LIONS 38 POOLE 52 (AGG: 79-101)


LIONS 38 POOLE 52 (AGG: 79-101)

LEICESTER’S Championship title dreams were shattered with a 52-38 defeat to Poole in Friday’s Grand Final at King’s Lynn.

Trailing by eight points from the first leg and having to give up home advantage in order for the meeting to be run after recent weather issues, the Watling JCB Lions went down by 101-79 on aggregate – despite giving the Pirates a big scare in the early stages.

Lions had to make a fast start to proceedings, and they did just that with Nick Morris and Connor Mountain recording a 5-1 in Heat 1, which took three attempts to get going after falls for Ben Cook and Morris.

They kept the pressure on with a 4-2 in Heat 2, headed by Max Clegg, to cut the aggregate gap to just two points, and they were close to levelling overall as Richie Worrall won Heat 3 with Dan Thompson just unable to catch Drew Kemp on the line.

But the Pirates then got into their stride and carded a massive 5-1 in Heat 5, with King steaming inside Worrall on the back straight before Cook produced a spectacular effort to go around Thompson and then move back for the inside to pass Worrall too.

The next two races were shared with the Lions packing in behind Poole heat-leaders, but the Pirates inflicted another huge blow in the next when Zach Cook took the early advantage and whilst he was being challenged by Mountain, Ben Cook charged through on the inside for a 5-1.

And the visitors made it back-to-back 5-1s in the next to go six points up on the night, Zach Cook again producing a key performance whilst Richard Lawson managed to re-pass Worrall in a battle of the regular King’s Lynn riders.

The Pirates moved closer to the winning mark with 4-2 in Heat 11 as King rounded Kyle Howarth on the lap two whilst Ben Cook snatched third spot on the last lap – and it was secure in the next race with another 4-2 from Steve Worrall and Zach Cook.

Despite the Grand Final being over, there was still some competitive action to come, with the Thompson twins producing a brilliant effort to overcome Kemp in a hard-fought Heat 14.

But it was the Pirates who had the final say as Lawson completed a paid maximum in the last race, backed up by Ben Cook once again, as they took the title by a 22-point aggregate margin.

Stand-in boss Garry May said: “We started off well, we were getting out of the gate, but then the Poole boys got dialled in, and it was hard from there.

“Poole are a good side, they’ve got five or six good riders who can get you points, so we were up against it all the time.

“It was an honour to do the job for Stewart (Dickson). He’s such a good manager and it’s a shame he’s ill, but we couldn’t really do much tonight – Poole were on fire, the Leicester boys tried hard, but we just couldn’t do it.”

Despite suffering disappointment in the Grand Final, the Lions can still reflect on three hugely positive seasons at Championship level in which they have twice topped the league table, reached the play-offs on each occasion, and took the title in 2019.

They now prepare for a new era back in the Premiership in 2023, and news of their plans for next season should be available over the coming weeks.

CHAMPIONSHIP GRAND FINAL 2nd leg (at King’s Lynn)
LEICESTER 38: Nick Morris 7+1, Connor Mountain 6+2, Kyle Howarth 6+1, Richie Worrall 6, Joe Thompson 5+1, Max Clegg 5, Dan Thompson 3+1.
POOLE 52: Richard Lawson 14+1, Steve Worrall 11, Zach Cook 9, Ben Cook 8+3, Danny King 8+1, Drew Kemp 2+1, Nathan Ablitt 0.
Poole win 101-79 on aggregate

Photo Credit: DEREK LEADER

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