LEED-ING THE WAY
Brit trio aim to make history
Three British sides are into the European Cup semi finals after completing first round victories this week, and all three are seeking to win the competition for the first time. Of the quartet that began the season only Stowmarket had won the trophy previously, they doing so for the third time when beating Leeds over two legs in last years decider. The fortunes of the SL24 finalists were reversed when this years competition got underway, the Witches unable to overcome Horsens in round one after the Dane’s held them to a first leg draw at their Green Meadow home, the European League basement side rampant in the return leg, with every one of their septet recording heat wins on their way to a 52-37 meeting success. Leeds had also failed to impress at home and took just an eight point advantage with them to Lublin this week, their strength at heat leader though saw them through in the return, with the Jags progressing to their first semi final in 11 years thanks to the combined performance of Daniel Lake (13), Aaron Macaulay (12+1) and Nathan Kay (10), who each contributed three race wins in limiting the Poles to a 47-43 second leg win. As a result Leeds go through by four and will now take on Horsens for a place in the final, the other semi final tie is an all British affair, with Wimbledon—who cruised by Pila by 16—paired against a Huntingdon side who were taking to the wire by Prague. The Czech’s led the tie after heat eight of their home return this week, however back to back 4-2’s in heats 14 and 15 would see the Hunters progress by four, Magnus Farnerud (14+1) winning both.
Eastbourne have become the fourth side to lead the top flight standings this season that despite previous leaders Leeds inflicting their first defeat on them in 11 this week. The top of the table clash went the way of the hosts, 46-44, after the unbeaten Nathan Kay (14+1) and Aaron Macaulay (11) raced to a last heat 4-2 in a meeting they had found themselves four down with three races to go. The same pairing had levelled the scores with a 5-1 two heats earlier. Still Eastbourne had done enough to win the all important bonus point by ten, and after picking up all three points on offer against Gorleston, 54-36, they climbed into top spot in division one for the first time in over three years! They are there on points difference alone, with Stowmarket back up into second thanks to home and away wins, the latter a 41-49 success at Gorleston, a meeting in which they led in from start to finish, the unbeaten Grezegorz Kowalczyk (14+1) leading the charge with victories in heat five and 13 5-1’s and a second place finish to Charles Knapper (14) in the Witches third such score in heat 15.
Huntingdon pulled off a crucial win at Brickhill in the battle to avoid the drop in division one, the Hunters—in seventh—moving eight points clear of their eight placed hosts following the 44-46 victory. The Hunters completed their first away win of the campaign with successive 5-1’s in the closing heats, Roman Korbel (15) leading home Kazimierz Agafon (15+1) in the decider having come in as a tactical substitute to win heat 14, Magnus Farnerud (11+1) on that occasion ensuring maximum points for the visitors.
World Champion Henri Myllyniemi (15) is back in the GP’s for the fourth success season and will be there for the third time as Scandinavian Champion. The Horsens man—who is currently averaging a point more than any other rider in the European League—won the regional crown in Malmo by three from fellow SL24 GP riders Stig Martinson (12) and Kim Cedergren (10), the latter taking the final automatic spot in this years GP series after beating Daniel Wallar in a race-off. Beverley’s Ekrem Muslic was a surprise winner of the Continental Final, the 35 year old taking the title six years after his only other appearance at this stage of the World Championship after dropping just one point in the meeting. He’ll make his GP debut as a result later in the season, qualifying also from Pila are world number three Grzegorz Kowalczyk (11) and Bartosz Gorczyca (11), both beating Lubos Pinte (11) in a race off for the minor podium positions.
Third division Burnham are on course to record a shock in the second round of the KO Cup after beating Devon 42-48 on the road in the first leg of their tie this week. Reserve Paul Martin (10+1) was one of three to score in double figures as Steven Potters’ Bandits beat their higher division opponents, they will though be without heat leader Luke Griffiths (8) for the return fixture, the SL16 World Champion picking up an injury in their later league defeat at Kelso.
Iwade beat Linlithgow 44-46 to end the week top of division two, a blow to the Lions own promotion bid, who themselves picked up an away win on their trip to Poole (43-47) earlier in the week.