LEICESTER 40: Josh Bates 13, Scott Nicholls © 10+1, Richie Worrall 6, Jack Thomas 5+2, Ryan Douglas 3, Ellis Perks 2+1, Connor Mountain 1. Team Manager: Stewart Dickson
IPSWICH 50: Chris Harris 15 (Maximum), Richard Lawson 9+2, Danny King © 6+1, Cameron Heeps 6, Jake Allen 6, Drew Kemp (g) 4+1, David Bellego 4. Team Manager: Ritchie Hawkins
REFEREE: A. Steele
VENUE: Paul Chapman & Sons Arena
The ‘Tru Plant’ Witches began the 2019 campaign with a 50-40 win in a warm-up match away at Championship side Leicester on Saturday.
The Witches held a narrow lead throughout the clash before adding some gloss to the result in the final heat with a 5-1. Chris Harris was the star for the Witches, racing to a 15-point maximum.
Chris Harris got the evening off to a good start for the Witches as he won heat number one ahead of the Lions pair of Scott Nicholls and Ellis Perks, but it wasn’t such a happy opening ride for David Bellego who pulled up on the first lap with mechanical issues. Jake Allen took the honours in heat two but there was plenty going on behind him. Lions reserve Connor Mountain went down on turn one and Witches guest Drew Kemp then also hit the deck later on in the race allowing Jack Thomas into second, but Kemp managed to get back on the bike to claim a point for a 4-2 that gave the away side the lead. Josh Bates got the first race win of the night for the home side in heat three, setting a new track record in the process but the points were shared with Cameron Heeps and Richard Lawson both in the points, keeping the Witches 10-8 ahead.
Ipswich captain Danny King led the way in heat four and Kemp held off Richie Worrall for second early on, but the home rider found a way past to split the Witches pairing, meaning a heat advantage to the away side. Ryan Douglas went from 15 metres in heat five having gone through the tapes and he couldn’t make any impact in the re-run with nobody able to catch Harris out front. With Bellego picking up a point behind Bates it was another heat advantage to the away side, increasing their lead to six points. That enabled the home side to use a tactical substitution and the in-form Bates replaced Perks in heat six. The substitution paid off as Bates took the win with partner Nicholls joining him at the front for a 5-1 to put the home side back in the meeting, with the Witches leading 19-17.
Heat seven was stopped as Worrall went down on the first bend having clashed with Lawson, all four were called back to the re-run. The re-run looked like being the away side’s first maximum of the night with Heeps and Lawson out front but the Australian fell late on in the race with his teammate unable to avoid him, meaning Lawson was awarded the three points in a shared heat. The away side put things right in heat eight though as Bellego and Kemp raced to a 5-1. Bates was a man in-form for the Lions on the night and won heat nine ahead of Allen and King, leaving the Witches 30-24 up.
The Lions kept on fighting and reduced the lead again in heat 10 with Nicholls taking the chequered flag ahead of Heeps as Lawson retired at the back with bike problems. Harris was riding wonderfully for the Witches and won his third heat of the night having passed Worrall but Bellego was stuck at the back meaning a share of the spoils. Lawson ironed out his bike problems and won heat 12 ahead of Bates who was under pressure from Allen in third. That 4-2 to the Witches put them 39-33 up with three to race.
Harris was in unstoppable form on the night and blasted past Nicholls to win heat 13 with teammate King picking up a point to extend the away side’s lead. Douglas got the better of Heeps in heat 14 to take the win after an entertaining battle, with Thomas third for the home side. That result meant the Witches confirmed their victory on the night with a race to spare. Lawson was the early leader in the final heat of the night, but Harris wasn’t to be denied his full maximum as he passed his teammate to win and give the Witches a 5-1 that made the final score 50-40 to the away side.
No doubts about this one, Harris started the season in style with five wins from five and was a class above the rest on the night.
Harris passed Nicholls in his usual entertaining style to win heat 13 and with King third for a point that 4-2 gave the Witches an eight-point cushion with two to race, all but confirming their victory.
WHAT IT MEANS…
With this fixture being a challenge fixture, no points were on offer. The fixture gave both sides valuable track time in a race environment. The win will give the Witches confidence at the start of the season as they build up to their first competitive fixture against rivals King’s Lynn in the Supporters Cup.
The ‘Tru Plant’ Witches host Leicester Lions on Thursday 28th March at Foxhall in a challenge match.