Berwick Bandits 83
Glasgow Tigers 96
by Keith Hamblin
BERWICK exited the KO Cup when they were beaten on aggregate by Premier League leaders Glasgow at the weekend.
The Bandits won a very entertaining first leg at Shielfield on Saturday, taking an eight point advantage into the second leg at Ashfield on Sunday with a 49-41 victory. But at Saracen Park the Tigers roared and a 55-34 win gave them a healthy 13-point victory over the two nights.
BERWICK took an eight point lead in this KO Cup quarter-final first leg tie, which on reflection they thoroughly deserved against the league leaders.
For the Bandits had to battle all the way, and as a result it produced one of the best meetings seen at Shielfield in the last few years.
As cup ties go it was difficult to beat with plenty of exciting races, passes galore and the odd bit of controversy thrown in for good measure.
When Glasgow raced to a first heat 5-1 it looked as if the home side were in for a tough night. But within two races, inspired by a barnstorming ride from Lee Complin in heat three when he went from last to second to join Kozza Smith on a 5-1, they had turned it around.
James Grieves and the impressive Nick Morris, who scored in all seven of his rides, levelled it up at 12-12 after four, when Complin, after again missing the gate, had the fans on the edge of their seats with another gutsy ride from the back.
Sebastian Alden then got in the overtaking action when he passed both Grieves and Morris in six, joining debut boy Ludvig Lingren on a 5-1 which put Berwick 21-15 in front.
Lingren, who looked as if he had the track sussed by this stage, was set for a second victory in eight when he shed a chain whilst leading, but he passed Christian Henry in ten for another 5-1 with Alden which showed he should become a useful addition to the side.
Grieves and Morris both passed Mitchell Davey in nine to keep the kettle boiling, but Joe Screen blew two motors during the course of the night and he was not effective as what he might have been.
Complin was at it again in 11 as he passed Michal Rajkowski, but it was heat 12 which produced probably the race of the season at the border track.
Smith, who had been warned earlier in the meeting for moving at the start, was harshly excluded and forced to go off 15m after a visit up to the box to see referee Chris Gay.
For a long time it looked as if Henry and Morris were going to hold off Jade Mudgway as they blocked his every move, but in a race where the action was so close a blanket could have been thrown over all four riders, Mudgway suddenly forced his way past Morris before the young Aussie repaid the compliment entering the third bend on the final lap. Smith meanwhile went around the outside of Henry off the last bend, leaving the Tiger pointless in a race he looked like winning less than a lap earlier.
With the action continuing to leave fans drooling, Alden took Grieves up the inside of the fourth bend in 13 and at 44-34 Berwick looked on for a decent victory.
But Rajkowski spoiled their party with a win ver Smith in 14, Morris edging out Mudgway at the back, and when Grieves led from tapes to flag in 15 for a shared heat Berwick had to settle for an eight-point winning margin.
After the meeting Berwick manager Ian Rae said: “This had to be one of the best meetings seen at Shielfield for a few years. All the riders were thoroughly committed to scoring big points. They rode hard and it was very entertaining for the fans, but whether or not an eight point victory is enough in the context of the tie remains to be seen.”
Berwick Smith 13+2, Alden 11+1, Complin 11+1, Lingren 6+1, Mudgway 5, Davey 3, Franc rider rep; Glasgow - Morris 11+2, Grieves 10, Henry 7, Screen 6+1, Rajkowski 6, Sweetman 1+1, Pijper rider rep.
JOSEF Franc, who had missed Saturday’sfirst leg because of his involvement in the World Longtrack Championships, showed just what might have been when he won four of his five races in the second leg on Sunday and top scored for the Bandits with 12 points.
But with Kozza Smith the only other Bandit to take the chequered flag, Glasgow stormed back to book their place in the semi-finals and a place against Newcastle.
Joe Screen, who hadn’t enjoyed the best of nights at Shielfield, rattled off four race wins to chalk up a 12 point maximum and with James Grieves, Richard Sweetman and Michal Rajkowski also all winning two races apiece, it was all Berwick could do to try and make the final scoreline look respectable.
The Franc - Smith partnership was Berwick’s most successful, chalking up two heat advantages (a 4-2 and a 5-1), but the Tigers rattled off three successive 5-1s mid-meeting and Berwick’s challenge was gone.
Glasgow - Screen 12 (max), Grieves 11+1, Rajkowski 10, Pijper 7+3, Sweetman 7+1, Henry 5+2, Morris 3. Berwick - Franc 12, Smith 8+1, Complin 6, Alden 4+1, Lingren 2, Davey 2, Mudgway 0.