LONG (Eaton) TIME COMING
Totton take title after last day success
It didn’t quite go as planned for a nerve struck Totton side, but it all worked out in the end, the Tigers claiming their first league title with a last day victory at out-going champions, Long Eaton. A first home defeat of their SL7 top flight campaign gave rivals Belfast a sniff of a chance of grabbing top spot in the final standings, Halifax sensationally taking all three points from the penultimate round clash at the Testwood after Simon Snow (7) buckled under late pressure, last place finishes from the teenager in heats 13 and 15 contributing to a four point Dukes success. Despite having now lost two league meetings in a row for the first time in SL7, a bonus point at Long Eaton would be enough for Totton, avoiding a defeat of ten or more points at the Rifles now their target. So being six down after heat ten in the final meeting of the season was not the position John Shuttler’s side wanted to be in, plenty of work to do. And it began with Cameron Adam’s (17) tactical substitute appearance in heat 11, flying off gate three the Aussie raced to his third heat win of the meeting, Miksa Mathe (11+2) followed him home for a crucial 5-1. Anders Sten came to the party in the next, the use of gate three again beneficial for the visitors, the Swede quadrupling his points tally for the night with a victory over Federico Sorrentino, Totton had moved to within striking distance. The aggregate bonus—and therefore the league title—was secured by an Adams win in heat 13, Snow (11) won heat 14, with the meeting victory completed with a second Adams/Mathe 5-1 in the decider. The European Cup champions could now say they are the best in Britain too, and deservedly so.
Belfast are the only other side to have won the League and European Cup in the same season, however they achieved that feat twice and added the KO Cup on both occasions for good measure too. Totton were denied that hat-trick and it was Belfast that stopped them in their tracks, the Sinks winners of the KO Cup for a third time—equalling Halifax’s record—after they completed a four point aggregate win over the Tigers in this years final. 12 up from the first leg the Irish side were favourites going into this weeks return at the Testwood, and a 5-1 from the visitors in heat one was just the start they wanted, maximum points handed to them on a plate by a retirement from the lead by Miksa Mathe. Totton fought their way back into contention but disaster would strike in almost identical fashion again, a second blown engine of the night for Mathe seeing a 3-3 turn into another Sinks 5-1 in heat 10, the scores back level, no realistic way back from there for Totton, whose challenge would come to an end two races later.
A third straight GP victory for Erich Lacina saw the Prague and Czech Republic number one become the first rider to win a third World title, and in what style, the 29 year old racing to a maximum on the Warsaw circuit to finish four points clear of Miksa Mathe (2nd), Simon Snow (3rd) and Jiri Sebranek (4th) on the night. Mathe had led the series standings heading into the Polish round, but the Hungarian had to settle for the runners-up spot for the fourth time in his career after defeats to Snow and Sebranek earlier on in the night, before more decisively losing out to Lacina and Ondrej Valis (10) in heat 15 of the contest. Valis—who won the opening round of the series—took the bronze medal, while Snow—the first teenager ever to compete in a GP—finished an impressive fourth overall.
Bradford and Caversham’s fight for the division two title went to the wire with both racing to away wins on the final day of the campaign, and having taking top spot for the first time in SL7 with their earlier 22 point home win over Wavendon, it was Bradford that held on to finish in that position. Just five race points the difference between the two pacesetters in the end, the Speedsters winning at Harringay 42-48 to go up as champions and complete the second tier double, Caversham—leaders for 33 weeks of the campaign—having to settle for second despite a four point win at Wavendon. The Witches brace of losses against the top two saw them slip back into the bottom three, ending their two year spell at this level.
Houston grabbed fourth spot in division one and a place in the European Cup for a record sixth time with a last day 43-47 victory at Cranford, the win continuing the strong end of season form for the Colts—who lost just two of their last 15 league fixtures—and taking them above Long Eaton in the standings. Earlier Heath secured their safety with a 54-36 win over Long Eaton, the result confirming a bottom three finish for Stourbridge, although the demise of Halifax will save them from the drop, the loss of the Dukes to the British League also means Stirling get a reprieve in division two.
Swindon end their first season in the sport having earned promotion to division two, Gareth Glover’s Alleycats securing the bonus point they required for a top three finish in the third tier in their penultimate round meeting at local rivals Buttermere. A first home defeat of the campaign for Herne Bay—43-47 against Blythe—saw them slip below Swindon to finish third in the standings, Leyton meanwhile beat Ferndown 44-46 on the road, but had to settle for fourth.
An end of season double over Stirling completed a first league title win for Totton’s junior side, the Tigers—led by 18 year old Marcus Gill (10.31 jnr)—winning the championship by a point from SL3, 5 and 6 winners, Houston.