Narrow win for Bandits in opener

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Berwick Bandits 47, Edinburgh Monarchs 45: Berwick got their new season off to a winning start in the first leg of this ‘Cock o the North’ Challenge . . . but only just.

The Bandits led almost all the way through the meeting, after Kozza Smith and Matty Wethers put them 11-7 in front with a 5-1 in heat three.

They were ten points up at 26-16 after seven, but in the second half of the match the Monarchs clawed back the deficit, and bearing in mind Berwick’s poor record at Armadale, the Scottish side put themselves firmly in the driving seat for the second leg, which has still be to be re-arranged.

Berwick showed their potential as a team with strength in depth with six of their number winning at least one race - the exception being reserve Nicki Barrett.

Kozza Smith, who won two races, top scored with 10 and it was nice to see him back in the groove after his season on the sidelines with a broken thigh.

Edinburgh, meanwhile, had three riders who all impressed. Craig Cook looked an obvious number one, dropping only one point to Wethers in the race of the night in heat five, whilst the recently recruited Claus Vissing and reserve Jozsef Tabaka both looked to be on the pace and more than a match for the home riders.

Theo Pijper was their only other heat winner when he led David Bellego from start to finish in ten, but with Cook in such dominant form it was just a case of providing the back-up.

There was some close racing, but passing was at a premium after the first and second bends, with Vissing, off 15m for tape touching, taking Barrett from the back in four, and Robin Aspegren finding a way past Max Fricke for a point in seven.

After the meeting Berwick skipper Ashworth said it was disappointing to only win the meeting by two points after being ten up at one stage.

“But the most important thing was to get the win under our belts in the first meeting,” he said.

“A few of the lads, me included, had problems with our bikes, but hopefully we have got them sorted out - that’s what meetings like this are for.

“There is a good spirit within the camp, we all seem to have gelled together, and I think once we get a few meetings under our belt we will be fine because we have seven riders all capable of winning races.”

This weekend Berwick face home and away League Cup meetings against Glasgow.

The Bandits host the Tigers at Shielfield on Saturday with the return at Ashfield on Sunday afternoon.