SCORPIONS COME UP SHORT, AGAIN
Vipers clean sweep bid goes on
Don Valleyare into the final of the European Cup for the first time since their SL10 defeat to Malmo, a win in the SL17 renewal will see the Vipers become only the third club to complete a clean sweep of team honours. Despite their success on the domestic front, the club’s European record has been a poor one, in a decade of competition they managed just four tie wins. Their luck has turned in SL17, with two crucial retirements from visiting side Southampton sending Matt Akers side through to the two legged decider 91-89 this week, the second straight such success over the Scorpions in knock out competition—their SL13 KO Cup quarter final victory secured by the same margin—and their fourth in a row. Eight down from the first leg it took all 15 heats of the return for Don Valley to get their noses in front, their cause aided by an ignition failure for Craig Rowntree in heat 13, and then a further retirement from George Farley a race later when on he was on for a match winning third place, a broken chain handing Damian Church a point and the Vipers a lifeline. Give Don Valley a second chance at your peril, Iain Johnson (12+1) and Liam Malow (11+1) eagerly grabbed the baton, a heat 15 5-1 the result of a robust first corner from the home top scorers, Paul Adams left with little room coming out of turn one by the pair and once they were in front, there was not catching them. Don Valley will take on holders Ramsgate for the silverware, the Rams, who beat Quantock home and away in last years final, doing likewise in the semi final stage this time around, a 59-31 home win taking them through by 34!
If in search of away points there’s no place Don Valley would rather go than The Lair, home of Dunmow. Their last seven competitive meetings there prior to this week have all ended in victory for the Vipers, so it was no surprise when they made it eight in a row. A last heat Iain Johnson (14) winning 4-2 sealed the seemingly inevitable victory for the visitors, which coupled with a loss for previous leaders Ramsgate at Southampton, 49-41, sent Don Valley two points clear at the top of the division one standings. Southampton remain four points off the pace in third, the top three breaking clear of the pack thanks to their 41-49 win at then fourth placed Sankey. After conceding a six point lead to their hosts in the first four races, the Scorpions recovered quickly to lead by six themselves at the halfway point, 5-1’s in heats five and eight sandwiching a couple of 4-2’s, with all seven of their riders involved in the dominant spell. They though had to wait until the last to secure what was their third away win of the campaign, Craig Rowntree (12+1) and Paul Adams (12+1) going overboard by claiming the side’s third 5-1 of the night. Sankey bounced back from what was their second home defeat in four to pick up a point on their visit to Barking, a point that didn’t look like coming after they went eight down after heat three. A run of four 4-2’s in six heats got the visitors back in contention—two of which were won by David Mulrain (14)—before Mularin claimed his fourth win of the night in a last heat 5-1 alongside Simon Driffield (15+1).
BU21 champion Mark Boyle (5) will be a surprise absentee from this years World Under 21 Final line-up, the Exeter second string failing to win a race in his qualifier in Richmond. It was a more profitable trip to the American east coast for fellow Brits Kieron King (10) and in particular Southampton’s George Farley (12), the two teenagers easing through to next months decider in Oslo, Farley as meeting winner. Farley’s second WSO success of the season—and career—was confirmed with a race–off win over Cradley’s Pavel Cisar, defending WU21 Champion Valeri Lach finished a point behind the pair in third. More British success in the second of the semi finals at Quantock, where home track rider Craig Willoughby topped the standings with 13 points, compatriots Kieran Riley (12) and Jack Maynard (9) made it through from third and sixth spots respectively.
Division Two leaders Cradley Heath lost for the first time at home in nearly 18 months, a run of 33 unbeaten at the Dudley Wood Arena brought to an end by Exeter, who took the points in the league fixture 43-47 after Graham Hancock (12+1) and Maik Walbrohl (11+1) brought the meeting to a close with the minor places in the last. It wasn’t a good week for the top two, with Jericho also losing at home, they doing so for the second time in three weeks after David Osborne (14) completed a deserved 44-46 victory for Laceby with a heat 15 second place finish, the Avenues had led the meeting for all but two heats. They remain fourth in the standings, but now just a point off the promotion places, Exeter stay fifth but make up no ground, as they’d earlier lost at home to in-form St Peters, who made it two away wins on the bounce with a 40-50 victory in the south-east.