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WITCHES FLY ON
Pairs victors continue unbeaten run
It was back-to-back losses against Leeds for Stowmarket in the latter stages of two major cup competitions in SL28. Since then though they have had the better of the duals between the two clubs, pipping them to the league title last season, taking over as Pairs Champions this, and now qualifying for the semi-finals of the Division One Cup as group winners with a double digit home victory over them. There were three wins apiece for Paul Hope (13) and Lasse Classen (11) as Bill Jones’s Witches defeated Leeds 51-38 to secure their spot in the last four, the Jaguars now out of contention for a semi-final spot in a competition they have won in each of the previous three seasons. Their final meeting with Derby is a dead-rubber, the winner of Brickhill’s clash with Verwood certain to go through as group runners-up. The former made themselves favourites to progress following a 43-47 win at Derby this week, second string Owen Carter top scored with 12+1 for the Tigers in that, the 23 year old confirming the visitors success when following up a win in a heat 14 5-1 with a last heat victory over home heat leader Anton Kihlstedt (13). In the league Stowmarket haven’t been beaten since the opening day, with back-to-back wins extending their tenure at the summit. The second of those was returned at Eastbourne, where 18 year old James Price was amongst the heat winners, the reserve finishing with career best figures of 7+2 after scoring at least a point in all five of the races he contested. A run of three 4-2’s earned the visitors a crucial two point advantage heading into the final two races, Paul Hope (12+1) beating Ronnell Hawtin (10) and Stig Martinson (11) in the third of those, and it was his third place in the last which secured the 44-46 win. Not so good for Brickhill though, following their Division One Cup qualification they went on to lose at home to Cradley Heath, the Cobras end the week third—three points off Stowmarket—following the 43-47 success, given to them by a last heat Mark Jolly (17)/Andrejs Bleidilis (10+2) 5-1, the visitors had trailed by 12 in the meeting.
A third league win in five at Coalville helps Leeds kept up the pressure on Stowmarket at the top of the division one standings. The Jaguars going clear in second—just a point off top spot—with the 38-51 success, their biggest on the road in over five years. The visitors led from a heat seven Nathan Kay (14+1) winning 5-1 onwards, Kay would go on to score his second maximum of the season in the victory, which was sealed by his fourth straight race success of the meeting in heat 14. At the other end of the table success for Eastbourne at Verwood, two sides that went into the meeting on just four points and in the relegation zone. The Vipers remain there following the 41-49 defeat, the Seagulls up to the dizzying heights of sixth at the time. Lewis Bartlett—down at reserve for the first time following the change of averages—scored a season best 11+2 in the win, his previous highest score this season was just four.
Division Two sides Swindon and Huntingdon secured their first league points of the season with the former taking all four on offer in the latest rounds. The Serpents followed up a three point home win over Wimbledon with a 42-48 victory at Bradwell, who slip below both the Serpents and Huntingdon to the foot of the standings. 40 year old Blair Wright (15) scored his first maximum of the campaign in the success, second string Teodor Zlobec—who is half Wright’s age—also impressed, scoring 9+1 at second string. Huntingdon had earlier beaten Bradwell at home, 51-39, however another away loss followed for the Hunters, 53-37 at Wentworth, who returned to the top of the table with the success. Earlier the Trappers had been denied top spot by Keswick, who twice fought back from four down to earn a home draw against Brian McKnight’s side, reserve Thorsten Keller (11+2) again impressive for the visitors.
A run of five straight league wins has taken Beverley top of division three for the first time since their relegation. The Hammers began the latest period with a 44-46 win at Normanton, a meeting they led for much of and were never headed in but still needed a 4-2 to secure the points. Marc Thompson (11) beat Miklos Buzas (16) in the opening and closing races of the contest, he one of six different heat winners for the visitors. Normanton went on to win at bottom side Plymouth, 43-47, a result which leaves the Centurions without a league win two months into the campaign. Beverley travelled to Normanton again in the Division Three Cup, this time the meeting ending all-square, but only after a Thompson (12+1) winning last heat 5-1. A win for the Hammers in their final group meeting—home to Paull—should be enough to take them through as runners-up in their section to Southend.
Lasse Classen (12) gave Stowmarket their first World Championship winner of the season, the Dane topping the standings in his Scandinavian semi-final in Pori.
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