IOW 44 Cradley 46
The Wightlink Warriors surrendered their unbeaten start to the season to a powerful Cradley side, but not before an exciting meeting that was nip-and-tuck throughout conjured up more than its fair share of talking points and lived up Warrior’s boss Barry Bishop’s pre-meeting assessment that it would be a ‘really tough task’.
Injury and other absences forced the home side to deploy the rider replacement facility in the number two position with the five remaining Warriors able to take one extra ride.
This fixture was the first of two legs to decide the Vince Mapley Memorial Trophy and from as early as the first race it looked like Lady Luck had decided it wasn’t going to be the Warriors night as fast starting Kiwi Jake Turner made a dream get away for the home side only to fall at the end of lap two whilst leading causing the race to be stopped and then re-run with only Chad Wirtzfeld eligible to take on the visitors who capitalised with a 1-5 advantage that proved to be a crucial as the evening unfolded.
Experienced campaigner Lee Complin, twenty-two years after his last visit to Smallbrook, found the pacy track very much to his liking as he took heat two for the Heathens with a well-timed charge from the back in a shared race before Warriors registered their first win of the night, Brayden McGuinness outpacing the Heathens Connor Coles in a close tussle with Wirtzfeld a useful third.
Smallbrook specialist Steve Boxall was slow away in the next race however eventually took Warriors George Congreve for second place with leader Turner long gone and Warriors had clawed back the early deficit to level the scores to 12-12.
Heat five and more incident to digest. The competition allows team mangers to nominate two riders from the opposition to take a fifteen-metre handicap and the first of these was taken by Brayden McGuinness, however he jumped the start and was sent back a further fifteen metres. With Complin already in the race for the Heathens, the initiative was back with the visitors and whilst McGuinness got up to second place, Chris Widman outpaced Chad Wirtzfeld for the single point.
More Warrior trouble in heat six with Jake Turner on a handicap ride taking his second fall of the night whilst in a scoring position but with Warriors Arran Butcher holding off Connor Coles the shared heat saw the Heathens maintain their two-point advantage. Heat seven and Boxall was back to winning ways with a tapes to flag win ahead of Congreve and Heathens Jacob Clouting a steady third. 19-23.
Heat eight with McGuinness from the gate for a stylish win with all the action behind as Complin and Turner fought out an elbow to elbow dual eventually taken by the Heathen using speed generated from the wide outside line. Heat nine and the Warriors level the scores again with a win from Congreve who held off Coles, the Cradley rider having come through from the handicap marker. 27-27.
Heat ten and Boxall has the handicap for Cradley. What handicap? Boxall ruthless and relentless gobbles up the ground and sweeps by McGuinness on the final bend to record a superb win. Clouting third. Advantage Heathens again.
Heat eleven and the Warriors riders both appear in red helmet colours and as the time allowance counts down to literally seconds, Congreve appears correctly shod all of which made no difference to Complin who rounds everyone on the first two bends and clears off for a comfortable win. Warriors hold station in second and third for a tied heat. Heat twelve and Butcher gates and keeps Coles winless in another close battle and another shared race. 35-37.
So, to the nominated races and success for the Warriors in race thirteen as they take a 4-2 to level the scores thanks to McGuinness and Congreve with Clouting holding on to a crucial second place for the Heathens who have lined up their big guns for the next two races. As expected, Boxall makes no mistake for the visitors in heat fourteen and with Widman again getting the better of broken finger victim Wirtzfeld it’s a two-point advantage for the Heathens running into the last heat.
An absorbing match comes down to the last race with Turner and McGuinness representing the Warriors and Complin and Coles for the Heathens and drama…McGuinness is nowhere to be seen as the time allowance ticks down to zero. It’s too late for the home man whose appearance on track after the allowance has run out will mean a fifteen-metre handicap and some divine intervention from Lady Luck if the home side are to salvage something. Sadly, it was not to be. Turner blasts away from the gate to lead the race with the Heathens tucked in behind sufficient to secure the win and whilst Complin gets a bit ‘ragged’ on a couple of occasions he holds on with his partner in close attendance to thwart McGuinness who gave it everything but to no avail. 44-46.
After the meeting Warriors co-owner Barry Bishop said, “Wow, what a cracking meeting. So near and yet so far for the Warriors. Congratulations to both sides for providing us with great racing, bags of excitement, a bit of controversy but overall, a super night out for all the fans who were here. Our team manager Steve Piper has just said to me don’t worry it’s only half time in this Trophy event and we showed tonight that we are very capable of reversing a two-point deficit next time. I agree. It will be another fantastic meeting to look forward to.”
Warriors: Jake Turner 9, R/R, George Congreve 10+1, Arran Butcher 10+1, Brayden McGuinness 13, Chad Wirtzfeld 2.
Cradley: Steve Boxall 14, Jacob Clouting 6+1, Lee Complin 13, Chris Widman 2, Connor Coles 9+1, Chris Watts 2+2.
In the training challenge between the Wightlink Wizards and the Weymouth Wildcats, it was the visitors who deservedly came out on top against a largely inexperienced Island side.
Wizards: Jamie Sealey 6, Harley Freeman 3+1, Morgan Williams 4, Anastasia Sallee 1.
Wildcats: James Laker 9, Sam Peters 2+1, Nathan Hargrave 6, James Major 5+1.