By Henry Chard
IPSWICH 54: Danny King © 12, Jake Allen 11+1, Niels-Kristian Iversen 9+1, Richard Lawson 8, Cameron Heeps 7+3, James Sarjeant 4+1, Chris Harris 3+2. Team Manager: Ritchie Hawkins
POOLE 36: Nicolai Klindt 12+1, Josh Grajczonek © 10+2, Nico Covatti 8, Brady Kurtz 3+1, Ricky Wells 2, Tomas H Jonasson 1, Jack Holder 0 (Withdrawn). Team Manager: Neil Middleditch
REFEREE: C. Gay
VENUE: Foxhall Stadium
FINAL PREMIERSHIP TABLE
PREMIERSHIP PLAY-OFF FIXTURES
Poole 50-40 Ipswich (1st Leg), Ipswich 54-36 Poole (2nd Leg – Sep 28)
Wolverhampton v Swindon (1st Leg – Sep 30), Swindon v Wolverhampton (2nd Leg – Oct 3)
Ipswich v Wolverhampton/Swindon (1st Leg – Oct 7, 2nd Leg Oct 10)
The ‘Tru Plant’ Witches produced a phenomenal performance to beat the Poole Pirates 54-36 at Foxhall on Saturday night as they progressed to the Premiership Play-Off final on what was a special night for the club.
Trailing by 10 points ahead of the second leg of the semi-final against the reigning champions, Ipswich had it all to do to progress to the final. In an enthralling contest, the two sides traded a remarkable 10 5-1’s in the opening 10 heats as the hosts held an eight-point lead on the night with five races left. The Witches pushed on in the latter stages and sealed their place in the final with a race to spare as a big Foxhall crowd begun their celebrations on what was a night to remember. Captain Danny King top scored for the Witches with 12 points.
Former Witches rider Nico Covatti made the gate in heat one, but his bike let him down whilst leading which gifted Niels-Kristian Iversen and Cameron Heeps a 5-1 in the opening race of the night, making it the perfect start for the hosts. Things got better as Jake Allen won heat two and James Sarjeant stormed underneath Tomas H Jonasson going into the final lap for consecutive maximums to begin the evening for the Witches. However, the Pirates hit back in heat three with their first 5-1 via Nicolai Klindt and Josh Grajczonek to make the score 11-7 to the home team.
King and Allen hit a 5-1 for the Suffolk side in heat four but once again the visitors returned the favour as Covatti and Brady Kurtz raced to a maximum in heat five. Iversen and Heeps responded in heat six with a comfortable 5-1 as Jack Holder fell on the final lap. That put Ipswich 22-14 up on the night and just two points behind on aggregate.
Poole’s duo of Grajczonek and Klindt were looking strong and produced another maximum for the Pirates in heat seven as the momentum continued to swing in the tie. Allen made the gate in heat eight as Covatti held second but Heeps was having none of it as he swooped around his former teammate on the final lap to join his partner for another 5-1 that had Foxhall on their feet. Holder withdrew from the meeting for the Pirates after that earlier fall and the Witches went ahead on aggregate for the first time after another 5-1 in heat nine. Richard Lawson made the start ahead of Klindt with Chris Harris in third. Klindt and Harris had a titanic battle for second with both somehow managing to stay on the bike, but it was the Ipswich man who came out on top for a maximum that put the Witches 33-21 up and two points ahead overall.
Once again, the Pirates responded in heat 10 as that duo of Klindt and Grajczonek did it again and hit a 5-1 to put the champions back in front on aggregate. The run of maximums finally ended in heat 11 as King won ahead of Covatti and Allen claimed third for a 4-2 to Ipswich that levelled the score on aggregate as light rain began to fall. Klindt made the start in heat 12 ahead of Allen but it was the battle at the back that caught the eye. Ricky Wells held third for the visitors with Harris fourth, but the Ipswich man kept it wound on and went around the Poole rider going into the final lap for a crucial point as the American then fell. That shared heat made it 41-31 on the night and 81-81 on aggregate.
The Witches struck a huge blow in heat 13 as King and Iversen hit a crucial maximum that put them four points ahead on aggregate with two to race. With the rain getting heavier, heat 14 got going and it proved to be the heat that Ipswich confirmed their place in the Premiership Play-Off final. Grajczonek was quickest from the start but Lawson squeezed past the Poole captain on the back straight of the opening lap to take the lead. Sarjeant was stuck at the back but produced a stunning move to fly past Wells and claim that crucial point that sent Foxhall into raptures. King won heat 15 to end the night as Iversen took a point with Klindt having suffered an engine failure on the start line and that 4-2 made the final score 54-36 to Ipswich on the night, with the Witches progressing to the final having won 94-86 on aggregate.
RIDER OF THE NIGHT…
It may well sound cliched, but this was a team performance. Team manager Ritchie Hawkins has been saying all season that if everyone clicked on the same night then his side would take some stopping. This was the night, when it really mattered all seven riders produced what they needed to at the right time to record a big victory that sent the club to the final.
There were so many crucial races as is to be expected in a play-off semi-final, but you cannot look any further than heat 14. The Witches just needed a 4-2 to seal their place in the final. Grajczonek made the start but Lawson squeezed past him to take the lead on the back straight of the opening lap. Step forward James Sarjeant, at the back in the early stages he rode the wide line to pass Wells for third for that all-important heat advantage that started the celebrations on the terraces.
WHAT IT MEANS…
Ipswich won convincingly on the night by 18 points which gave them an eight-point victory over the two legs. They progress to the final to face either Wolverhampton or Swindon, who race each other next week.
The ‘Tru Plant’ Witches will race in the Premiership Play-Off final, with the fixtures scheduled to take place on Monday 7th and Thursday 10th October. Details will be finalised once the opposition is confirmed, keep an eye out on our official website and social media channels for all the latest news.