By Henry Chard
POOLE 50: Brady Kurtz 12, Tomas H Jonasson 10+1, Jack Holder 9+2, Nicolai Klindt 7+1, Josh Grajczonek © 6+3, Nico Covatti 5, Ricky Wells 1+1. Team Manager: Neil Middleditch
IPSWICH 40: Jake Allen 11, Chris Harris 8+2, Richard Lawson 7, Niels-Kristian Iversen 7, Danny King © 5+1, Cameron Heeps 2+1, James Sarjeant 0. Team Manager: Ritchie Hawkins
REFEREE: C. Turnbull
VENUE: Poole Stadium
FINAL PREMIERSHIP TABLE
PREMIERSHIP PLAY-OFF FIXTURES
Poole 50-40 Ipswich (1st Leg), Ipswich v Poole (2nd Leg – Sep 28)
Wolverhampton v Swindon (1st Leg – Sep 30), Swindon v Wolverhampton (2nd Leg – Oct 3)
The ‘Tru Plant’ Witches fell to a 50-40 defeat on Thursday night at Poole in the first leg of the Premiership Play-Off semi-final after the hosts produced a remarkable comeback to win.
Conditions were tricky at the start of the meeting with heavy rain having hit the country in the past few days and there was another downpour during heat one. The Witches took to conditions fantastically and were in control of the tie, building a 12-point lead after eight heats. However, the reigning champions rallied and hit six 5-1’s in the last seven races to build up a 10-point lead to take to Foxhall for the second leg on Saturday. Jake Allen top scored for Ipswich with 11.
With the rain hammering down, heat one started and Brady Kurtz and Nico Covatti made the gate, but Niels-Kristian Iversen did remarkably well to swoop around Covatti as the former Witch then slid off in the tough conditions with a 3-3 awarded. There was a delay to allow the rain to stop ahead of heat two, but the race didn’t get far as Ricky Wells touched the tapes and had to go from 15 metres in the re-run. Jake Allen rode a fine first lap to win the race, but Wells managed to catch James Sarjeant on the last lap as the points were shared again. The Witches went ahead in heat three as Richard Lawson won and Chris Harris stormed under both Pirates to join his partner at the front for a 5-1 that put the away side 11-7 up.
Ipswich extended their lead in heat four as Allen made it two wins from two and was followed home by captain Danny King for a maximum. Iversen dived under compatriot Nicolai Klindt on the back straight of the opening lap to win heat five but his partner Cameron Heeps was at the back having had machinery issues on the start line, meaning a 3-3. Kurtz and Covatti made the gate again in heat six but King did superbly to go wide on the third and fourth turn of the opening lap and go around Covatti and limit the hosts to a 4-2 that left the Witches 21-15 in front.
The visitors were well and truly in the mood at this stage and recorded another 5-1 in heat seven as the pair of Lawson and Harris combined again to extend Ipswich’s lead to 10 points. Allen made it three wins from three to win heat eight as Heeps hung on for third for another heat advantage to the away side. The home team got their first maximum of the night in heat nine as Klindt and Josh Grajczonek eased to a 5-1, meaning Ipswich held a 31-23 lead.
Harris was flying on the night and was at his best in heat 10 as he went wide on the first and second turn of the opening lap to then dive under Covatti at the front entering the third turn. He went on and won the heat with ease as Lawson took third for a 4-2 to the Witches. Allen came in for Heeps in heat 11 but the Pirates hit a 5-1 thanks to Jack Holder and Tomas H Jonasson. There were two changes in heat 12 as Allen came in for Sarjeant and Jonasson replaced Wells and it was a stunning race that ended badly for the Witches. The Pirates pair of Jonasson and Klindt led but Harris was flying and roared past Klindt and set his sights on Jonasson at the front. The Witches man was clearly the quicker rider and was lining up the Poole reserve as he saw a gap to dive under the Swedish rider on the first turn of the final lap, but the gap disappeared, and he took out the Pirates man as both riders went into the air fence. Harris was excluded and the race was awarded as a 5-1 to the home side and that ensured a tense finish with the Witches 37-35 up with three to race.
There was a lengthy delay to proceedings after the air fence was repaired and once the action restarted the Pirates took the lead for the first time on the night with a 5-1 from Kurtz and Holder in heat 13. The hosts continued to dominate the latter stages of the meeting and hit another maximum in heat 14 via Jonasson and Grajczonek. Holder seemed to have jumped the start in heat 15 but it was let go by the referee and he and partner Kurtz hit the front. Harris did everything he could to get past the two home riders and threatened to hit the front in the latter stages of the race, but the Pirates held on for a 5-1 that gave them 50-40 win, meaning the Witches have it all to do in the second leg at Foxhall on Saturday.
RIDER OF THE NIGHT…
Hard to choose between Harris and Allen. Allen scored 11 points from reserve, proving to be dangerous from the bottom end of the team whilst Harris scored 8+2 which didn’t do him justice. ‘Bomber’ was quick all night, was showing his best form and it will be needed again on Saturday.
The Witches were six points up heading into heat 12 and were in a good position in the tie. The Pirates pair of Jonasson and Klindt made the gate but Harris was the quickest rider on track and soon passed Klindt before charging after Jonasson. Unfortunately, Harris brought down Jonasson whilst trying to dive under him on the last lap and a potential 3-3 or 4-2 against the Witches turned into a 5-1 to the hosts as the race was awarded. That put the hosts just two points behind and the momentum had swung.
WHAT IT MEANS…
Poole take a 10-point lead into the second leg of the semi-final at Foxhall on Saturday and will be delighted having come from 12 points behind. The Witches will need to bounce back and work hard on Saturday night to turn it around.
The ‘Tru Plant’ Witches will host the return leg of this Premiership Play-Off semi-final against the Poole Pirates at Foxhall Stadium on Saturday 28th September at 7.30pm.