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TAKING FLIGHT

Seagulls into last four

Eastbourne’s revival continues to gather pace with the Seagulls reaching the semi finals of the KO Cup for only the second time since they lifted the trophy for a fifth straight season in SL17. A return to the glory days of multiple successes? Maybe not. Fans though would take any silverware at present after a win-less three years and the KO Cup would be a great place to start. A 48-42 3rd round second leg win over Leeds maintained their unbeaten run in the SL24 competition and took Stuart Smith’s side through to the last four by eight, the home side building early on their strong performance in the first leg at the Hawthorne—which ended in a draw—with 4-2’s in heats two and three before Polish duo Jaroslaw Szyszko (11+1) and Jacek Czyzewski (5+2) took them eight up with a heat six 5-1. Leeds aren’t a side to lay day without a fight though and the Jags would twice battle back to within two of their hosts, however a second Eastbourne 5-1 would all but end their ambitions of a first semi final appearance since SL18, Szyzko and Nate Stokes returning the Seagulls eight point advantage with maximum points in heat 13, the same partnership would go on to score a tie winning 4-2 in the last. And having avoided runaway league leaders Willenhall in the last four draw—the Wolves through after they eliminated the last non-top flight side left in the competition, Poole, by 16—the Seagulls have every chance of reaching an unprecedented seventh final, Stowmarket—six point third round winners over Wimbledon—standing in their way of extending the club’s own record.

Huntingdon benefited from a late tactical substitute appearance from Magnus Farnerud (9+2) as they reached the semi finals of the KO Cup with a last eight win over Cradley Heath, the experienced Swede coming in to win heat 14 in a 5-1 alongside Robbie Ralley (6+3) to all but seal their double date with Willenhall. A fourth win of the meeting from Kazimierz Agafon (13) made doubly sure in the last, the Cobras needing maximum points by then just to level the aggregate scores.

 

Fresh from seeing his Stowmarket side through to the semi finals of the KO Cup for the eighth time in 11 years, Grzegorz Kowalczyk (14) successfully turned his attention to the World Championship, the Pole winning the Czech GP in Prague for a record equalling third time. Kowalczyk moved top of the series standings with the victory, completed with a decisive win in heat 18 over his only challenger at that stage, Willenhall’s Ronnell Hawtin (13). Opening round winner Aaron Macaulay finished three points adrift of Hawtin and went on to lose a race-off to Andrey Kusov for third, however the world number two is second only to SL22 Champion Kowalczyk in the series standings on count-back, with both locked at 25 points after two rounds of racing.

 

Huntingdon scored three second half 5-1’s, including two in the final two races, as they fought back from a double digit deficit to claim a point in their latest league meeting at Dudley, the clash ending all square as Magnus Farnerud (6+1) shrugged off an otherwise disappointing evening to take second behind Kazimierz Agafon (13) in the last. The result maintains the Hunters position in third spot in the standings, but cuts their points deficit to leaders Willenhall—who suffered their third successive double digit away defeat when making the trip to Stowmarket (50-40)—to eight.

 

Earley, who lost nine of their first ten meetings, haven’t given up hope of survival in their maiden season in division two, back-to-back wins over two of their fellow strugglers this week has taken the Gravediggers off the bottom of table and to within four points of Devon—who now have an inferior points difference—and safety. Key recent loan addition Jamie Augstine scored 14 from reserve as Earley dispatched Exeter 61-29 at home, one George Bate side down, a second soon followed, Augustine (12+1) adding to his four wins over the Vipers with three at Ramsgate as Earley picked up their second away win of the campaign, 41-49. It was however a heat 15 5-1 from Jake Beacham (14) and Vili Balagic (10+1) which took the Gravediggers over the line, they may though find things tougher going forward, this weeks change in averages taking Augustine into the top three of David Grainger’s squad. Meanwhile Exeter’s run of defeats was extended to four with the visit of Linlithgow (43-47) to Waterfront Park, the Lions second away win in three completed with a last heat victory from the unbeaten Matthew Joyce (14+1).

 

Runcorn boosted their prospects of success in their first league season since SL1, the Rockets seemingly heading for the final of the Division Three Cup following a first leg 44-46 win at Kelso in the semi finals of that competition, which they followed up with an identical victory at Cork in the league.

 

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