Bandits cast their spell to beat Witches in Championship clash
Berwick Bandits 50-40 Ipswich Witches
Berwick made it two wins out of two in the league at home with a 10-point victory over Ipswich on Saturday.
Rory Schlein, who had won the Scottish Open for a fourth time the night before, was in untouchable form as he scorched his way to an 18-point full maximum for the visitors. He won five of his races from the gate, and on the one occasion he was beaten out of the start, by Aaron Summers in heat 13, he stormed past to maintain his unbeaten run.
But the Witches, who had drawn at Newcastle the previous weekend, only had former Bandit and guest Ben Barker, and Shielfield debutant Michael Haertel to back him up. They each won one race, whereas the Bandits, using Paul Starke as a guest for Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen, were a more solid outfit, with five of their number taking the chequered flag.
Berwick got off to a good start to open up a six-point lead after two races, and this enabled Schlein to be used as a rider replacement in heat five, giving him three races in a row in four, five and six.
He reeled off three successive heat wins, and with heat five producing a 1-5 with Barker, it got Ipswich back in contention at 16-14.
After Cameron Heeps was excluded for tape-touching in seven and Danyon Hume and Starke both ending up in a pile on the first bend on the first re-run, John Lindman won his first ever race in Berwick colours in the second re-staging.
Gradually, Berwick started to turn the screw, and heat advantages in eight (5-1 from Jye Etheridge and Doolan), 4-2 in 10 (Doolan and Summers) and another 5-1 in 12 (Etheridge and Dany Gappmaier) saw the Bandits 10 up at 41-31 and on the brink of victory.
Schlein still had two wins left in him, while Haertel headed home Lindman and David Howe in 14.
Perhaps the best race of the night, however, was heat 15, when Doolan and Barker scrapped for a solitary point at the back. There was no quarter given, Doolan finally finding a way through before Barker fell on the final bend, still giving chase.
After the meeting, Berwick manager Scott Courtney said: “What a brilliant match that was, and proof again – if it were needed – that we are a solid side pulling together to beat the best, and Ipswich are a seriously good side.
“Rory Schlein should be hugely congratulated for his superlative 18-point six-ride maximum which he thoroughly deserved, while I was well impressed by our John Lindman, who is finally looking like the determined and successful rider we had fully believed he was. This was a good confidence-boosting match for the guys and where any points were lost, the team gel together to help anyone who needs it.”
Lindman added: “I was pleaded to get that first win, it has been a long time coming.
“It has been tough for me coming over to the UK, tougher than I thought it would be. The tracks are so different to back home in Sweden and I am just getting used to them.
“My season has only started this week in Sweden as well. I will be riding two nights a week there and hopefully that added race time will help me for the rest of the year.
“Tonight should now give me some confidence for the rest of the season.”
Berwick: Etheridge 10+1, Doolan 9+2, Summers 9+1, Lindman 8+2, Gappmaier 6+1, Starke 5+1, Howe 3+1.
Ipswich: Schlein 18 (max), Haertel 7+2, Barker 7+1, Heeps 3, Mountain 3, Hume 2, Covatti - rider replacement.
This weekend Berwick face two meetings in two days.
On Saturday, they take on defending league champions Sheffield at Shielfield, before travelling to Newcastle on Sunday for the second leg of the Tyne-Tweed Challenge – the first leg resulted in a 41-49 win for the Diamonds.