Plymouth Devils 49
Berwick Bandits 41
BERWICK began their three-match southern tour at Plymouth on Friday, and despite winning there earlier in the season the Bandits knew it would be a much tougher proposition this time around, despite the fact that the Devils were rooted firmly at the bottom of the Premier League table.
The Borderers achieved a big 57-36 victory on their first ever visit to the south coast track back in August, but on this occasion the home side made a much better fist of it.
Berwick guest David Howe got the visitors off to a superb start by inflicting a rare home defeat on Devils’ number one Ben Barker in the opening race.
The Bandits then fell two behind after the reserve race, but Josef Franc made a good start in three, and with Linus Eklof battling his way through for a 5-1 the visitors managed to edge two in front themselves at 10-8.
Lee Complin had an easy win in four, Ricky Wells coming through to beat Jade Mudgway into second, but a 4-2 extended Berwick’s lead to 14-10.
There was another win for Howe in five - he went on to win his first three races, proving himself a valuable replacement for the injured Sebastian Alden - but Alex edberg, in his first meeting back after three months out with serious injuries, failed to get off the start line.
Mitchell Davey maintained Berwick’s advantage when he passed Jamie Courtney in six, but in seven Berwick saw their lead disappear when Franc made a hash of the start and former Bandit Guglielmi Franchetti got the better of him and Eklof for a 5-1 which levelled the scores up at 21-all.
Jade Mudgway then chased Franchetti and James Cockle hard in heat eight. He magaged to work his way past Cockle on the last lap, but with Edberg at the back a 4-2 saw the Devils take a slender 25-23 lead.
Nine provided one of the races of the night, with a determined Complin chasing Plymouth guest Tyson Nelson and Wells all the way. He took some seriously wide lines, but couldn’t prevent the home pair taking a 5-1 which opened the gap up to 30-24.
Franc made a better start in ten but was overhauled by Barker as he wound it on. Eklof tucked in for third and a 3-3 saw the score move on to 33-27.
Howe recorded his third win of the night in 11, hugging the white line around the first bend, but Franchetti shed a chain on the last lap in third, allowing Edberg to come though for his only point of the night as Bandits cut the deficit to four at 35-31.
Eklof made the gate in 12, but he chased the wide line and went from first to last, only for Cockle to fall in third, gifting a 3-3.
Heat 13 was a classic with the unbeaten Howe, Barker and Wells all gating together. They went three abreast up the back straight. Howe hit the font, but Barker reeled him in on the second lap and went on to win, a home 4-2 putting Plymouth 42-36 ahead with only two races remaining.
Franc won in 14, with Mudgway, enjoying his best away meeting for some time, taking third, forcing a last heat decider at 44-40.
A Berwick 5-1 for a draw would have been a tall order, but a bonus point beckoned.
Sadly, after Barker fell on the first bend, the referee invited all four back, and the England man went on to win the re-run, with Wells tucking in nicely for second spot ahead of the chasing Howe, a home 5-1 meaning the Bandits left empty handed.
After the meeting team manager Ian Rae said: “Despite our big win here earlier in the season we knew this would be a close match, and so it proved.
“David Howe was a superb guest for us, but the most pleasing aspect from our point of view was the racing return of Alex Edberg after his injuries.”
Plymouth - Barker 14, Wells 12+2, Nelson 10, Franchetti 7+1, Cockle 5+1, Courtney 1+1, Kristiansen rider/rep; Berwick - Howe 12, Franc 8, Complin 6, Mudgway 6, Eklof 5+3, Davey 3+1, Edberg 1.