves 10-2 down after the first two races. A reversal of fortunes for the two sides though in the Division Three Cup, Wroughton out after losing at Loughborough, the Hornets through as Group A winners following their home success over Preston, they face Birkenhead next, Group B winners Loughborough will take on Harringay, who qualified through thanks to a 41-49 win at Wolverton.
World Champion Sergey Guerk (9) will lead the 16 strong field in this years GP series, he one of seven qualifiers from this weeks Play Off round ridden on his own Southampton circuit. The Russian had done enough to go through prior to a heat 19 exclusion which left him in a race-off for third, which he lost to Tepi Harju. Harju will represent Auckland in the eight meeting series, the 34 year old having since transferred to the Rhinos from Pori in a £165,000 deal. Klaus Bonhof took the meeting win with a 15 point maximum, the success only the fourth in a WSO event for the Loughborough and German star and is one which sees the 34 year old return to the GP’s—in which he ridden in 23 without success—for the first time since SL20. His Barons team mate Stephen Jennison (8) finished the night with two wins to claim a GP berth by a point and become the third British rider in this years series.