WOLVERHAMPTON 45 LIONS 45

04/09/2023

WOLVERHAMPTON 45 LIONS 45

LEICESTER have taken a huge step towards the Sports Insure Premiership play-offs after a Super Heat victory on a night of high drama at Wolverhampton.

Just as on their previous visit to Monmore Green last month, the Watling JCB Lions drew 45-45 after 15 races – but on this occasion the finale went in their favour thanks to sensational skipper Max Fricke and a fired-up Richard Lawson.

The Lions actually drop one place in the table to fifth place due to Ipswich’s narrow win at King’s Lynn, but the Witches have now completed their fixtures and the Lions’ task at Peterborough on Thursday is clear.

Had they lost the Super Heat at Wolves, they would have needed to avoid defeat at the East of England Arena in order to make it back into fourth place – but now all they need is the aggregate point, and they take a 57-33 advantage into the meeting.

Fricke raced to an outstanding 15-point maximum in the West Midlands before playing his part in the Super Heat, and there was also a key performance at reserve from Rising Star Drew Kemp who raced to a double figure score, whilst new signing Lewis Kerr won his first two races.

The Lions took the lead on three occasions only to be pegged back, and provided wins in each of the first five heats, their advantage coming with a 4-2 in Heat 4 although they had been on a clear 5-1 when Rory Schlein fell in the initial staging, before Leon Flint split Lawson and Kemp in the re-run.

Wolves levelled with a 4-2 in Heat 6 but the Lions went straight back ahead in the next when Kerr and Richie Worrall team-rode superbly to a 5-1 over Schlein.

Two races later, however, it was all square again as Jake Allen got out of shape exiting turn two just when he appeared to have the run on the outside, with Ryan Douglas and Luke Becker taking full advantage.

Worrall touched the tapes in Heat 10 but Kemp came in for an important 3-3 as he and Kerr held off Steve Worrall, and Fricke took his third win of the night in the next.

Heat 12 saw Kemp produce an outstanding ride to take the win over Becker with Kerr supplying third place to put the Lions ahead once again, but the drama of the meeting was only just beginning.

The red lights came on prior to Heat 13 and Lawson was disqualified for the highly unusual offence of warming his tyre on the concrete behind the pits, an infringement spotted by the machine examiner.

Kemp took his place and raced to a superb third place over Schlein, having actually outgated home No.1 Sam Masters, whilst Fricke kept his unbeaten run going to put Leicester 41-37 up.

They hoped to seal the deal in Heat 14 and things looked promising when Kemp, taking his seventh ride of the meeting, and Richie Worrall both gated – only for Kemp to crash on the third bend causing a race stoppage after the home riders had charged through on the inside.

In the re-run, Worrall hit the front again but he was passed by Zach Cook at the end of the first lap and then Douglas made it through on the inside on lap three for a Wolves 5-1 which made it 42-42.

Lions boss Stewart Dickson elected to pair Lawson with Fricke in Heat 15, and for the first time the Australian looked set to be headed as Masters led away in a 3-3 situation, before on lap three Douglas overtook Lawson which appeared to spell heartbreak for Leicester – until Fricke produced an incredible ride to switch inside Masters heading into the last lap and square the race at 3-3, completing a 45-45 draw.

That meant an extra race to decide it, with the managers choosing the same four riders – but this time it was a different result with Fricke making a great start and superbly clamping down Masters on both the first bend and the third bend, which allowed Lawson to make the run around the outside and join him.

And this time, unlike in August when the Lions were heading for victory only for Fricke to have the misfortune of crashing in the dying stages, they completed the job for the result they needed, to leave their destiny very much in their own hands.

Dickson said: “I think we deserved it, I thought we were the better team tonight whereas a few weeks ago we kind of threw it away.

“It takes two good teams for a good meeting, and obviously we had to go for it. It was a bold decision to go with Richard Lawson in the Super Heat but he was angry after the disqualification – and Max Fricke was exceptional, he almost stopped on the top bend to protect Richard.

“The plan was to pin Sam if we could, and Richard had to go off gate four. They both did their jobs, they got a result, and you could hear the jubilation in the camp and on the terraces.

“Drew was fantastic, and I said to him after Heat 2 that he now had to go on and win other races. He was excellent, and he played a very big part in us getting the result tonight.

“We’ve given ourselves a chance on Thursday night at Peterborough, and now we need to grab it. We need to do a solid, steady, professional job there, but Peterborough are a much-improved side now so we still know it’s going to be very tough.”

WOLVERHAMPTON 45: Sam Masters 9+1, Ryan Douglas 8+4, Luke Becker 8+1, Steve Worrall 8, Zach Cook 7, Leon Flint 3+1, Rory Schleon 2+1.
LEICESTER 45: Max Fricke 15, Drew Kemp 11+1, Lewis Kerr 8+1, Richard Lawson 5, Richie Worrall 3+1, Justin Sedgmen 2, Jake Allen 1.
Leicester beat Wolverhampton 7-2 in Super heat
Wolverhampton win the aggregate point

Photo credit: STEVE FEENEY

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