Photo Report: Poole v Leicester
5th July 2009
Report: Graham Sutton
Leicester journeyed about as far south as you can go without getting your tyres wet, for a tight match with Poole. Graham Sutton was there to capture the action in words and pictures.
Poole 84 Leicester 82
With 16 title successes between them and a host of epic clashes down the years, there was every expectation that this might be another classic and so it proved to be. The home side had more-or-less written-off their chances at the break, trailing by eight points and conceding no less than five exclusions. Without the services of Chris Roberts and Aaron Lowey through suspensions, the visitors' safe passage to the Semi Finals seemed assured.
After a quiet opening exchange, Poole suffered the first of their exclusions in heat 4 with Ben Donohue out for moving at the tapes, swiftly followed by Sam Hearn for the same offence a heat later when he was joined by Ben Mould after a hotly contested exclusion when disputing second place with Dan Pike. The resulting 7-0 gave Leicester a 28-18 advantage.
Races were becoming more fiercely contested and when Dan Pike was the first visitor to get his marching orders at the tapes in heat 8, Poole looked to be cruising to a 7 - 2 with Dave Murphy out in front and Gav Wheeler covering in second. Then Kev Burns tried an inside pass on the home straight and came to grief with referee Richard Hughes pointing to the home rider. Pandemonium reigned for several minutes as tempers flared but order was soon restored and Dave Murphy won the two rider re-run against Burns.
Nerves were playing an increasing part in procedings as first the usually cool Pete Young and then Nicky Whitehead were both ruled out of heat 9 for tapes movement, leaving Leon Yelland to head home Ben Donohue for a 4 - 3 and an interval score of 36 - 44. Ben Donohue picked up the sixth home exclusion after the break for a do-or-die last bend lunge for third place on Robbie Venson but with Craig Marchant taking the win, Leicester looked out of sight on 39 - 50.
Poole hit back with a Wheeler/Hearn 6 - 4 before a pivotal heat 12 when Craig Marchant was ruled out for an obstruction on fast-charging Ben Mould. The re-start allowed Mould and in-form Tom Colling to fully capitalise with a 7-2 and all of a sudden at 52 - 56 there was a glimmer of hope for home fans amongst a healthy Harbourside Park crowd.
With the next 3 heats shared, the margin remained as the scores progressed to 67 - 71 and surely victory would depend on holding nerves in check. Then in heat 16 Craig Marchant caught the eagle eye of referee Hughes for a flinch at the tapes and all of a sudden the impossible dream for the hosts began to look distinctly feasible as Pete Young sped away followed by Burns and Mould. Then there was a piece of sheer magic from the Welsh youngster as he outfoxed the Leicester skipper to join his parter for a 7 - 2 and an unlikely 74 - 73 scoreline.
Leon Yelland came out for his third race in heat 17 despite being less than 100% fit and steadied the Leicester nerves with a win under pressure and with Mark Newey holding on to third place, the visitors were back in front 78 - 79. The all important last heat lined up with Clanfield and Wheeler on 1 and 3 and Pike and Craig Whitehead on 2 and 4. Pike sped away from gate 2 but cut sharply across on home star Wheeler on the back straight sending him crashing to the deck and leaving the referee little option but to rule him out.
Four tense laps later the British Champion sped home for a win and with Richard Clanfield tucked in for third place, Poole clinched a 6 - 3 and a place in the semi-finals which few would have believed possible at the interval stage.
There were 11 exclusions and countless re-runs in a match which was hard but never dirty as each team had a healthy respect for the other. Indeed there were many who reckoned that it would hard to beat this for sheer excitement in the final itself.
Well done to all 16 riders for playing their part in another epic!
Poole 84: ( Tom Colling 16, Gavin Wheeler 16, Pete Young 14, Ben Mould 11, Rich Clanfield 10, Dave Murphy 9, Sam Hearn 4, Ben Donohue 4);
Leicester 82: (Mark Newey 14, Kev Burns 13, Nicky Whitehead 10, Leon Yelland 10, Robbie Venson 9, Dan Pike 9, Craig Marchant 9, Mark Whitehead 8).
Referee - Richard Hughes (E.Newport)