HAPPY AS HARRY
Powerhouse Nicholls lands WU21 title
Billed as the battle of the two Brits, this weeks WU21 Final in Oslo turned into the Harry Nicholls (15) show, who continued his winning streak to become the youngest winner of the title since Lech Wysocki. The Pole’s career has headed only downward since his SL3 success, he still looking for a new club after being released by Lublin three years ago. There is no danger of that outcome for Nicholls, Brookwood rate him in the £1-2million bracket, and rightly so, he having not only demolished the field in Oslo but in the two meetings to get there, his run of successive race wins to take the title tallying 17, a sequence which began in the opening week of SL8 in the BU21 semi final at Alfreton. Simon Snow beat him to the top of the podium that day, the Totton rider didn’t though get a chance to defend his WU21 crown, he eliminated the following month, Adam Lucas however held on to Nicholls’s coattails as best he could and was expected to push him all the way to the title in Norway. The expected Brit showdown didn’t materialise, Lucas failing to win a race in the meeting, his chance of success ending with a last place finish in heat ten, won by his former Ferndown team mate Stuart Stokes (10). In contrast Nicholls was dominant from start to finish, the classy 18 year old untroubled until in heat 17 where ironically he met Lucas, but it wasn’t he who made life difficult—Lucas retired after half a lap—but another Brit, Jamie Swift, Nicholls forced to chase down the Bradford man after he sprang from the gate, eventually nabbing victory on the line. That result left Kim Siemsen (13) and Klement Flora (13) in a race-off for second, the former going on to beat the latter in that.
Belfastextended their unbeaten run in cup meetings against Long Eaton to nine with a 47-43 second leg last four Division One Cup home win, the result taking the holders through to face Totton in the final by ten. The repeat of last years KO Cup final was confirmed only after late drama at the Testwood, Bradford—who’d been held to a draw at home in the opening leg of the semi final—going two up on their hosts with a 4-2 in heat 12. Totton snuffed out the danger though with back-to-back 5-1’s and thus keeping their hopes of claiming a first win in the competition alive. The two finalists are currently halfway though a fight to lift the European Cup, two-times defending champions Totton beaten in the first leg of this years final over in Northern Ireland, 49-41, the eventual aggregate winner will become the first club to lift the trophy for a third time.
A run of three successive heat advantages for home side Alfreton at the death of their Division Two Cup semi final ended Cranford’s best hopes of ending their search for a first ever trophy, the Archers through to the decider with Epping by two following the late run, which culminated in a Martin Fors (11+1) winning 4-2. Leigh Rose’s side won the Division Three double in SL7 and have a good chance of now repeating the feat at the second tier level, however Epping stand in their way on both fronts. The Stags have gone back to the head of the league standings for the first time in two months following a 50-40 win over the Archers in their top of the table clash, Epping had earlier beaten Steeple 41-49 on the road, a meeting in which £40,000 Russian teen Vadim Kozel scored a career best 11+1 at reserve.
Eight up from the first leg Milton Keynes passage through to the final of the Division Three Cup should have been a formality in their home meeting, however fellow league rookies Ernsford Grange made them fight for the spot, with a 5-1 in heat five of the return taking the visitors six up on the night. It took the Mystics eight heats to get their noses in front in the meeting, with Lachlan Jackson’s (14+1) win in a heat 13 4-2 eventually doing that and confirming Andy Roughton’s side a place in the final. In that final they’ll take on Rowley Regis, the Rockets eliminating Finchampstead at the last four stage by six after holding the Flyers to a 47-43 home win this week, Zvi Sundt the star for the visitors, his 16 point tally including six for wins over the previously unbeaten home number one, Kartal Papa (13). In the league a 44-46 victory at Buttermere helped Milton Keynes extend their advantage at the top of the third tier standings to four points, six down after heat 11 the visitors picked up their third away win of campaign with the help of back-to-back 5-1’s, Timothy Bluestone (13+1) involved in both, reserve Christopher Reed (8) then went on to pick up his second win of the night in a crucial heat 14 4-2.
The top four in division one remain separated by just three points after each won at home and lost away in the latest rounds of racing, with the bonus points kicking in next week the title race will no doubt be shaken up, prior to that leaders Belfast travel to champions Totton, one of five meetings between the two sides over the next four weeks.