|Sheffield PIRTEK 'Tigers' v Exeter 'Falcons'||Premier League||14th July|
|Sean Wilson ©||9.05||2||3||2'||2||3||12+1|
|Seemond Stephens ©||7.71||0||1'||0||1||2+1|
The competition for the bonus point made this into a thoroughly enjoyable meeting. A 1-5 to the Falcons in heat 8 left us just two points ahead on the night, but 15 points adrift for the bonus point, and of course the Falcons had recourse to tactical rides once our lead exceeded 9. Many on the terraces had already conceded, but read on...
Mark Lemon trapped to take the first heat with Sean looking comfortable in second and Ben trailing at the back. Kyle was the convincing winner of heat 2 and Paul gave his all to outpace Pavel Ondrasik and level the scores. Ricky found the speed to relegate Ray Morton to win heat 3 and Richard Hall held off some spirited moves from Seemond Stevens to establish a slight lead. Kyle trapped to lead heat 4 but both Antonin Svab and André eclipsed him on the third turn. André went wide and drove past Antonin into the lead exiting the pits turn while Kyle was climbing all over him looking to do the same. Kyle got alongside him on the inside of the first turn on lap 3 although Antonin seemed to be doing his best to lean on him to keep him behind. Kyle tried just a little too hard exiting turn 2 and the result was Antonin clattering into the fence on the back straight and the blue exclusion light shining on the first turn. André won the restart with ease and Antonin's place was taken by the impressive Ben Barker. Ricky passed early leader Lee Smethills to win heat 5 but Mark Lemon was content to share the heat by denying Richard Hall any chance of getting through.
Sean and Ben took a big 5-1 in heat 6 with Antonin retiring from last place, and while André won heat 7 Paul was taken very wide by Seemond into the first turn on the second lap after which he never managed to make up the lost ground. Lee trapped again in heat 8 and this time Pavel slotted in behind and neither Ben nor Kyle ever looked like mounting a decent challenge. The Tigers lead stood at just 2 points and the bonus was virtually safe in Graeme Gordon's pocket, but the tide must have changed, or perhaps Reg saw a black cat? With Pavel virtually ready to go in heat 9 Antonin seemed to deliberately destroy the tapes. There followed a delay while the referee rejected Graeme's attempt to use a reserve replacement as Antonin was required to take his three remaining rides. Why he didn't come back out off a 15 metre handicap we may never know, but Richard and Ricky took a gift 5-1. Ben made a sweet start to lead heat 10 but his skipper found himself trailing the field. Ray Morton dived past Ben into the lead on the third bend just as Sean passed Seemond to move into third place. Ben retaliated by regaining the lead on turn 1 and after making up yards with a superb second turn Sean also passed Ray into turn three. Excellent speedway, but our lead was now 10 points and tactical moves entered the equation.
Mark Lemon was the first to don the black and white helmet colour and it looked as if he would take the full 6 points with André trailing in his wake. André seemed to find an extra gear on the third lap and a brilliant 1st and 2nd turns on the last lap saw him draw alongside Mark on the back straight. Leaving Mark plenty of room to manoeuvre on the third turn nearly cost him dearly as Mark cut back to the inside exiting the pits turn and left the referee to adjudicate on the 'photo finish'. Ricky trapped to take heat 12 but Seemond took the high wide line to round Kyle and into second place. Kyle kept it all wound on and nipped past on the inside on the first turn of lap 2 for another big 5-1. The aggregate deficit was now 5 points with 3 races remaining although the Falcons still had a tactical up their sleeves and everyone knew it would be played in heat 14. Mark Lemon flew into an unassailable lead in heat 13 while both Sean and André had to battle past Antonin to share the heat. It came as no surprise to see Ray Morton wearing black & white in heat 14, nor that Reg swapped our reserves pitching Kyle into the equation. Richard Hall's track return had been somewhat muted and there was an air of resignation on the terraces, especially when Ray made a blinding start to take the early lead. The two Tigers weren't done yet. Kyle moved closer and closer hugging the white line while Richard did likewise in the deep stuff out by the fence. Ray had the impossible task of defending attempts from both sides and just couldn't cope with what happened on the third lap. Kyle made a sweet move to pass Ray on the inside exiting turn two at the exact same moment that Richard's outside blast carried him around Ray on the outside. The reaction from the terraces was electric and the two heroes were cheered all the way to the finish.
The nominated heat would decide who would take the bonus point. The Tigers required a 5-1 to win it outright, or a 4-2 to force a run-off. Ricky was unbeaten, André had only dropped one point to Mark Lemon, while Sean had been beaten twice, both times by Mark. There was a collective gasp from the terraces when Sean was announced as the rider in red, and plenty of self-appointed terrace team managers were questioning Reg's judgement. Mark Lemon made a superb start and it looked as if the third point was heading for Devon until he reached the end of the back straight. That was when André went from third into the lead with a delicious move and Sean's inside line exiting the pits turn carried him up to second place. The two Tigers then combined to deny Mark any chance of making a pass with Sean taking the flag with a spirited last corner. With the exception of the struggling Paul Cooper all the other Tigers took the chequered flag in the lead. Sean and Richard, both returning after injury improved as the meeting progressed. Ben had a belting ride when he re passed Ray Morton. Kyle looked very tenacious and was making the inside line work very well. André made some brilliant moves reminiscent of his PLRC win last season and Ricky was certainly back to his best, although he did refuse the nomination for heat 15. Paul was lacking pace but hopefully his new engine will help him back into the points. I'll be placing my order for the video at Mick's shop next week!
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