LEICESTER were edged out 47-43 in a thrilling Sports Insure Premiership contest at Ipswich on Thursday.

The Watling JCB Lions took the powerhouse Witches all the way to a last-heat decider, where Jason Doyle and Emil Sayfutdinov secured a narrow victory for the home side.

But it was another indication of Leicester’s competitiveness at this level, with skipper Chris Harris leading the charge, Max Fricke again in double figures and Justin Sedgmen again contributing well with his fast starts.

Lions opened up with a 4-2 in an all-action Heat 1 in which Sedgmen raced clear from the inside whilst home No.1 Doyle found himself stuck at the back. Second placed Ben Barker lifted heading into the last lap allowing Fricke through for the Lions, before Doyle forced his way past his fellow countryman on the final bend.

Former Lion Cubs captain Danyon Hume went round Jake Allen on the last lap of Heat 2 to share that race for the Witches, but a big Lions 5-1 came next as Fricke took rider replacement for Richard Lawson and stormed from the inside, backed up by Harris who saw off Danny King.

However, the Witches hit back immediately as Nick Morris crashed out of Heat 4, going down as he went into the second lap under the challenge of Emil Sayfutdinov, and the re-run saw Sayfutdinov and Hume make their way around Allen on the first lap.

King broke the tapes at the start of Heat 5 but Hume came in and pulled off a great ride to hold off Fricke for the win, and the home side took the lead with a 5-1 in Heat 6 as Barker saw off Morris on the first lap with Doyle well clear at the front.

Harris produced a vintage ride in Heat 7 to reel in and pass Sayfutdinov, charging through on the inside on the third lap, as the Lions levelled the scores again at 21-21.

But a win for Barker over Sedgmen in Heat 8 put the home side back ahead, with Joe Thompson just holding off Dan in a fierce fight to the line between the twins, and the Lions conceded another 4-2 in Heat 9 as Morris came to grief again, this time after he had held an early lead but lost it on the exit of turn four when battling with King. The re-run saw Dan Thompson ride strongly to hold Hume at bay for second place.

Lions cut the gap to two again with a 4-2 in Heat 12 as Harris pulled clear of King whilst Allen picked up third place when Hume slid off on turn three.

And they managed to find a way to split the Sayfutdinov/Doyle combination in Heat 13 as Fricke made it inside Doyle off turn two for second place, leaving the scores at 41-37 with two races remaining.

There was drama in Heat 14 as Harris forced his way inside Hume going into lap two, and the tiring Ipswich reserve them lost out to Allen meaning the scores were all square heading into the decider.

But Doyle and Sayfudtinov squeezed out Fricke in a tight run to the first turn in Heat 15, and when Harris slid off on the third bend of lap two, the race was awarded as an Ipswich 5-1 giving the home side victory, although the scoreline allows the Lions a decent shot at the aggregate point in the reverse fixture next month.

Harris said: “It was a shame to lose like we did, but Ipswich are strong at home and everyone put in a shift tonight and we just lost it in the last heat.

“I’m pleased with my performance and also how the boys rode. I tried something in Heat 15 that didn’t quite work and then I went a bit too deep and the tyre went from underneath me and it came around, but these things happen.

“But I felt better on the bike tonight than I have probably all season, and that’s a positive.”

Lions are back in action at Peterborough on Monday where they hope to have Lawson back in action, after he was released from hospital on Wednesday evening.

IPSWICH 47: Emil Sayfutdinov 13+1, Jason Doyle 12, Danyon Hume 9+1, Danny King 6, Ben Barker 5+1, Keynan Rew 1, Joe Thompson 1.
LEICESTER 43: Chris Harris 12+2, Max Fricke 11, Justin Sedgmen 8+2, Jake Allen 6+1, Dan Thompson 3+1, Nick Morris 3, Richard Lawson r/r.

Photo credit: JEFF HIGGOTT

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