WITCHES DENY WOLVES QUADRUPLE
Deserved cup success for Stowmarket
Having reached the final of three cup competitions and been the only side to lead division one other than Willenhall this season, to end SL23 without a trophy would have been cruel on Stowmarket. They may have had to wait until the final week of the campaign, but in the end the Witches got their hands on some silverware, the KO Cup theirs for the second time in four years following a four point aggregate win over their season long nemesis, Willenhall. Just six down from the first leg the Wolves went into their home return as firm favourites to land a KOC, league, fours and division one cup quadruple that hadn’t been achieved since SL7. However not once did they get to within less than four points of Stowmarket, three times they went two up on the night early on only to be pegged back, on the first occasion it was a 5-1 from the reserves that did the job for the Witches, while in heats seven and 11 in was 4-2’s won in turn by Charles Knapper (9+1) and Grzegorz Kowalczyk (11). With Aaron Macaulay (15) in great form though Willenhall still had a chance of snatching the silverware late on, home hopes alive again when he and Ronnell Hawtin put on a 5-1 in heat 13. Stowmarket though saw it through to the finish with 3-3’s in the final two races, the minor places going their way in both, with Kowalczyk and Knapper getting the job done in the last by beating Matthew Joyce (10). The win marks an end to a run of six successive defeats in finals of European and domestic competitions for Bill Jones side, the trophy the club’s first since the won the 4TT back in SL21.
Twice Russian Champion Oleg Gabulov (13) and the leading rider in the European League this week became the leading rider in the world, victory in the Polish GP for the 31 year old earning the Pila star the series gold medal. Four wins and a third place behind Peter Carl (7) and Jake Coiner (8) earned Gabulov his first GP success in a career spanning ten meetings, and it was a hugely significant one at that, having finished level at the top of the World Championship standings with Aaron Macaulay (12) it was this success that split the two in the standings. Macaulay was beaten by the Russian in heat 16 which meant Gabulov would win the title with victory in heat 17, the European League star delivered the decisive three points with ease, helped by an fall and subsequent exclusion for Nathan Kay—who’d been in contention for the GP win—in the first running of the race. Macaulay went on to win the last to finish as runner-up on the night, and in the series, the Brit still without a World Championship win despite finishing in the top three on five separate occasions.
Successes in SL8, 15, 19, 21 and now SL23 for Brickhill, who have been promoted in each of their last five division two campaigns. The remarkable record continued despite the Tigers failing to get the two wins their promoter Glenn Ford said would be required going into the final rounds of racing, a 48-42 final day defeat at Derby could have cost them, however Ramsgate—who began the week in the top three—found divisional champions Leeds too tough a nut to crack at home, that meeting ending all squad, the Robins denied promotion on points difference! Respect to Leeds who fought all the way to the end despite having nothing really to ride for themselves, a last heat 4-2 won by the unbeaten Nathan Kay earning them two league points in a meeting they trailed in by eight with three races to go, the draw extending their unbeaten league run to nine.
As expected the final promotion place in division three went the way of Exeter, six different heat winners helping George Bate’s Vipers secure a top three finish with a draw at Canvey, the only side that could have denied them an immediate return back to the second tier.
Coalville have been relegated after just one season back in the top flight, the Kings failing to recover fully for a mid-season spell in which they went four meetings without a home win. Coalville finished ninth, just a point behind Huntingdon who survive in division one following the demise of Peterborough. The Pirates ended their British League tenure on a high, winning home and away, the latter a 41-48 success at bottom side Telford. Despite their final round successes the Pirates couldn’t grab third spot in the standings from Wimbledon, the Werewolves also picking up the maximum six points in the week, including three at champions Willenhall on the final day, where three wins from reserve Johan Bergstrand (13+2) helped them to a surprise 44-46 success.
England are the new International League Champions, ending a run of three successive title wins by Poland. The Lions beat Poland in the SL23 title decider in Krakow this week, 37-53, the visitors scoring seven 5-1’s in the table topping victory, three scored by the Nathan Kay (13+1)/Gavin Moss (7+3) partnership from 1 and 2 in the Derek Purvis managed side.
Verwood have suffered their second relegation in three years, Trevor Walker’s side dropping out of the second tier following a 58-32 defeat at Devon, the side who were battling with them to avoid the drop. Verwood also lost their home meeting against Dudley, 44-46.
Leeds are once again champions of the Academy League, the Jags taking the title for a second time, eight years after their first victory. In-between Eastbourne had claimed all seven success, however a switch to youth in SL23 has seen them slip down the pecking order, the Seagulls finishing 11th of 24 teams this time around.