Sunday July 03, 2022
LEICESTER took a huge step towards the NDL KO Cup Final with a dominant 63-27 first leg win over Berwick on Sunday.

The Lion Cubs built a 36-point advantage far exceeding expectations as they were facing a powerful Bullets side who have been top of the league table throughout the year.

But the visitors were never allowed a look-in at the Paul Chapman & Sons Arena with Dan Thompson racing to an impeccable 18-point maximum from six rides, whilst brother Joe was paid for the lot with 16+2.

Dan also lowered his NDL track record as he flew round in Heat 1 in a time of 60.75, whilst Joe produced one of the rides of the day when he caught Kyle Bickley right on the line in a photo-finish to Heat 11.

There were also celebrations at the other end of the team with 15-year-old Max Perry notching a brilliant paid-15 score in his first home meeting since returning from a broken collarbone.

Perry neatly rounded Ben Rathbone to win Heat 2 and also took the scalp of the experienced Luke Crang in Heat 4 as he combined with Joe Thompson for a 5-1 – and he went on to add a win in Heat 8 and a paid win behind Tom Spencer in Heat 12.

Spencer himself hit double figures by winning his last two rides, the second of which saw him involved in a fierce battle with Greg Blair, who appeared to have made the pass on the outside before Spencer hit back – and Blair then fell going into the third bend.

Such scoring enabled the Lion Cubs to compensate for the absence of Connor Coles, who was on Championship duty, with Mickie Simpson chipping in with four third places, all in 4-2s to the Cubs as they extended their lead – including his own last-ditch pass on Rathbone in Heat 6.

Vinnie Foord had a tougher day with a tapes exclusion and a fall on the last bend of Heat 11 when third, but he ended on a high by following Spencer home for the 5-1 in Heat 14 – one of four successive maximums to finish the meeting, as the Thompson twins twice got the better of Bullets skipper Kyle Bickley.

Berwick were unfortunate to lose reserve Kieran Douglas in a heavy Heat 2 spill, triggered when partner Rathbone fell on the final bend, and the resulting chain reaction saw both Foord and Douglas come down.

The Bullets rider was taken to hospital with a back injury, and Leicester Speedway wish him well for a speedy recovery.

Boss Dave Howard said: “All along we were saying today, ‘just get the biggest lead possible and keep on pushing throughout the meeting to get the biggest lead to take back to Berwick.’

“It was a fantastic performance, and a 36-point lead is a great place to be. Dan and Joe completely dominated which gave us a fantastic start at the head of the team, and we just had to keep going and keep piling it on – because in a two-legged match you never know what’s going to happen.

“We got ten paid eleven from Connor’s rides, so rider replacement worked on our home track, although away from home I do want to get some guests when Connor’s not here.

“It was great for Max’s confidence to get that kind of meeting, and he had some great overtakes as well as his gating being a lot better. They changed the timings on his bike to help the gating, so it was a great day for Max and a real boost for him.”

The date for the second leg is to be arranged, but the Lion Cubs are back in action at the Paul Chapman & Sons Arena on Saturday (July 9) when they face an intriguing test against a recently much-strengthened Oxford side.

LEICESTER 63: Dan Thompson 18, Joe Thompson 16+2, Max Perry 12+3, Tom Spencer 10, Mickie Simpson 4, Vinnie Foord 3+1, Connor Coles r/r.
BERWICK 27: Kyle Bickley 8, Luke Crang 6, Greg Blair 4, Ace Pijper 3, Ben Rathbone 3, Kieran Douglas 2, Mason Watson 1+1.

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