Injuries take gloss off victory

by Keith Hamblin

Berwick Bandits54

Scunthorpe Scorpions36

BERWICK chalked up their biggest win of the season so far when they beat Scunthorpe in the most entertaining meeting of the season so far at Shielfield on Saturday.

But it was a victory earned at a cost as they ended the meeting two riders down, with Hynek Stichauer and Tamas Sike both left watching the action from the sidelines.

Stichauer was withdrawn with a dislocated shoulder which he sustained at the start of his third ride.

His shoulder popped out at the start of heat eight, yet he amazingly rode on for four laps, leading top Scorpion David Howe for two of them before he was eventually overtaken.

And Sike followed him just three races later when he fell on his own in third place in heat 11, but somehow managed to walk away with facial cuts after clipping the safety fence coming out of the second bend on the last lap.

By that stage Berwick were almost home and dry, having opened up a deserved eight point lead at 37-29.

Scunthorpe, with Howe their only race winner in the opening six heats, always looked as if their own injury crisis - they were without ex-Bandits Carl Wilkinson and Tero Aarnio - was going to be too big a handicap to overcome.

And with Josef Franc in blistering form for Berwick, they simply had no answer to the home side’s more solid scoring performance.

Franc, who passed guest Ricky Wells to win heat three, was magestic thereafter and also looked fast, his quickest time of 64.1 being just 3/10ths of a second outside Chris Harris’s record. He deservedly took all the plaudits with a flawless 15-point maximum.

Wells, Howe (twice) and Hugh Skidmore all took the chequered flag for Scunthorpe in four of the next five races, but they twice came up blank with riders on tactical rides, which meant they were unable to get within striking distance.

Using rider replacement for the missing Thomas Jorgensen, the Scorpions were further hampered by a nightmare performance at the gate from Ben Wilson, and with Jade Mudgway typifying Berwick’s attitude with three dashing rides from the back to pick up vital points, the better team definitely won on the night.

Bandits rallied and finished the stronger, four successive heat advantages seeing them rack up their biggest tally to date.

Berwick - Franc 15 (max), Complin 11, Gjedde 9+1, Smith 7+1, Mudgway 5+2, Stichauer 4+1, Sike 3. Scunthorpe - Howe 14, Wells 7, Bergstrom 7, Skidmore 6, Worrall 1+1, Wilson 1.

Glasgow Tigers50

Berwick Bandits39

DESPITE a battling performance at Glasgow on Sunday, Berwick left Ashfield pointless after going down to an 11-point defeat.

This was the first meeting of the season at the Scottish track and Bandits were hoping to catch the Tigers cold on the re-shaped circuit.

For most of the match they remained in close contention, the scores standing at 30-29 after ten, and even with one race remaining their was a chance of leaving with a losing bonus point, but Joe Screen had been in unbeatable form all afternoon and he and Aussie Josh Grajczonek raced to a 5-1 in heat 15 to give the Tigers a winning start to their Premier League campaign and a full three match points on the day.

Berwick used rider replacement for the injured Hynek Stichauer, which yielded four points, whilst Byron Bekker was drafted in to replace the injured Tamas Sike.

Bandits fell behind to a 5-1 in the opening race, but bounced straight back with a 0-5 in heat two after both home riders were excluded.

A 5-1 from Screen and Theo Pijper in heat six gave Glasgow a five point advantage at 20-15, but Josef Franc and Kozza Smith did likewise in seven and the deficit was down to only one again.

Smith then won in eight and Lee Complin in nine, and when Smith and Jade Mudgway took a 2-4 in 12 the gap was only three at 37-34 with three races remaining.

However, Screen and Grajczonek claimed a vital 5-1 in 13 to stretch the lead to seven, but with Franc winning his second race in 14 it meant the Bandits still had something to race for in the final heat.

Glasgow - Screen 15 (max), Grajczonek 10+2, Pijper 6+2, Grieves 6+1, Henry 5, Morris 4+2, Rajkowski 4+1. Berwick - Smith 11+1, Franc 9+1, Mudgway 6+1, Gjedde 6, Complin 4, Bekker 3, Stichauer r/rep.

Edinburgh Monarchs49

Berwick Bandits44

BERWICK took what many considered to be an unexpected match point when they travelled to one of their least favourite tracks on Friday.

The Bandits have never done all that well on the tight Armadale circuit, but on this occasion the Borderers pushed the Monarchs all the way, although to be fair to the home side they did lead from start to finish.

Things didn’t look good when Berwick conceded a 5-1 in the opening race, but Jade Mudgway won heat two. Edinburgh then extended their lead to 15-9 after four, but a 1-5 courtesy of Charlie Gjedde and Hynek Stichauer in five brought it back to 16-14 and it was game on again.

However, the home side upped the pace over the following heats and with no one able to get near Kevin Wolbert, who finished the night with a flawless 15-point maximum, and with Craig Cook, Matthew Wethers and Andrew Tully also taking the chequered flag, the Bandits suddenly found themselves 12 adrift at 36-24 and another heavy defeat looked to be on the cards.

But Gjedde won on double points in heat 11, Kozza Smith won in 12 and Josef Franc in 14, meaning Bandits went into the last race just five behind at 46-41.

Wolbert duly completed his maximum in 15, but Gjedde and Franc got the better of Wethers, who hadn’t dropped a point up to that stage, and the five point losing deficit meant the Bandits left with a losing bonus point.

Edinburgh - Wolbert 15 (max), Wethers 9+3, Tully 9, Cook 8, Katajisto 5+1, Herne 3, McKinna 0. Berwick - Gjedde 14, Franc 7+2, Mudgeway 6+1, Stichauer 5+1, Smith 5, Complin 5, Sike 2+1.