On a track well watered by heavy rain, the racing surface was heavy for the opening few heats of this match with Edinburgh Monarchs, but it was vital for the Berwick Bandits to do well in as victory would see the home side enter a national semi final for the first time in 15 long years.
An early 1-5 for Edinburgh in the second race (after Coty Garcia suffered an electrical engine failure) and Leon Flint got a little filled in on the opening bends left the way open William Lawson and Luke Ruddick to take the maximum points prising the score apart for an Edinburgh lead at 4-8. But an instant home max in the third from Dany Gappmaier and guest Matty Wethers in heat three to restore balance at 9-9.
Kevin Doolan and Flint then took the big five over a hard chasing Cameron Heeps in heat four to put the home side 14-10 ahead before Gappmaier took his second win on the night from the heat six over Ricky Wells in a 4-2 which took the Bandits’ lead up to 18-12.
Gappmaier took his third outing as rider replacement for Busk Jakobsen (away on Danish Championship duty) in heat seven and again made a perfect start to lead with his partner Aaron Summers tucking in for second ahead of Heeps. Lawson fell and remounted on the opening bend, but the 5-1 extended Berwick’s lead to 10 points.
That lead shot up to 14 points after another 5-1 from winner Garcia (recovered from his initial electrical problem) over Doolan who fended off Pickering, despite the Monarch’s best efforts with the progressive moving on to 28-14.
However, on the first bend of heat eight, Ruddick caught the back wheel of the rider he was following and went up over the top crashing down onto the track, and while he got to his feet, he was excluded from the re-run.
In that second call, Summers and Flint held out Sedgmen all four laps for another home 5-1. However, Gappmaier missed the gate in heat nine as Wethers shot round the opposition to take up a fine lead to take three points in a shared race ahead of Heeps and Wells with the score moving on to 36-18.
Summers was walking heat 10 with ease till it sounded like a chain had come loose off the last bend of the race –allowing Andersson to just pip the Bandit on the line in a 3-3, which maintained the 18-point differential. That gap also remained after heat 11’s 3-3, won by a fast-gating Wells.
Heat 12 provided some superb racing with Flint taking an incredible wide line off bend four to pass Lawson in spectacular fashion, while Pickering had done likewise earlier on off bend two round Gappmaier. The 3-3 sealed victory for Berwick as the score was 45-27 with three races left to run.
Despite a 1-5 for the Monarchs in heat 13, it was all over bar the shouting.
Just as well as heat 14 provided a huge dose of drama when Garcia’s footrest sheered off going into bend two of the third lap sending him down in a heap – with no way for the following Lawson nor Andersson could avoid ploughing into him despite laying down. Thankfully everyone walked back to the pits, somewhat shaken.
Team manager Gary Flint said: “This was the Bandits at their spectacular best proving they want success this season and now we’re into our first Shield semi-final in 15 years.
“This shows we mean business this season and cannot wait for the league to get underway.”