MORE CUP MAGIC FROM WITCHES
Fifth final for Stowmarket
A fifth KO Cup final is seven years awaits SL20 winners Stowmarket following their back-to-back last four successes over Wimbledon, however not all is rosy in the Witches camp, they having fallen 12 points adrift of Willenhall in the title race, with a 44-46 home loss for Bill Jones’ side virtually handing the title to the Wolves. Just two wins and a draw in the final six rounds of racing all that is now required for Willenhall to claim their second league crown in their 14 years in the sport, and that’s if their rivals win all their remaining fixtures! Given the evidence of Stowmarket’s Green Meadow defeat to Iwade that possibility is deep in the realms of fantasy, the relegation threatened Colts climbing out of the bottom three for a third time this season with their first ever win at the venue, the home side conceding two second half 5-1’s in letting slip a ten point lead in the meeting. Jones would rather forget that result and dwell on the positives that came from the cup meeting at Wimbledon, as once again Grezegorz Kowalczyk (14) and Charles Knapper (12+2) dominated their opposition, eight wins between them in the first leg and six more on the road this week, plus a second place finish from Knapper in a heat seven 5-1 alongside Janez Jesenicnik (6). Knapper did all the work in that one, fending off Kenny Dornan (9) for the full four laps to see his side claim what proved to be a crucial set of maximum points, the momentum in the tie swinging back the way of the visitors as a result. Wimbledon had gone within four on aggregate of their opponents prior to heat seven, however they wouldn’t get as close again, Kowalczyk and Marc Thompson (8) going on to seal Stowmarket’s spot in the final with a heat 13 4-2. They’ll meet Willenhall in that decider, the Wolves having completed a comprehensive semi final win over Peterborough this week with a 52-38 second leg victory.
Charles Knapper successfully transferred his scoring form from club to country, with the Stowmarket number one tallying a meeting high of 11 as England completed their fifth International Fours trophy win in six years with victory in this weeks final. In scoring a final best of 37 the Lions quartet—which also included Aaron Macaulay (10), Nathan Kay (8) and Ronnell Hawtin (8)—finished a record 11 points clear of runners-up Poland in the Horsens decider.
Success as an international team, but not so much in the Grand Prix’s, where the four strong English contingent have been kept off the podium for the second round in succession. Stowmarket world champion Grezegorz Kowalczyk (12) won the latest meeting in Prague by a point, he heading a Polish 1-2 with Jaroslaw Szyszko, while Russian Champion Oleg Gabulov (10) grabbed third with a race off victory over Aaron Macaulay. World Number 11 Gabulov is now the surprise leader of the series standings despite having never won a GP meeting, he’s two points clear of Macaulay and Ronnell Hawtin (9) heading into next weeks German round in Kassel.
Having gone out of the KOC Wimbledon’s hopes of qualification to the European Cup for the first time lie with the league, and they took a huge step forward in guaranteeing their passage via that route, they ending the week five points clear of rivals Cradley in the standings having recorded their fourth away league win of the campaign at Iwade, 43-47. A heat 15 Stig Martinson (13)/Cvetko Geiwe (12+1) 5-1 secured all three points for the visitors, earlier reserve Johan Bergstrand (6+2)—on loan from Gorleston—had been involved in heat eight and 11 5-1’s.
A 44-46 victory at Brickhill allowed Leeds to secure promotion to the top flight with still six rounds of league racing to go in their latter meeting with Dudley, that top of the table clash ending 48-42 in favour of the Jags, with the Tigers unbeaten league run ending at a club record 11 meetings as a result. After 15 years in the bottom two divisions Dudley themselves need just two more wins to secure a top three finish and top flight racing, meanwhile Brickhill have slipped behind Ramsgate in the battle for third, the Robins picking up two vital away points with a draw at Kelso this week, where Bjane Krohn-Deli (12+1) and Gabor Szabics (11+1) combined for a last heat 5-1.
An end to one run, but it’s now five wins in a row in the Division Two Cup for Dudley, including three on the road following a 44-46 success in the first leg of the final at Gorleston. A heat 15 5-1 from maximum man Matteo De Feudis (15) and Peter Carl (12+1) ensured Tim Foster’s Tigers will take an advantage into the return leg in London, the visitors had trailed by six after heat ten. It’s advantage the away sides in the other two versions of the competitions also, with Willenhall winning at Eastbourne, 42-48, and Torbay holding Cork to a draw.