Saturday May 04, 2019
LEICESTER dug deep in adversity to record a hard-earned 53-37 victory over in-form Eastbourne in an eventful Championship clash on Saturday.

The Watling JCB Lions were hampered by the withdrawal of Josh Bates before completing a ride after a Heat 3 crash, and mechanical gremlins also threatened to conspire against them.

But a big finish to the meeting saw the home side end with three successive 5-1s which made the final outcome appear far more comfortable than it really was – with the Eagles threatening for long spells to take a point or more from the meeting.

Bates was the innocent victim of a mishap between the Eastbourne team-mates on turn two as Alfie Bowtell collected Lewis Kerr, leaving the track blocked and nowhere for Bates to go but into the tangle.

All three were quickly on their feet but Bates could take no further part with concerns over a possible scaphoid injury – but fortunately, subsequent hospital checks confirmed no breaks, and tissue damage only.

Lions took the early advantage as Richie Worrall and Ellis Perks notched a 5-1 over Richard Lawson in Heat 4, but the Eagles stayed in the contest and captain Edward Kennett re-passed Leicester guest Kyle Howarth to win a thrilling fifth.

The visitors had a big stroke of fortune in Heat 7 when Worrall ground to a halt when well clear, handing Eastbourne a 5-1, but Leicester hit straight back in the next as Ben Morley fell under Connor Mountain’s challenge and failed to clear the track.

Referee Tony Steele waited until leader Perks had completed two laps before stopping the race and awarding the Lions the 5-1 they deserved.

Howarth lowered the colours of Kennett as Eastbourne used the tactical substitute facility in Heat 9, but further wins for Kerr and Kennett in the next two races saw the gap cut back to four points – and Perks then hit trouble in Heat 12 with Mountain riding strongly to pass Bowtell and protect the advantage.

At 38-34 all outcomes were possible, but Lions then stepped up a gear with Worrall and skipper Scott Nicholls combining superbly to squeeze out Kennett in Heat 13 – and then in the next race Howarth forced his way past the previously unbeaten Kerr, with Jack Thomas seizing his chance to follow through for a brilliant second place.

And with the Eagles’ challenge suddenly wiped out, the Lions’ top two combined again in Heat 15, Nicholls from the gate and Worrall quickly clearing Kerr to make it a hat-trick of late-meeting 5-1s.

Manager Stewart Dickson said: “After Josh’s crash I said to the guys it was about any sort of win.

“That was a test for our team to see what we were made of, and we stepped up to cover for a rider who scored 13 points here last week, which is what good teams do.

“We finished so powerfully, and Eastbourne are a decent side with good riders. The final scoreline maybe slightly flattered us, but at the same time Richie seized an engine and Ellis was also on a placing when his bike packed up.

“Jack, Connor and Ellis covered Josh’s rides, and it was also a big ride from Kyle Howarth when he nullified the tactical, because I know from being on the other side of it that when it does work, everyone’s tails are up, so that was very important.

“It was a great team effort again. I don’t really want to single anyone out but I’d like to give Kyle a mention because some guests are happy to score seven or eight, but he really went for it, and he also wanted Heat 15 which I can totally understand!”

LEICESTER 53: Scott Nicholls 12+1, Richie Worrall 10+1, Kyle Howarth 10, Ellis Perks 9+2, Connor Mountain 7+2, Jack Thomas 5+2, Josh Bates 0.
EASTBOURNE 37: Edward Kennett 11, Lewis Kerr 11, Richard Lawson 5+1, Alfie Bowtell 4+1, Tom Brennan 3, Ben Morley 2, Georgie Wood 1+1.


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