Eastbourne Eagles took a huge step towards the next round of the Championship Knock-Out Cup this afternoon (June 6).
They beat Kent 58-32 in the first leg of their first round tie.
The HG Aerospace Eagles took the match by the scruff of the neck from the off, establishing a 20-4 lead after four races.
The mauling continued until mid meeting when the home side lost captain Lewi Kerr to an awkward crash in heat nine.
Medics initially diagnosed a broken collarbone.
At that point, the score was 38-16. Some drawn races followed before the Eagles eased further into the distance in the closing stages.
Kent’s only heat advantage came in the last race when Scott Nicholls and Paul Starke managed a 4-2.
Drew Kemp arrived at Arlington Stadium in the nick of time having travelled from Gdansk, Poland, where he was instrumental in Great Britain picking up the bronze medal in the World U-19 Pairs Championship.
His efforts for the Eagles saw him pick up the rider-of-the-afternoon award from sponsors, HG Aerospace.
Eastbourne team manager Trevor Geer was surprised at the margin of victory.
He said: “I thought it would be a real tight meeting but to take 26-point lead to Kent for the second leg is fantastic.
“The KO Cup a competition we always like to do well in. Eastbourne have always thrived on it and it was good all-round team effort.
“The injury to Lewi, however, rather marred it for us.”
Top scorer for the Eagles was Tom Brennan and Geer commented:
“Tom has come on leaps and bounds from 18 months ago. He looks really good.”
Brennan said: “I think the whole team is settling in now. It was unfortunate about Lewi and we wish him all the best and hope he will be back soon.
“For me, getting out of the starts was key and also trying to ‘read’ the track as best we could.
“I have a great team behind me. Kyle Cummings has been amazing for me and is setting up the bike up perfectly.”
Brennan said that after every meeting there is a major debrief with his team to analyse everything that happened.
“We look to see what we can do better. We take baby steps forwards every week.”
Geer played tribute to the track staff who managed to keep the meeting dust free.
“They did exceptionally well,” he said. “We had baking sun all afternoon and there wasn’t a bit of dust; unlike the old days when I was riding and you couldn’t see for dust.
“They did a brilliant job.”
Eastbourne 58: Tom Brennan 13, Richard Lawson 11, Drew Kemp 9+2, Kyle Newman 7+2, Jason Edwards 7+2, Edward Kennett 6+3, Lewis Kerr 5.
Kent 32: Scott Nicholls 12, Paul Starke 10, Broc Nicol 3+1, Jack Thomas 2+1, Ben Morley 2, Paul Hurry 2, Tom Bacon 1.
Here’s how Kevin Ling saw the match unfold
Eastbourne HG Aerospace Eagles took a giant stride towards Knockout Cup progression with an authoritative 26-point (58-32) first leg victory against local derby rivals the Kent Kings at Arlington stadium on Sunday afternoon.
However, the win came at a considerable cost as they lost the services of captain Lewi Kerr who sustained a broken collarbone following a ninth heat spill.
The Eastbourne lead already stood at 35-13 following a flurry of 5-1s in the opening races but the party mood turned somewhat sour as Kerr crashed out of action as he gave chase to visiting guest Broc Nicol as the match hit the half way stage.
It had certainly proved all about the Eagles up to that point with Tom Brennan and Richard Lawson in particular leading the charge though none of the home contingent were left wanting as the Sussex side opened with no fewer than five maximum 5-1s in the space of the first six races.
The Kings looked to be reeling and were no doubt fearing something of a cricket score in spite of them feeling the need to keep matters close and manageable with the second match up of the rubber set for Central Park on July 6.
Following Kerr’s untimely withdrawal, the visitors did at least rally thanks to strong performances from both skipper Scott Nicholls and Paul Starke who together bagged five heat wins in total.
This served to slow down the runaway train as five consecutive shared races followed as the match moved towards a conclusion.
The damage had largely been done however and Eastbourne opened up again with a 4-2 and a further 5-1 in the two heats preceding the final race of the afternoon, one that witnessed Kent claiming their solitary advantage of the afternoon, a 4-2 with Nicholls and Starke finishing one either side of Brennan.
Nicholls failed to demonstrate similar fleet of foot in the first race however as Brennan and Edward Kennett blazed away for the first of four successive maximums (heat one winning time 56.7).
The match suffered a lengthy delay with the starting gate suffering gremlins of its own, however, once the action got under way it was the home side who hit the ground running.
Jason Edwards and Drew Kemp combined for a second 5-1 in a twice restarted heat two though it should be reported that their task was all the easier for both Kent riders Guest Jack Thomas and Ben Morley suffering falls on the first two bends, the former remounting to complete the course while Morley pulled up on the centre green (heat two winning time 59.2).
Kerr teamed up with Kyle Newman in the third, a tapes to flag effort that stretched the home lead to 15-3, Starke employing the time to get used to his surroundings while Bacon never really got to grips with the circuit after taking the wide line around the first two bends to leave himself well adrift of the field (heat three winning time 57.0).
Cameron Heeps was another absentee for the visitors having suffered an injury at Ipswich a few nights ahead of the clash. Glasgow’s Broc Nicol was the guest replacement and this appeared an astute move as the American scored heavily on his previous visit in 2019 as a reserve with Sheffield.
That expectation would soon hit the rails however as Lawson and Kemp nipped sharply from the start, the senior Eagle doing well to protect his partner from Nicol’s early run before moving into the lead past his partner down the first circuit back straight (heat four winning time 57.9).
The visiting Kings fans were likely feeling a little punch drunk by this time and it would have been met with some relief by them that Nicholls should blast from the start to leave Kerr and Newman trailing.
Hopes that fellow former Eagle Paul Hurry would provide back up proved unfounded however as he trailed the field by some distance (heat five winning time 57.3).
It was back to business for the hosts again in race six as Brennan and Kennett maintained their earlier pace securing for them a second 5-1 in their two outings together. Morley lived with them from the start and kept tabs on Kennett from the first half lap but the Eastbourne number one soon moved clear and with that the scores stretched to 28-8 (heat six winning time 57.3).
Lawson romped into the lead in heat seven with Starke and Bacon in pursuit but the latter came to grief on the first bend of lap two and with that he was excluded.
Bacon was seemingly none the worst for the experience but with Lawson taking the win ahead of Starke in the rerun and Edwards claiming the gift third place point the resultant 4-2 widened the margin to 22-points, 32-10 and already Eagles were starting to look favourites to claim the win over the two-legs (heat seven winning time 58.1).
The first running of heat eight was called back under orders as Hurry suffered a first bend fall. At the second time of asking it was Kemp who took a tumble but this time the race wasn’t halted leaving the young Eagle to vacate the circuit and head onto the centre green.
Brennan was a comfortable winner ahead of elder statesman Hurry with Thomas following on in third, the share of the spoils moving the score line to 35-13 (heat eight winning time 57.6).
The moment of truth then followed for the Eagles as Kerr came to grief while giving chase to Nicol and team partner Newman in race nine. Kerr tangled with the air barrier between bends three and four and was thrown untidily onto the Arlington circuit.
It seemed clear that a problem existed as the home captain was clearly in discomfort. Anxious moments followed as treatment and oxygen was administered. A lengthy delay ensued before Kerr was ferried from the track and he would receive further attention pit side.
The news quickly filtered out of a suspected collar bone break (later confirmed) and with that the Sussex fans were in need of a lift themselves.
Newman would provide this to a degree with a from the back effort that took him past Nicol then race leader Morley in quick succession to secure the split of the points however there was no denying that the loss of Kerr left big shoes to fill (heat nine winning time 58.6).
Starke became the first rider to lower Brennan’s colours in the tenth and he did so in impressive style. With Kennett having spun around on the second turn it appeared that Kent might be heading for their first heat advantage of the contest but with Bacon having ground to a halt at the end of lap three, Kennett, who had remounted gratefully accepted the gift point and with that the scores moved to 41-19 with the 22-point disparity still in place (heat ten winning time 58.3).
Nicholls then showed solidarity with Starke as he handed out a first defeat to Lawson in heat 11.
Edwards would get the better of Morley (who was replacing Hurry) and with that the fourth 3-3 was set in stone, the scores shifting to 44-22 (heat eleven winning time 58.1).
By now Starke had really found his feet and he proved the fact by winning race twelve by a distance from Kemp and Newman. Though Morley, having taken some time to get to the start made the gate his entire race would soon collapse as he ground to a halt on the run in to the first bend (heat twelve winning time 58.1).
Nicholls looked set to make it four wins in succession for the Kings with another trademark fine start in heat thirteen. The course of the race would soon turn however, Lawson exploiting a lapse by the Kent captain to head inside of him on the third turn of lap one while Kennett also made it a miserable end to the evening for Nicol by steaming through on the inside on the approach to lap two.
The 4-2 put further daylight between the teams, the scores now standing at 51-27 (heat thirteen winning time 57.7).
Kemp came in as a replacement for Kerr in the penultimate race to partner Edwards just as Morley did in place of Thomas to ride alongside Bacon.
As they had in heat two, the Eastbourne teenagers shot from the start to inflict a further wound to the visitors challenge. Kemp led Edwards to the flag with Bacon back in third, the 5-1 really putting the Sussex side in firm control of the two legged tie, the margin growing wider to 56-28 (heat fourteen winning time 59.8).
This didn’t prevent one last hurrah for the visitors though. Nicholls signed off of proceedings in style with a win but hopes of a King’s 5-1 for the travelling fans were thwarted as Brennan nipped smartly inside of Starke on bend two of lap three.
Lawson attempted a similar strike but didn’t quite pull it off so Kent would finish with a 4-2 to finalise the scores at 58-32 (heat fifteen winning time 58.8).
A crumb of comfort maybe so but with 26-points separating the teams with the second leg yet to come they would know the size of the challenge they are set to face on July 6th.
Image credit: Mike Hinves