LION CUBS 52 OXFORD 38 (96-84)


LION CUBS 52 OXFORD 38 (96-84)

LEICESTER are through to the National Development League Grand Final after a 12-point aggregate win over Oxford.

The Lion Cubs defeated the Chargers 52-38 at the Paul Chapman & Sons Arena on Saturday, overturning a two-point first leg deficit to reach their second Grand Final in three seasons.

Their opponents in the decider will be either Mildenhall or Berwick, with the Fen Tigers arguably favourites at the halfway stage of their semi-final as they left the first leg at Shielfield Park trailing by just three points.

The victory over the Chargers was achieved with an excellent all-round display headlined by another paid maximum from No.1 Dan Thompson, who went through both legs of the tie unbeaten – whilst brother Joe dropped just one point in the second leg.

Oxford had strengthened with the inclusion of Adam Roynon as a guest and also tracked NDL Riders’ Champion Jordan Jenkins, whilst 15-year-old newcomer Ashton Boughen made a very impressive first competitive appearance at Beaumont Park.

But the Lion Cubs had the strength to cover everything the Chargers could throw at them, going in front on aggregate in Heat 2 and never letting their grip on the tie slip thereafter.

It was a big 5-1 from reserves Vinnie Foord and Mickie Simpson which put the Cubs on their way, and this became even more important as Boughen quickly got to grips with the track as the meeting went on.

But another Oxford youngster Jody Scott fell heavily in Heat 3, and he failed to score from his remaining rides, whilst the excellent Cubs heat-leaders prevented Roynon from winning a race.

Joe Thompson lost out to Henry Atkins in Heat 4 but Dan got the better of the Oxford No. 5 in Heat 6, and that was the first of two successive 4-2s which extended the aggregate margin to six points, with Connor Coles having prevented a 5-1 when the strong pairing of Jenkins and Roynon were deployed by the Chargers in Heat 5.

The visitors had Jenkins able to take a rider replacement ride in Heat 8 but Max Perry held second place, and he then collected a 4-2 with Dan Thompson in Heat 10 with the gap overall at six points.

It was still a tense encounter and Joe Thompson took a key win in Heat 11 before the Chargers reduced the overall arrears to four points when Boughen underlined his talent with victory over Coles in Heat 12.

But at the most crucial stage of the semi-final, the Thompson twins came up with the goods in Heat 13 as Dan and Joe carded a maximum over Atkins and Jenkins, leaving the Chargers needing two unlikely 5-1s to level the aggregate scores.

And although Boughen took another win in Heat 14, Foord and Tom Spencer secured the second and third places required to take the Cubs through, before the Thompsons did the business again in Heat 15 to make the final margin more comfortable, and not entirely reflective of how competitive the tie was over 30 heats.

Boss Dave Howard said: “I’m so proud of the whole team, the way they rode at Oxford on Wednesday was unbelievable to keep them within two points, and that really set us up for tonight.

“We spoke before the start about avoiding last places and that would do the business, and they fought for every single point.

“The way they work as a team, and the way the mechanics work with each other as well, it’s a great team to be manager of. They’re a great bunch to work with and they’ve done a fantastic job all season.

“On paper Oxford were probably the strongest team in the play-offs, with their strengthening up, so I’m really proud and now let’s see if we can finish the job!”

Dates for the Grand Final are to be confirmed when the Lion Cubs are sure of their opposition, but they have a definite date with Mildenhall already next Saturday (October 15, 7pm) in the first leg of the NDL KO Cup Final.

LEICESTER 52: Dan Thompson 14+1, Joe Thompson 13+1, Connor Coles 9, Vinnie Foord 6, Max Perry 4, Tom Spencer 3+2, Mickie Simpson 3+2.
OXFORD 38: Henry Atkins 11+1, Jordan Jenkins 9+1, Ashton Boughen 9, Adam Roynon 8, Jacob Clouting 1, Jody Scott 0, Nathan Stoneman r/r.
Leicester win 96-84 on aggregate.

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Leicester Lions V Ipswich Witches
July 18, 2024 19.30

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