Monday March 26, 2018
LEICESTER got their season off to a winning start with a hard-fought 46-44 success over Somerset in Monday’s opening Challenge match.

New signing Hans Andersen secured a crucial second place in Heat 15 to complete a narrow victory for the Watling JCB Lions, as the Rebels – led by World Champion Jason Doyle – provided an ideal test prior to the main business of 2018.

In fact, the visitors led by six points at the halfway stage of the meeting only for the Lions to hit back strongly in a highly competitive encounter.

Andersen made a terrific debut with three wins in a 13-point haul, twice getting the better of Doyle, and there was also huge encouragement to be taken from the showing of Polish star Krystian Pieszczek, who carded 10+3 and shared in all three of the Lions’ 5-1s.

Pieszczek first teamed up with skipper Danny King for maximum points in Heat 3, although an impressive start to the meeting from Rebels reserve Bradley Wilson-Dean ensured the scores were level after four races.

Doyle combined with Jake Allen for maximum points in Heat 5, and the Lions were on the back foot when Richard Lawson defeated Martin Vaculik to head up a Somerset 4-2 in the next race.

But the Lions turned things around with back-to-back 5-1s mid-meeting, first from Kyle Newman and Pieszczek in Heat 8 despite the attempts of Wilson-Dean to pass, and then from the King/Pieszczek combination in the ninth.

The Rebels hit back with their own 5-1 in Heat 10 as Vaculik encountered problems, but Andersen produced a clever move in the next race to surge inside Doyle on turn four with Newman’s third place bringing the scores back level.

Heat 12 was shared as King took his third win but Newman was squeezed out, before a dramatic Heat 13 saw Andersen out-front once more whilst Doyle was relegated to the back behind Vaculik.

Pieszczek then conjured an explosive start from the outside to dominate Heat 14, whilst James Sarjeant put the Lions four points up with a good ride to hold back Wilson-Dean for third place.

That meant only a Rebels 5-1 in Heat 15 could deny the Lions victory, and although Doyle raced clear in the early stages Andersen was firmly in control of second place as he held the inside line to block any serious challenge from Lawson.

New manager Simon Stead said: “I’m pleased we got our first win on the board – there are no points, but it’s all good practice and we know what we need to do to improve.

“It was important that the lads all got some laps in, and we’ve got to be pleased with what we’ve seen, and we know we can get more out of some of them.

“The riders need track-time and they need more laps here to improve. It’s all work in progress, and that’s what tonight was all about.”

Lions head to Swindon on Thursday for their Premiership opener before hosting King’s Lynn in the KO Cup at the Paul Chapman and Sons Arena on Easter Monday.

LEICESTER 46: Hans Andersen 13, Krystian Piesszczek 10+3, Danny King 9, Kyle Newman 7, Martin Vaculik 5, James Sarjeant 2+1, Josh Bates r/r.
SOMERSET 44: Jason Doyle 11, Richard Lawson 7, Jack Holder 7, Bradley Wilson-Dean 7, Charles Wright 6+2, Jake Allen 3+1, Jonas Jeppesen 3+1.

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