|Rye House Rockets v Sheffield 'PIRTEK' Tigers||Premier League||12th April|
|Rye House Rockets||4||8||11||15||19||24||27||32||35||38||42||45||48||49||52|
|Sheffield 'PIRTEK' Tigers||2||4||7||9||11||12||17||18||21||24||28||31||34||39||42|
|Sean Wilson (c)||9.73||2||2||4*||3||2||13|
|James Cockle (g)||(3.00)||2||0||2||2||6|
The large contingent of Sheffield supporters arrived in Hertfordshire for this Easter Monday encounter in a confident mood, knowing that Ricky, Andrew and James had all produced good performances in the past on this tight Rye House circuit and should offer the necessary back-up to Sean and Andre. In addition Tigers tracked new Prowler - and ex-Rye House Raider - at number six in place of the injured Ben Wilson, a rider who should at least equal, if not better, Ben's expected score.
However, things did not go well as early as heat one, when Sean had to return to the pits from the start line with mechanical oproblems, only reaching the tapes, on Andre's bike, with seconds to spare. On an unfamiliar machine Sean struggled to keep Steve Masters into third, whilst Chris Neath disappearing into the distance. Heat two saw James Cockle produce a good ride, keeping Rockets Tommy Allen behind him, unfortunately however, Richard struggled at the back, finding the tight corners not to his liking.
Both Tigers were first away in heat three, however Ricky overcooked it on the first turn, but no such problems for Andrew who stormed through to claim the Tigers first heat-winner of the afternoon. The impressive Steve Boxall won heat four, however Andre rode well to secure second spot, keeping Davey Watt third. Sean split the Rockets pairing in heat five, but a 5-1 for the Rockets in heat six saw the Tigers already twelve points in arrears.
Andrew took a tactical ride in heat seven and his second place coupled with Ricky's third clawed two back. Heat eight saw the poor pairing of James B and Richard suffer a 1 - 5 reverse, by now Sheffield were 14 in arrears. However the last half of the meeting saw a big improvement from the Tigers. James Cockle produced an admirable ride in heat 9 to claim second spot, beating Brent Werner, and a Steve Masters fall in heat 10 led to another 3 - 3.
Sean came out on a tactical ride in heat 11, finishing second behind Davey Watt, but James B was beaten convincingly for third by Tommy Allen - why was James Cockle not used in this race? James Cockle and Ricky rode a clever race in heat 12 to keep Steve Boxall at the back, whilst Sean capitalised on a first lap mistake by Chris Neath to win heat 13 in a determined fashion. Heat 14 proved to be the highlight of the afternoon for the Tigers fans, Andrew led from the tapes to he flag, whilst Richard, who had been getting better with each ride rode well to claim runners-up spot. In the nominated riders race Sean led for nearly three laps before being headed home by Chris Neath, while Andrew rode well to take third spot ahead of Scott Robson.
The final score of 52-42 probably flattered Sheffield as they were never in with a chance of winning this match, but both Sean and Andrew consistently rode well and were always a worry to the Rockets, and James Cockle deservedly scored six hard-earned points. Richard Hall improved with each ride and the forthcoming Under-21 Final should now hold no fears for him.
As for the others, both Andre and Ricky had their moments, but realistically when two heat leaders only score seven points between them Sheffield were never going to win. And James, I find it hard to associate this James Birkinshaw with the James Birkinshaw who looks so impressive at Rye House when wearing the colours of the Prowlers or Boston. Is the gulf between the leagues really this big?
Match report courtesy of Alan Chapman
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