Sunday May 05, 2019
LEICESTER pulled off a sensational 45-44 win at Eastbourne on Sunday to extend their outstanding start to the 2019 season.

Despite their injury problems, the Watling JCB Lions completed a weekend Championship double over the Eagles in the most dramatic way possible by snatching a 5-1 on the final bend of Heat 15.

In doing so they became the first visiting side to win a senior league match at Arlington since June 2013, and even in the Eagles’ four years at third-tier level they lost just once in the league on home shale.

Scott Nicholls and Richie Worrall were the beneficiaries of a stroke of fortune in the dying embers of the meeting as race leader Richard Lawson came to grief on turn four with victory in sight.

But it was just reward for the Lions’ efforts after an eventful afternoon which saw them reduced to five riders early on as Jack Thomas was withdrawn with a shoulder injury.

Nicholls, Worrall and guest Josh Pickering rode superbly against the Eagles’ top order, whilst Ellis Perks contributed vital points at reserve.

Lions provided the first two race wins, Nicholls passing Edward Kennett to take Heat 1, and the first half of the meeting was evenly matched with Eastbourne leading 21-20 after Heat 7.

The Eagles notched a 5-1 in Heat 8 through Tom Brennan and Ben Morley, backed up by a 4-2 in Heat 9 when the Lions’ injuries meant they could only track one rider.

But a seven-point lead for the home side was quickly whittled down as Worrall and Pickering combined for a 5-1 in Heat 10, Kennett coming to grief as he tried to chase, and the gap was reduced to a single point with two races to go – Pickering riding superbly to hit the front for a third victory in Heat 12.

Eastbourne gained breathing space with a 4-2 Heat 14 when Pickering hit the fence on turn two, although Perks held on for a vital second place over Lewis Kerr which gave the Lions a chance going into the last race, but only a 5-1 would do for a win.

Lawson looked set to end their hopes but with Nicholls chasing in second place, a remarkable ending saw the Eagles heat-leader damage his footrest on lap three – and he was then unable to hang on next time around as the Lions shot through for the narrowest possible victory.

Boss Stewart Dickson said: “I have to be honest and say a point from the meeting was a target, anything more was a bonus.

“But even when we were three points down, five points down, I knew we had gates one and three in Heats 13 and 15, and our guys were gating well on a track where it was difficult to pass.

“Scott was putting pressure on Richard Lawson throughout the four laps and Richard nearly got sucked into the fence the lap before. I was pleased to see him get up and walk away, and obviously our supporters went daft on the second bend!

“We’ve done very well with our guests over the last two days. Josh gave us a great performance, and he fitted in with the team well as Kyle (Howarth) did last night. Last night he was 20 miles from Edinburgh when we booked him and he did a U-turn in the van, it was an incredible effort from him and thankfully he was OK after a big off in his last ride.

“Jack Thomas locked up on the bike in Heat 2 and his shoulder and collarbone was stiff. We’re hoping there isn’t a break, he’s going home and will go to his own A&E to get it checked out, and hopefully it’s not too serious.”

Lions do now have time off to allow their injured riders to recover, as they do not return to action until May 17 when they travel to Edinburgh.

EASTBOURNE 44: Lewis Kerr 9, Tom Brennan 8, Georgie Wood 7+1, Edward Kennett 7, Richard Lawson 6, Ben Morley 5+3, Alfie Bowtell 2+1.
LEICESTER 45: Scott Nicholls 14, Richie Worrall 12+2, Josh Pickering 11, Ellis Perks 7+1, Connor Mountain 1, Jack Thomas 0, Ryan Douglas r/r.

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