Leaders exit KOC
For the first time since they claimed the trophy back to back in SL9 and 10 Huntingdon have reached the final of the KO Cup. And in beating Willenhall to do so they have provided one of the upsets of the season, the Hunters successfully defending an eight point first leg lead in their semi final tie at The Green despite picking up just three heat wins. In their eighth successive semi final Willenhall were looking good to reach their third final in a row by the end of heat six of their home leg, a run of three straight heat advantages—which included a Luke Griffiths (12) winning 5-1—seeing the Wolves quickly wipe out their opening meeting deficit. Griffiths would go on to score his first maximum of this years competition, Ronnell Hawtin (15) would have his fourth by the end of the contest, but neither will be in this years final. For the Hunters turned two of their hat-trick of heat wins into 5-1’s at crucial times, reserve Antony Rose (4+1) and second string Robbie Ralley (4+2) halving the visitors deficit on the night with a maximum score in heat eight, four races later a second 5-1 would see them regain a six point aggregate lead in the tie as the two sides headed into the final three races, tactical substitute Kazimeriz Agafon (7+2) winning that ahead of Magnus Farnerud (10+1). Roman Korbel (10) and Agafon took Paul Jarman’s side closer to their goal with the minor places in heat 13, Aaron Macaualy (10) beaten for the first time on the night, the Hunters final place then secured by second string Paul Ford (5+3) and Rose with another set of minor places in the penultimate race of the evening.
Holders Stowmarket are back in the KO Cup final after a great team performance led by Grzegorz Kowalczyk (13+1) saw them pull off a semi final second leg win at Eastbourne. The 44-46 victory—secured with just six race wins—earned Bill Jones side an aggregate victory by ten, Kowalczyk assuring the Witches a sixth final place in eight years with his fourth straight win of the night in heat 13. Just days before the Seagulls had beaten Stowmarket by ten at the same venue in the league, a result, if they’d repeated it, would have seen them end a seven year wait for a final place.
Leeds end the week eight points off top spot in division one after they were soundly beaten by Stowmarket at Green Meadow. Visiting heat leader Ekrem Muslic (5) failed to win a race in the 52-38 defeat, which leaves the Jaguars needing to win at Willenhall next week to keep their slim title hopes alive. Despite losing out on the bonus point against Huntingdon, Danny Powis will count the latest round of results of good ones for the Wolves, they having earlier dispatched local rivals Cradley Heath (44-46) with Ronnell Hawtin (17)/Aaron Macaulay (13+3) 5-1’s in heats 13 and 15 to land their sixth away win of the campaign. The defeat and later loss at ninth placed Dudley sees Cradley—who have now lost five in a row in the league—slip into the relegation places for the first time this season, they end the week three points adrift of Brickhill and safety.
Gorleston lost top spot in division two after dropping a point at home for the first time this season. Promotion rivals Telford were the ones to end the Ghosts 20 meeting winning league run at the Stadium of Shadows, having taken a six point lead with Alan Tuukkanen (10+2) inspired 5-1’s in heats eight and 11 the Thunder were unlucky not to take all three points. Tuukkanen went on to score a maximum paid 18 at reserve as Telford beat new divisional leaders Coalville 52-37 at home, a result which leaves Ally Carroll’s side just four points off top spot. As are Derby in fourth, who claimed away win number four of the campaign on their trip to Exeter, the inconsistent Enre Lisztes (15) scoring his third maximum of the season in the victory, the Bucks number one had tallied just four in the club’s previous meeting!
Horsens’ number one Henri Myllyniemi (14) has taken a two point lead in the World Championship after winning his home nation GP in Pori. Myllyniemi was on course to record a maximum in the Finnish round heading into heat 19, the fast gating Andrey Kusov (7) proved to be an insurmountable barrier though in that, Myllyniemi soon happy to settle for the second place which would seal his victory over Ronnell Hawtin by a point. Nota Gyorok carried over his good form from Denmark to take third, but it was a dreadful night for Aaron Macaulay, the joint leader of the series heading into the latest round scoring just three points in the meeting to drop down to fourth in the standings.
18 year old Owen Carter scored a maximum to land a shock win in the WU21 semi final in Cradley Heath, the Brickhill reserve one of three Brits to qualify from the meeting, the second semi final takes place next week.