RIFLES SET SIGHTS ON EURO REVENGE
Long Eaton to meet Totton in final
The eighth successive all-British European Cup final will see Long Eaton take on Totton in a repeat of the SL7 decider, the Tigers emphatic winners of that tie, they beating the east midlands outfit home and away. Long Eaton are now a much more resilient team than the one that lost out to the Tigers two years ago, of that losing septet only Ondrej Valis (9+1) and Federico Sorrentino (8+1) remain, and such has been the improvement in standard of riders at the Perksdome both have been pushed down the pecking order. Adam Lucas (12+1) and Jiri Sebranek (12+1) are the current lead men, the quartet as a group able to share the workload, and the pressure. Since those back-to-back defeats to Totton, Long Eaton have lost just one meeting in eight in the European Cup, their latest success a 42-48 semi final second leg win at Heath, a result which sees Martin Smith’s side progress by 26, only once (Belfast SL2) has a side previously won a European tie by more than that margin. Totton will however still be slight favourites to claim a record equalling third European Cup, they having only been beaten once by Long Eaton in a home fixture—that some 11 meetings ago—in contrast Totton have won on four of their last seven visits to the Perksdome. This week they suffered a rare defeat in the competition, the 49-41 loss at Belfast not decisive though given they’d won the first leg of the tie by 16, but having gone 16-8 behind after four heats there were some nervous moments for the visitors. Three 4-2’s in the space of four races turned it around for the Tigers, who went on to eliminate last years winners with still three heats remaining.
Stokeare in a strong position to become only the third division three side to make it through to the semi finals of the KO Cup, a 54-36 home win over second division side Alfreton—in which Vlasik Vladimir (14) rode to four of the Bombers 11 heat wins—putting them ‘in the box seat’ heading into the second leg of the third round tie. Fellow rookies Shetland will also fancy their chances of making the last four after their meeting at Stourbridge, the superb performances of Deryugine Mikhail (14) and Julian Woodruff (13+1) earning the Scorpions a slender six point lead with a trip to the remote Scottish outpost to come, a deficit the Ponies will fancy their chances of overturning.
Long Eaton backed up their Euro success at Heath with a first away league win in five, a last heat 5-1 from Adam Lucas (14) and Jiri Sebranek (12+2) seeing the Rifles somewhat stealing both league points at Brookwood, 42-45, Lucas’s win in the last the second in three heats over his great rival Harry Nicholls (12), who’d beaten the Long Eaton number one in the opening race of the meeting. Remarkably only two riders finished in three of the 15 races in conditions that can be best described as ‘sloppy’, over-watering at the Sheffield Speedbowl already an issue prior to a pre-meeting downpour, home heat leader Allan Robertson (7) one of four riders to fall on the night, his slip in heat 12 costing him and his side a vital three points. What was Long Eaton’s fifth away win of the campaign takes them back up to second in the table, they now lie just two points off leaders Totton.
Long Eaton’s Adam Lucas scored a maximum to claim his second career WSO event win in this weeks WU21 semi final in Richmond, the 19 year old topping the standings from Stourbridge’s young Hungarian, Kapolcs Vancura (13). Harry Nicholls (14) meanwhile missed out on making it a Brit double at the semi final stage, the current champion defeated in heat one by Ethan Mason, that the first of five straight wins for the young Aussie, who went on to record his maiden WSO event success as a result. Mason has been in exceptional form for Stirling this season, he currently averaging 8.50 for Ross Purnell’s side, nearly three points in excess of his start of season mark.
Just two wins in 11 in the league now for Herne Bay, who end the week bottom of division two following their latest defeat at home to Alfreton. The 42-46 loss recorded to the Archers followed a club record 61-29 defeat on their trip to Ernsford Grange, a side who began the week just one point and one place above them in the standings. Against Alfreton the Flyers trailed from heat two onwards, a 0-5 reversal in heat nine when both Kieran Johnson (13) and Simon Bergman failed to finish hindering hopes of a comeback, that race won by visiting reserve, Lewis O’Connor!
A mixed week for Shetland, who having won their division three encounter at Stirling, 44-45, with a race to spare, went and lost at home in the league to Steeple. Anders Sten’s first win of the night in heat 14 secured the Stars second victory on the road in three, they making the long journey back with a 44-46 win under their belts despite conceding a last heat 5-1.