Berwick Bandits 54-36 Sheffield Tigers

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Berwick raced to an 18-point first leg lead over Sheffield in the first round round of the KO Cup at Shielfield.

The Bandits led from start to finish and thoroughly deserved the victory, although the Tigers will take some heart from a second half mini-revival which will give them some hope for the return at Owlerton.

Both sides used rider replacement - Berwick for David Bellego, who was racing in a World U21 qualifier, and Sheffield more controversially for Adam Roynan, who had been dropped by the Yorkshire outfit a week earlier.

In the event it was Berwick who adapted better, four heat advantages from the first four races putting them 17-7 in front.

This included two race wins for a rejuvinated Matej Kus, a heat two victory for Liam Carr on board a new engine, and battling points from the back for Danes Steen Jensen and Claus Vissing, the latter of whom had to overcome a 15m handicap to pass Leigh Lanham up the inside off the last bend.

Simon Stead’s first win in five gave Sheffield their first heat advantage, but a run of four heat successes, including three 5-1s, saw the Bandits establish a commanding 38-16 lead, with Matty Wethers producing another passing move on Lanham, again up the inside of the fourth bend in heat eight, which he repeated in heat nine.

A shed chain for Kevin Doolan on the start line in nine was followed by a second half fight-back by the visitors which saw them claw back a 5-1 and two 4-2s to reduce the deficit to 46-32. Vissing, for once, didn’t look comfortable out of the starts, and this was good news for the Tigers.

But Jensen reeled off his fourth race win of the night in 14, with Wethers joining him for a 5-1, and despite Stead romping to his fourth win for Sheffield in 15, it was the Bandits who found themselves in the driving seat going into the second leg.

Berwick: S Jensen 14, C Vissing 11, M Wethers 10+4, M Kus 10, L Carr 5+1, K Doolan 4.

Sheffield: S Stead 14, S Nielsen 6+1, L Lanham 6, T Poole 5+1, A Compton 5, J Bates 0.