Eastbourne Speedway captain Edward Kennett pulled off one of the best rides of his career to send the Eagles through to the semi-finals of the Championship KO Cup.
He won a last heat decider tonight (July 5) at Leicester when the two-leg tie was on a knife edge.
Kennett, who lives only a couple of miles from the Fineprint Eagles track at Arlington Stadium, can expect a hero’s welcome tomorrow (Saturday, July 6) when he appears before his home fans.
Eastbourne take on Edinburgh in a Championship league match but to start with all the home fans will be talking about how the Eagles’ captain took his team through to the KO Cup semi-final.
Eastbourne took a 57-33 lead from the first leg to the Leicester Lion’s Paul Chapman and Sons Arena.
On the face it, a 24-point would seem sufficient but the Eagles expected an avalanche from the home outfit. And so it proved.
With one race to go, the score on the night was 53-31 and a home maximum heat advantage would have sent the Lions through.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man and Kennett put in a true captain’s performance in the last race.
Kennett led from the tapes but home No 1, Scott Nicholls nipped past. It looked like curtains for the Eagles because Ryan Douglas had got the better of Richard Lawson.
And then it all happened. Kennett looked back to see Lawson in last place and then went on to re-pass Nicholls while Lawson found new speed to take him past Douglas.
A 4-2 for the Eagles saw them defeated 55-35 on the night but the crucial statistic was the aggregate result: Leicester 88, Eastbourne 92.
Eastbourne co-promoter, Trevor Geer, said: “Edward Kennett pulled out a most fantastic ride just when we needed it. That was true captain’s performance.
“I can’t praise him enough. Just when we needed it, Edward delivered. What a captain we have.”
Scott Nicholls 14 (5), Connor Mountain 11+3 (7), Ryan Douglas 11 (6), Ellis Perks 9+1 (5), Chris Harris 9 (4), Joe Lawlor 1 (3), rider replacement for Josh Bates.
Edward Kennett 12 (5), Richard Lawson 8 (5), Kyle Newman 4+1 (4), Lewi Kerr 5 (4), Georgie Wood 4 (4), Alfie Bowtell 2+1 (5), Ben Morley 0 (3).
Edward gave his thoughts after the meeting to @SpeedwayGB
Final Score: Leicester Lions 55 (88) Eastbourne Eagles 35 (92)
Here is how Kevin Ling saw the match unfold.
Ht 1 Tight first turn but Edward emerges clear down back straight – Nicholls has his measure however and slips through on his inside entering lap two – mountain fends off Ben for the full four laps for an opening 4-2 to the lions agg score 37-59 Time 62.40
Ht 2 Alfie gates but goes wide on second blend allowing Mountain a route past down back straight – Georgie follows him through the gap and maintains pressure but just can’t make it stick – a 3-3 seems in prospect but Alfie slides off on the tail end of lap two – Lawlor gratefully grabbing the point for a second successive 4-2 to the hosts 8-4 agg 41-61Time 62.4
Ht 3 Douglas makes a good start – Lewi and Kyle holding second and third ahead of perks – Perks rounds Newman into third and another 4-2 looks in prospect – Douglas takes it wide on second bend final lap allowing Lewi to romp through and seize the win – Kyle pulls up at end of lap two 3-3 11-7 agg 44-64 time 62.90
Ht 4 Tale of two races as Harris gates alongside Lawson while Mountain and Wood leave the start together – unfortunately both battles are destined to go the way of the home side with Harris nosing ahead of Richard down the back straight and mountain similarly accounting for Georgie – the latter mounts a final challenge on the second bend of the final lap but clips the fence – stays on board but now out of contention 4-2 15-9 agg 48-66 time 61.94
Ht 5 Lions gate on a 5-1 as Douglas hits the front with Perks close at heel – Ed storms through on Perks inside entering lap 2. Douglas doesn’t yield and romps home for a fourth Lions 4-2 in five races 4-2 19-11 agg 52-68 Time 61.94
Ht 6 Good gate from Richard but Nicholls swoops through on his inside down back straight – a fine start for Alfie also and he leads Douglas for the first two laps but the home man glides through to take third place and yet another 4-2 entering lap three 4-2 23-13 agg 56-70 time 62.10
Ht7 A flying win for Harris but Lewi tucks in nicely for second and Kyle accounts for Lawson in third for a share of the spoils 3-3 26-16 agg 59-73 Time 62.28
Ht 9 Another fast start for Douglas and he again looks good for the win – Richard holding second from Perks – a touch of deja vu for Douglas who again clips the fence on the final lap allowing Richard through for a welcome win 3-3 34-20 67-77 Time 62.78
Ht 10 All starting to look a bit gloomy for Eagles folks and not just because the sun has gone down – Mountain the hero again as he passes Newman inside on third lap to join partner Nicholls for lions second 5-1 of the night 5-1 39-21 agg 72-78 time 62.75
Ht 11 A glimmer of hope for Eagles and two races in one – a duel between Harris and Kennett and the home man looked to have the winning of it – with Lawlor also keeping Georgie at bay another 4-2 looked in prospect – on the final bend however the tide turned and Ed edged past Harris on the run in to the line – Georgie doing the self same thing slipping past Lawlor on the run in – a 4-2 it certainly was but to the eagles 2-4 41-25 agg 74-82 time 61.91
Ht 12 Another great race – a win for Perks but one hell of a battle going on behind him. Mountain forced his way into second and it appeared if wipeout would be aired again but but Kyle then Alfie battled back past Mountain to split the points – Mountain suffered a fall on the third bend of lap three but by then both Eagles looked comfortable in the minor places 3-3 44-38 agg 77-85 Time 63.31
Ht 13 It has been a great match whatever the outcome. Eddie stormed to the front and looked to have the race won – Nicholls and Harris emerged clear of Richard – the final bend saw Nicholls (brilliantly I have to say) snatch the win from Ed on the run in to the line 4-2 48-30 agg 81-87 time 62.13
Ht 14 Race stopped – unfortunate for the eagles as Lewi takes a tumble on the third turn and is disqualified – he had made the gate and with Alfie also coming through it seemed as if the eagles might take the tie – then both Douglas and mountain came through and the 5-1 looked to be going the other way – Lewi (I believe) clipped the back of someone and hit the air fence – thankfully up and okay but disqualified. Re-runIt is all down to the final heat folks as Douglas takes the win with Mountain holding second ahead of Alfie 5-1 53-31 agg 86-88 Time 64.25
Ht 15 Kennett wins from Nicholls ;Lawson beats Douglas for 4-2 and we are through to the semi-final. Two great races in one with the Eagles coming out of top in each.
Image credit: Tiffani Graveling