League priority as Euro hopes end
Belfasthave doubled down on their title bid after hopes of a fourth European Cup victory evaporated in Finland. After completing a competition record 109-71 victory over Totton in the semi-finals, Pori deservedly took the silverware they craved most with a firecracker of a finish to this years final on home shale. Last years runners-up trailed by four with four heats remaining of the tie, however undaunted by the task they hit top gear to pulverise the Irish opposition, scoring three 5-1’s in those remaining races to claim an aggregate win by six. The hosts reserves played a big part in the success, Rudolf Melis (10) had already won three races prior to his partner turning up in heat 12 to beat Sinks top scorer Jordan Day (11+1), Odo Birky finishing second to teenager Igor Hovda (8) to earn his side the first of those late maximums. The second came in heat 13 with Durko Karban (15) taking his fourth of five victories in the meeting, the double world champion’s fifth came in a last heat decider as he and his team mate fellow GP star Sven Roth (10+2) all too easily dispatched the Day/Stephan Beck (9+1) partnership. Runners-up for the Sinks for the second time in four years, the knowledge that that is the best performance by any British League side in the competition over that time will have to do for now. In the league the hope they’d given their rivals of a late season capitulation was wiped out by a double success, the first of which was returned at Alfreton, where Jan Tomanek (13+1) and Beck (12+1) completed a 41-49 victory with heat 13 and 15 5-1’s. A win at Long Eaton for the Sinks next week could all but end this season’s title race.
Caversham lost the chance to secure promotion from division two with a record eight rounds of racing to spare after their unbeaten run came to an end at Stourbridge. The 46-44 loss at the Scorpions was their first in 11 league meetings and followed an earlier draw in their top of the table clash against Hallamshire, the visitors becoming the first to take a point at Kings Meadow in SL13 thanks to a last heat Vadim Kozel (15+1) winning 4-2. Both sides will complete the formality of earning a spot in the top flight over the next few weeks, with Hallamshire themselves—now on an unbeaten run of nine—currently some 18 points better off than Stirling with 24 left to ride for. The battle for third though is still wide open, with sides down to Solihull—currently in the relegation zone—in contention for the final promotion place. Shetland were the big winners in that race this week, they closing to within two points of the top three with a 42-48 victory at Harringay, who are now on a winless run of nine.
Caversham (114) will fly the flag for the lower divisions in the final of the 4TT after finishing as the highest scoring runners-up in this weeks second round ties. The Swans—who have never reached the final before—just missed out on top spot in Group B to holders Heath (116), who overturned a 16 point deficit to win the tie in the final leg. Earlier Caversham had won their opening home meeting plus the leg at Balham, in which both Isakov Pavel (11) and Garry Gould (10) contributed double figure scores. After missing out on the final at this stage last season, Belfast (118) take their place in the last four for the sixth time in seven seasons after winning Group A. The Sinks go into the final as slight favourites after dispatching top flight duo Hallamshire (100) and Bradford (88) with wins in the final two legs of their latest qualifier, including at the Titanic where Stephan Beck (12) and Kende Kantor (12) maximums helped them equal Wavendon’s best of 42 in a single meeting of the SL13 competition. The final line-up is completed by last years runners-up Houston (117), having opened Group C with a win at Stourbridge the Colts went on to take a commanding lead in the tie with victory on home shale, however Stirling (111) made them work hard for the success, one only achieved with a good second place finish to hosts Sedgley in leg four.
At 33 it was a long awaited GP debut but one to remember for Tardos Rakoczy (15) who scored a maximum to win the Swedish round in Malmo. Home track advantage certainly helped the Hungarian, who sealed his success with a heat 17 win over Totton star, Simon Snow (11). Snow would finish fifth on the night after losing out in a race-off for the minor podium positions to fellow Brit’s Garry Gould (2nd) and Julian Harrison (3rd), plus Czech youngster Jan Tomanek (4th). Rakoczy was signed by Harringay in pre-season of SL12, but was later released by the club without riding a competitive fixture for them.
Chesterfield still lead the way in division three despite dropping a point at home for the third time in the campaign. Their meeting with Bournville finished all-square after a last heat Coyotes 4-2. Kevin Lilley’s side went on to win at bottom side Ernsford Grange, 42-48, thanks to a final race 5-1.