LIONS 47 SHEFFIELD 41

Saturday April 20, 2019
LEICESTER are through to the Championship Shield semi-finals – after an incident-strewn 47-41 win over Sheffield on Saturday.

The Watling JCB Lions were taken right down to last-heat decider in front of a packed Paul Chapman & Sons Arena crowd as the Tigers, as expected, provided the toughest test of the season.

Lions needed to avoid conceding a 5-1 in the final race to ensure their progression, and Richie Worrall and Scott Nicholls - who had earlier combined for a breath-taking Heat 13 maximum – hit the front themselves to ease the nerves, before Sheffield skipper Kyle Howarth snatched second place from Nicholls on the line.

It wasn’t enough to prevent a Lions victory, but Howarth’s move did gain a group point for his side, which could be significant when the best second-placed team is decided over the three sections.

Following Friday’s super win at Redcar, this was not Leicester’s most flowing display of the season, although their spirit and attitude was never in question.

Sheffield could well have led in the early stages but for youngster Drew Kemp falling on turn three when holding a 5-1 in Heat 1, and the Tigers dropped further points when leader Zaine Kennedy fell on the last lap of Heat 2 forcing Connor Mountain into avoiding action.

Lions weren’t exempt from problems as Josh Bates fell in Heat 3, but Ryan Douglas was in storming form as he won his first three rides.

A see-saw contest developed with Sheffield edging into a one-point lead after Heat 7, only for the Lions to hit back with a 5-1 from Ellis Perks and Mountain in the next.

The home side went five points up but Nicholls found himself on the wrong end of a maximum in Heat 10, and when former Lions skipper Danny King won Heat 11 the visitors were back ahead at 33-32.

Bates then grabbed his first win of the meeting with Mountain in a crucial third place to put Leicester back ahead, with Worrall and Nicholls then riding a strong first lap in Heat 13 to get the better of Howarth and King.

There was high drama in Heat 14 with the Tigers’ Broc Nicol crashing awkwardly on turn two just after being overtaken by Douglas, the visitors having gated on a 5-1.

But that was nothing compared to the accident which befell Douglas in the re-run as the Australian slammed into the back straight fence at high speed having picked up unwanted drive on the outside of Ty Proctor.

Remarkably he was able to walk away after attention, and Mountain rode to a safe second place in the re-run to leave the Lions four points ahead – with Worrall and Nicholls duly getting the job done in the finale.

Boss Stewart Dickson said: “Sheffield were gating a lot better than us at the start of the meeting, and I thought we were going to go from heroes to zeroes after last night.

“I knew it was going to be a tough meeting, we said so beforehand, but four weeks ago we would have taken this.

“We’re in the semi-finals, we’re not relying on finishing second or anything like that, we’ve got the three points and that’s the main thing – and we hope Ryan is okay, because that was a sore one.

“We had difficulty with the track unfortunately, we did a couple of days’ work on it after the sidecars last week, but it didn’t pack and bed in like I thought it would, so we’ll get into that tomorrow.

“For the first six or seven races I was more focused on making sure everybody stayed on their bike than winning races, which isn’t ideal.”

CHAMPIONSHIP SHIELD
LEICESTER 47: Richie Worrall 11+1, Scott Nicholls 10, Ryan Douglas 9, Connor Mountain 8+1, Josh Bates 5, Ellis Perks 4, Jack Thomas 0.
SHEFFIELD 41: Kyle Howarth 11, Ty Proctor 10+1, Kasper Andersen 7+1, Danny King 7, Broc Nicol 4, Drew Kemp 1, Zaine Kennedy 1.




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