Winning end to shield for Eagles

The Eastbourne Eagles made it a winning end to their Craven Shield campaign as they triumphed in the third and final leg at Belle Vue's Kirkmanshulme Lane stadium on Monday evening.

The Sussex side finished the night on 38-points, 2-points ahead of the Aces with 36 while Elite League runners up, the Swindon Robins brought up the rear on 34'“points.

Though a welcome and successful conclusion to the competition insofar that an away victory is always most acceptable, their triumph was tempered by the fact that it was the Robins who were left celebrating qualification for the forthcoming Craven Shield Final, the Wiltshire side winning on aggregate by a 7-point margin over Eastbourne's young guns, 121-points playing 114 with Belle Vue trailing back in third on 89-points.

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Nevertheless it proved a highly creditable performance from the Eagles outfit on a track made difficult by a stock car meeting over the weekend.

Guest Edward Kennett, just as he had at Arlington, topped the Sussex scorechart with 10 (paid 11) points while Lewis Bridger appeared bang back in form, also scoring 10-points from his four outings.

Indeed, heat 1 was the only race that Kennett appeared in that he didn't win. Instead it witnessed the battle of the Simon's, Gustafsson gating fast to secure an early lead but one gradually reeled in by Stead. Though the Manchester rider claimed the 3-points, the young Swede maintained the pressure throughout. With Kennett following on in third place ahead of newly crowned Premier League Riders Champion, James Wright, this saw the first race finish all square.

That was much the story of race two, Bridger fending off the early challenge of former Aces rider Jason Lyons to take the chequered flag.

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Roman Povazhny seemed set to follow for an Eastbourne 4-2 but a swift trading of places in mid race saw Sebastian Ulamek as well as Lyons getting the better of the Russian, and hence the second race remained shared.

Belle Vue struck a blow of their own in the third, Pole Adam Skornicki comfortably outpacing Grand Prix runner up Leigh Adams for the win. Indeed Joe Screen only just failed to catch the Australian on the line. Nevertheless, the 4-2 went the way of the Aces leaving the scores at Belle Vue 7, Eastbourne 6 and Swindon 5 at that stage.

Heats four and five were also shared Kevin Doolan taking the victory in the first of these ahead of Cameron Woodward and Morten Risager in the first of these and then Kennett did likewise against Swindon's Andrew Moore and Charlie Gjedde in the fifth to complete a further 6-points collectively for the Sussex side over the two races.

Daylight began to appear in the next however as Belle Vue claimed an important 5-1 at the expense of the Robins, Wright and Stead getting the better of Adams, whose thoughts it must be said appeared elsewhere.

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The Aces supplemented their lead as a 4-2 coming from Forsberg and Doolan at the expense of Bridger moved their total onto 19 while the Eagles headed onto 14 and the Robins remained on 9-points.

Swindon bounced back in heat 8 however, a 4-2 as Gjedde took the win ahead of fellow Dane Risager, a result that pulled them back to within 3-points of the Eagles on the night and one that saw their aggregate advantage over the Sussex side move once more to 8-points.

The Wiltshire outfit's concern must have deepened however as Screen, then Skornicki came from the back against Ulamek to seize their second 5-1 in the space of four races against the Robins.

Fortunes continued to twist and turn however as Risager and Woodward gated together in the tenth and with Wright pulling up with engine problems down the back straight of lap one, this left Stead to mount a fruitless challenge against the Eagles duo who romped home in the 5-1 position to narrow Swindon's aggregate advantage to just 4-points (progressively 101-97 with Belle Vue back on 78).

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Kennett kept the pressure on as he launched a last bend assault to seize the advantage from Tomasz Chrzanowski on the run in while Adams once again appeared decidedly out of sorts.

Swindon hit back once again with a 4-2 to Belle Vue's cost in heat 12 but with Eastbourne chalking up a further 5-1, again coming with the Aces in opposition. This time it was Bridger and Povazhny who took the honours with former Eagles captain Screen trying everything he knew to find a way past.

This took Eagles onto 29-points, a single point ahead of the home side (28) while Swindon trailed on 21. However Eastbourne had enjoyed one more race than their Wiltshire opponents and the Robins duly redressed the balance as Lyons and Ulamek slammed in a seemingly decisive maximum against Risager and Woodward.

Stead claimed his second win ahead of Gjedde for the Belle Vue 4-2 against Swindon that kept supporters of all three teams effectively guessing.

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Those same guessing games would appear to have continued following heat 16 as Kennett picked himself up from a first bend tumble to take the win with Gustafsson following in hot pursuit for Eagles third successive 5-1 against the host team.

Even so, this still left them 4-points in arrears of the Robins on the aggregate standings (115-111) with only two heats left to go, the Robins due to contest both of them while the Eagles had only one further outing to come.

Indeed that was the only impetus the Robins needed and as Adams completed his only effectual ride of the evening with a win over Bridger and Povazhny.

With that, the Robins had wrapped up the aggregate win but with Belle Vue needing a 5-1 from the last race to draw with the Eagles on the night, a further 3-3 as Lyons again took the chequered flag meant the Sussex outfit finished the night as 2-point victors.

Scorers :

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Aces : Simon Stead 9+1(4), Kevin Doolan 7+1(4), Adam Skornicki 6+1(4), Joe Screen 5(4), Billy Forsberg 5(4), James Wright 4(4) '“ 36 (Aggregate 89)

Eagles : Edward Kennett (Guest) 10+1(4), Lewis Bridger 10(4), Morten Risager 7+1(4), Simon Gustafsson 4+1(4), Cameron Woodward 4+1(4), Roman Povazhny 3+2(4) '“ 38 (Aggregate 114)

Robins : Charlie Gjedde 9+1(4), Leigh Adams 7+1(4), Jason Lyons (Guest) 7+1(4), Sebastian Ulamek 5+1(4), Andrew Moore 4(4), Tomasz Chrzanowski 2(4) '“ 34 (Aggregate '“ 121)

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