Bandits race into first semi-finals in 15 years
Berwick Speedway qualified for the semi-finals of the Championship Shield (formerly the Premier Trophy) for the first time in 15 years with a victory over rivals Edinburgh at Shielfield on Saturday.
This followed on from a batting 45-44 defeat at Armadale the previous evening which set them up for a group-topping finale in the return.
After failing to score on Friday, Dany Gappmaier hit top form by winning four races in his top-scoring performance, whilst there were also impressive showings from Kevin Doolan, Leon Flint and guest Matty Wethers, standing in for the absent Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen.
Aaron Summers still scores paid 10, but his evening was hampered by a blown engine in his fourth ride, which denied him a victory when Joel Andersson took advantage to pass him right on the finishing line.
Coty Garcia also suffered an inflamed collarbone injury when he fell awkwardly coming off the second bend on the last lap whilst leading heat 14 after his footrest broke.
Edinburgh took a 1-5 from heat two to go 4-8 in front, but a run of six successive heat advantages, including five 5-1’s, saw the Bandits move into a commanding 33-15 lead after eight which put them in the verge of qualification.
The Monarchs, who had seen Luke Ruddick crash heavily when he clipped Flint’s back wheel on the first bend of heat eight, started to perform better in the second half of the meeting with four successive heat winners between heats 10 and 13, including a 1-5 in 13 which got them back to 46-32, but by then Berwick had already won the meeting and guaranteed their place in the last four.
Team manager Gary Flint said: “This was the Bandits at their spectacular best proving they want success this season and now we’re into our first Shield semi-final in 15 years! This shows we mean business and I cant wait for the league to get underway (away to Birmingham on Wednesday).”
Berwick: Gappmaier 14, Doolan 12+2, Wethers 9+1, Summers 8+2, Flint 7+4, Garcia 4+1, Etheridge r/rep.
Edinburgh: Wells 11, Heeps 8, Andersson 6, Pickering 4, Lawson 3+2, Ruddick 3, Sedgmen 1.
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Berwick went close to causing an upset at Edinburgh on Friday but in the end went down to a last heat defeat.
In a meeting which was close throughout, the Bandits hauled it back to only one point in arrears at 42-41 after heat 14 when Kevin Doolan and top scorer Coty Garcia took a 1-5.
But in the final race, guest Josh Bates appeared to clip Aaron Summers’ back wheel and fell. He was excluded, and although Summers won the re-run, the 3-3 was enough to give the Monarchs the victory by the slenderest off margins.
Team manager Gary Flint described it as ‘another battling performance’ from his side, who were using rider replacement for the injured Jye Etheridge and Bates as a guest for Nikolaj Busk Jakobsen.
Bates, who had seven rides, scored 11 points from his six outings, but was pipped in the score-charts by Garcia, who had three paid wins in his 13+1 return and Summers, who had three wins in his score of 12. Doolan also had two wins in his five starts.
Edinburgh, led by Cameron Heeps, Ricky Wells and Josh Pickering, who had seven wins between them, found themselves pegged at 18-17 after six races and 24-23 after eight. Their only 5-1 of the night came in heat 10 which put them 33-26 up, but the Bandits fought back to take it to the last race, guaranteeing them the losing bonus point.
Edinburgh: Heeps 11+1, Wells 11, Pickering 10, Sedgmen 5+1, Lawson 4, Andersson 3+1, Ruddick 1.
Berwick: Garcia 13+1, Summers 12, Bates 11, Doolan 8+1, Gappmaier 0, Flint 0, Etheridge r/rep.