LEICESTER are through to a second Championship Grand Final in three seasons after racing to a convincing aggregate victory over Edinburgh.

The Watling JCB Lions overcame the withdrawal of No.1 Nick Morris after a freak Heat 1 crash in Saturday’s second leg at the Paul Chapman & Sons Arena to record a 53-37 win on the night and go through by 33 points on aggregate.

They now await the outcome of the second semi-final between Glasgow and Poole which will determine their opponents in the Final.

Much of the hard work had been done in Friday’s excellent away win at Armadale, but the Lions still had to guard against complacency, and they delivered a super-solid team performance at home even despite the blow of losing Morris.

The Australian suffered a broken clutch plate after leaving the line in the first race resulting in him looping on his way to the first bend, and he was ruled out as a precaution after experiencing some lower back pain – with the incident also unfortunate for the Monarchs’ Lasse Fredriksen, who was clipped by the stray bike of Morris and had to withdrawn himself after two rides.

Edinburgh skipper Sam Masters won the re-run, the first of four straight wins for him, as his side opened up with a 4-2 advantage.

But the Lions quickly took the lead on the night with Max Clegg rounding James Sarjeant on the last bend of Heat 2 to join a revitalised Joe Thompson for a 5-1, whilst Dan Thompson snatched third place from Paco Castagna on the last lap of Heat 3 as Richie Worrall raced to the first of four race wins.

Skipper Kyle Howarth twice got the better of the all-action Josh Pickering in the early stages, and a brilliant ride by Joe Thompson saw him pass Castagna after a race-long duel in Heat 7 to team up with Howarth for the Lions’ second 5-1 of the night.

Connor Mountain rode strongly to win Heat 8 with Clegg rounding Jacob Hook on the last lap, and a stunning 5-1 followed in Heat 9 as Worrall fended off Pickering before Dan Thompson steamed through on the inside at the start of the second lap, and that result made progression to the Final a mathematical certainty.

Lions were set for another 5-1 in Heat 10 only for Mountain to suffer mechanical misfortune in the closing stages of the race, but they did strike another maximum in Heat 12 courtesy of Worrall and Clegg.

The Monarchs gained some consolation in Heat 13 where Pickering produced a typically spectacular effort to work his way past first Dan Thompson and then Howarth and collect a 5-1 with Masters, and Castagna also added himself to the winners’ list in Heat 14.

But Howarth had the final say in a competitive Heat 15 as he held off Pickering whilst the unbeaten run of Masters came to an end after a tight call with Worrall on the back straight.

Leicester manager Stewart Dickson said: “We feel good, getting into the Final was the target and we rode very well over the two nights.

“The objective was to get to the Final and we’ve managed to do that rather more convincingly than I thought we would do.

“Edinburgh had a tough night on Friday which we took advantage of, and we did a thoroughly professional job tonight, so now it’s all systems go and we’re looking forward to the Final.

“It was a sore flip for Nick but I don’t think there was any head or neck damage, which is good, it was more lower back pain, so he’s gone off home and hopefully all will be fine after some rest.”

The next action at the Paul Chapman & Sons Arena is on Saturday October 1, where the Lion Cubs need to defeat Berwick to secure top spot in the National Development League ahead of the play-offs.

LEICESTER 53: Richie Worrall 15, Kyle Howarth 15, Dan Thompson 6+2, Joe Thompson 6+2, Connor Mountain 6, Max Clegg 5+2, Nick Morris 0.
EDINBURGH 37: Sam Masters 12, Josh Pickering 9+1, Paco Castagna 5+1, Kye Thomson 4, James Sarjeant 4, Jacob Hook 2+1, Lasse Fredriksen 1.
Leicester win 106-73 on aggregate.

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Leicester Lions V Ipswich Witches
July 18, 2024 19.30

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