Pirates Dodge the Rain to Retain Title
So after a busy Elite League season and rain-hit Play-offs, Poole Pirates have been crowned as league champions for the second successive year.
Poole finished top of the regular season so perhaps the play-offs were a bit of a waste of time in a way. They certainly had their moments though especially the second leg of the semi-final between Poole and King’s Lynn. The meet kept on being postponed as the sport tried its hardest to stage its play-offs during October. Rather than the usual excellent show on Sky Sports, the second leg finally took place last Thursday (October 16) and kept interrupting Sky News HQ’s obsession with Premier League football.
That didn’t prove easy for Sky News because again there was rain in the air threatening abandonment. Hence the fact that the gap between each heat was reduced as they battled to get to ten heats thus guaranteeing a result. Racing in the drizzle on an increasingly wet track with more than one bike breaking down and crashing was getting a bit farcical for such an important match. They made it through the rain (as Barry Manilow would say) and Poole made it through to the final.
The first leg took place just two days later with Coventry Bees, the side Poole decided not to face in the semi-finals, hosting. Any fear Poole had of the in-form Bees was soon dispelled though as they managed to win the first leg by three points. A result that deeply depressed Coventry manager Gary Havelock who admitted: “We needed to have a lead to come down here with really, and we didn’t manage it.”
So to the second leg on Monday October 20 and my night in watching the final was wrecked by an unplanned shopping trip. Needless to say listening to speedway on BBC Radio Solent is not the most thrilling of experiences.
The Bees needed to get off to a good start if they were to have any chance of getting back into the tie. They did just that as Kyle Howarth won the first heat and the away side led 4-2. It was 7-5 to the Bees after two legs and just one point in the tie. Heat 3 though changed the final as Janowski and Pawlicki gave Poole a 5-1 making it 10-8 and stretching their aggregate lead to five. Another 5-1 for the home side in the fifth heat put Poole four points up on the night and seven points ahead in the tie.
A 4-2 for Coventry in heat six narrowed the aggregate gap to five points but the next two heats went to Poole 9-3 and the title was firmly in their grasp with the aggregate lead now 11 points. The next five heats all finished with both sides earning three points but Poole finished the night off in style with two 5-1’s to run out 53-37 winners on the night and a 19 point aggregate win.
Poole skipper Marcel Janowski certainly led from the front scoring a paid-maximum from his five rides, despite crashing in Heat 11. Poole promoter Matt Ford said: “I am so proud of these guys. It’s been a really tough year but the lads have done what has become expected of them when they pull on a Poole race jacket. They have ridden their hearts out and to win back-to-back titles again is a great feeling.”
Now the spotlight switches to the Premier League with Somerset taking on Edinburgh in the Play-off final on Friday and Saturday. Edinburgh won the regular season by seven points and easily won their play-off group so they’ll take some stopping this weekend.