Bandits finish with a flourish and just miss out on play-offs

Berwick ended their competitive season in spectacular fashion with two away victories in the space of 24 hours at the weekend.

Monday, 17th September 2018, 10:25 am
Updated Monday, 17th September 2018, 10:31 am

The Bandits won 48-42 at Edinburgh on Friday, and followed it up with a 47-43 win at Ipswich on Saturday.

Unfortunately, it was not enough to land the Borderers a top four finish in the Championship, and they missed out on an end of season play-off place with Peterborough, Workington, Glasgow and Lakeside filling the four qualifying spots.

Meanwhile, Berwick-based Leon Flint won the British Youth 500cc championship at Berwick on Saturday, with Sam Hagon taking the 250cc division.

The club also staged their traditional Stars of Tomorrow junior event, which was won by Kyle Bickley, with Joe Lawlor second, Flint third and another Berwicker, Luke Ruddick fourth.

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Berwick left the best until last in this season’s British Speedway Championship League! Berwick totally confounded pre-season predictions, which saw them placed joint last and ninth of 11 in two pre season pundit lists, to finish fifth in the league and agonisingly just missing a top four play off spot by a single point!

And, if Bandits had taken all four points from their superb wins at Edinburgh and Ipswich last Friday and Saturday, they would have pipped Lakeside for fourth spot.

The full house at Edinburgh on the Friday evening certainly looked on as Berwick sped into an early 16 point lead on a track where they had only won twice at in past seasons. Monarchs fought back in the latter stages but Berwick were not to be denied and won 48-42, just missing the fourth point.

Pre-meeting rain had threatened the actual fixture at Armadale but full credit to Monarchs track staff who battled to get a decent racing strip and the meeting started only some 35 minutes late.

Once again it was a great all round team performance with only really Dany Gappmaier failing to trouble Edinburgh.

The other six either won or were paid for wins, David Howe defying an injury in a grass/longtrack meeting the previous weekend, to also play his part when it had looked as if he would miss the matches on Friday and Saturday.

Berwick provided all of the first seven race winners at Armadale to actually lead 29-13! Theo Pijper certainly enjoyed going back to his old home track! The Dutchman has turned the clock back in recent weeks with some sterling displays at reserve and the meeting at Armadale was certainly no exception. Theo rattled up a paid 15 from his seven rides.

Edinburgh 42: R Wells 11+2 (5 rides): V Palovaara 7+1 (4): J Pickering 4 (4): R Worrall 7+1 (4): E Riss 6+1 (5): W Lawson 5 (4): G Manzares (Guest) 2 (4)

Berwick 48: A Summers 6 (4): D Howe 5+1 (4): J Etheridge 5+1 (3): K Doolan 8+2 (4): N B Jakobsen 10+1 (5): D Gappmaier 1(3): T Pijper 13+2 (7)

At Foxhall Heath on Saturday it was a question of fourth time lucky for Berwick! The meeting at Ipswich had been called off three times (twice when the teams were there – the latest a couple of weeks ago when Berwick led 20-16 before a rain off)

However, there was to be denying Bandits this time! Foxhall has also not been a happy hunting ground for the Bandits over the years but they were to triumph 47-43 last Saturday.

In truth this time the four points did not look on going into the latter stages and in fact Witches led 39-33 with three races remaining. Berwick then hit then with a triple blast in the final three heats, taking them 14-4! This included 5-1 wins in the last two courtesy of the Kevin Doolan/Theo Pijper and Aaron Summers/Kevin Doolan pairings in the last two races.

With Scott Courtney on duty at the Berwick Stars of Tomorrow/Youth Championship meetings at Berwick, bother and fellow promoter Jamie was in charge of the team at Foxhall for his first win as team manager!

Again, it was basically a fine team performance, with only Gappmaier failing to trouble Ipswich and again evergreen skipper Kevin Doolan was an inspiration.

Ipswich 43: D King (R/R): C Heeps 10+1 (5): N Covatti 13 (6) P Starke (Guest) 2+1 (5): T Jorgensen (Guest) 9+1 (5): C Garcia 3 (4): D Kemp 6+1 (5)

Berwick 47: A Summers 11 (5): D Howe 5+1 (4): J Etheridge 4 + 1( 4): K Doolan 12+1 (5): N B Jakobsen 8 (4): D Gappmaier 0 (3): T Pijper 7+2 (5)

Long serving Bandits official Dennis McCleary commented “What an end of season for the club and what a blow to miss out by one point but the club can hold their heads high ! Remember this was a team almost written off pre season and one where there has only been one change all year (Theo Pijper for John Lindman). The team stood up and were counted and I feel that if they had made the play-off’s they could have gone on to win the Championship. Few teams would currently relish meeting Berwick home and away on aggregate results! Full marks to Scott and Jamie and all concerned”

Bandits season will now end on 29 September with the Bordernapolis Individual meeting.

* Tweedmouth teenager Leon Flint continued his rise up the speedway ladder at Berwick on Saturday night by being crowned the British Youth Speedway 500cc Championship on his hometown track, but it was another teenage star in the making, Kyle Bickley (Workington/Belle Vue) who took the Stars of Tomorrow Individual award in the meeting which ran alongside the Youth Championship.

In truth, however, Flint was dialled in to win the Youth title almost before tapes up but he still produced a professional performance and the result never looked in doubt. Only the Thompson lads (Joe and Dan) were close in the race for the trophy but in this Round 6 neither rode and Flint won all of his five races including the final in some impressive times of under 68 seconds, many on par with Championship meeting ones.

Flint could have crowned a good night by winning the Stars of Tomorrow individual as well but missed out in the final to the talented teenager Kyle Bickley. Both were unbeaten in the qualifying races, with again some good winning times.

In the final, which also featured Joe Lawlor and Berwick asset Luke Ruddick (riding for Coventry), both equally capable of winning on earlier performances in the heats, Bickley had got a warning for a ‘jump start’ and in the re-run was maybe a little fortunate to get away a second time, making a jet propelled start! However, take nothing away from Bickley as we sped away to win comfortably from surprise packer Lawlor, Flint and Ruddick. This if fact was Leon’s tenth race of the night!

Several lads on show in both meetings caught the eye. In the Youth Championships no one got near Essex youngster Sam Hagon in the 250cc class as we won all of his five races comfortably.

However Sam would miss out on the overall title to Nathan Ablitt who did not ride at Berwick. Hagon was to finish runner up overall. Josh McPherson sadly had to withdraw with concussion after a fall in his third race.

In the 500cc event, Flint stood out by a mile as he followed up his previous 250cc British title. Having said that Jordan Palin and Corban Pavitt in particular rode well with all seven lads on show getting amongst the points. Credit also to first time visitor, Kent’s Alex Spooner who looked useful.

In the Stars of Tomorrow, which mainly consisted of some spirited National League riders, there was plenty of action (and falls) with in particular, Luke Ruddick, Tom Woolley, Joe Lawlor and Connor Coles producing some top class passing to supplement top guys Bickley and Flint.

Coles crashed out in his third ride in spectacular style but walked back to the pits albeit with a second hand looking machine!

Stars of Tomorrow: L Flint 12, K Bickley 12, L Ruddick 10, T Woolley 7, J Lawlor 7, D Phillips 6, A Spooner 4, C Coles 4, P Bowen 4, C Pavitt 3, K Douglas 2, K Dicken 1 Res B Smith 0

Final: Bickley, Lawlor, Flint, Ruddick.

British Youth Championship 500cc: L Flint 12 J Palin 10, H McGurk 5, C Pavitt 5, M Simpson 4, E Kelly 4, B Fellows 1.

Final: Flint (Winner of British Championship), Palin, McGurk, Pavitt (fell).

250cc: S Hagon 12, C Henderson 6, S Peters 5, J McPherson 1.

Final: Hagon, Peters, Henderson Winner of overall Championship: Nathan Ablitt (Did not ride in meeting).