Saturday March 26, 2022
LEICESTER sent out a massive statement of intent for the new season with an emphatic 64-26 win over Birmingham in the first leg of their KO Cup tie.

The Watling JCB Lions dominated proceedings in front of a big crowd at the Paul Chapman & Sons Arena and had four unbeaten riders as they put more than one foot into the semi-finals of the competition.

Heat-leaders Richie Worrall, Kyle Howarth and Nick Morris all recorded maximums, with Worrall reeling off five straight wins for a 15-pointer, and it was also a night of celebration for youngster Joe Thompson, who collected 10+2 from his four rides – his first full house at senior level.

Thompson produced one of the highlights of the meeting when he surged past former Lions rider Josh Auty in Heat 4, and he wrapped up his maximum when he combined with skipper Howarth for one of the Lions’ seven 5-1s in Heat 12.

Morris also had to come from the back in Heat 10 when his namesake Ashley Morris made the fastest start, but a spectacular blast around the outside on turns three and four put the Lions’ No.1 in front.

Elsewhere in the side, Connor Mountain also took the scalp of Auty in Heat 6, and picked up a second 5-1 of his own in Heat 8 after a battle with the Brummies’ Australian youngster James Pearson, who fell on the last lap.

New signing Anders Rowe also took a fall when trying to move inside Pearson in Heat 2, but he ended his night with a strong second place in Heat 14 when Ashley Morris took the Brummies’ sole race win, whilst Dan Thompson was solid in the middle-order and also teamed up with Howarth over Auty in his third ride.

The visitors were admittedly under-strength with British Champion Adam Ellis set to join their ranks next week, and they will take some encouragement from the displays of Morris and Pearson although they rarely threatened the Lions’ big guns.

Joe Thompson said: “It’s great for the team to get such a big win, and it’s such a good achievement for myself to get my first maximum at the Championship level.

“I’ve put in a lot of work in the winter, in the gym especially, and a lot of time spent in the workshop as well with some new engines, and I was getting out of the starts good.

“I felt good on the bike, and it’s been six months since I pulled a move like that on Josh! I haven’t raced at all since last season, but for the first time back I can’t complain with a paid max.”

The Lions will look to complete the job of progression when they visit Perry Barr for the second leg on April 6, but prior to that comes their opening Championship fixture against a Scunthorpe side featuring former Leicester riders Ryan Douglas and Zaine Kennedy next Saturday (April 2).

LEICESTER 64: Richie Worrall 15, Kyle Howarth 14+1, Nick Morris 11+1, Joe Thompson 10+2, Connor Mountain 6+2, Dan Thompson 5+2, Anders Rowe 3.

BIRMINGHAM 26: Ashley Morris 9, Claus Vissing 8, Josh Auty 3, James Shanes 2+1, James Pearson 2, Ben Morley 1+1, Stefan Nielsen 1.

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