Eastbourne snatched victory by one point against Poole tonight (May 29) after winning the final race of the night 5-1.
The maximum heat win gave the HG Aerospace Eagles a 45-44 win in the South Coast Derby having trailed throughout the whole match after a calamitous heat one.
The home side’s No 1, Edward Kennett, crashed on the first turn and was excluded while in the re-run Tom Brennan ground to halt while in a winning position after losing his primary chain.
More troubles for both Kennett and Brennan in heat ten put the Eagles deep into the mire.
Kennett lost his steel shoe and struggled home second after Brennan’s engine seized which put him out of the race.
Eastbourne gradually edged back into the meeting as Richard Lawson hit form with three successive heat wins and Lewi Kerr playing a perfect captain’s role with a vital win in heat 14.
Lawson and Kerr then teamed up in the last race for the match-winning 5-1 as the home crowd roared them on to the chequered flag.
Eastbourne co-promoter and team manager, Trevor Geer, said: “What a first meeting to come back to after 20 months away. It was unbelievable.
“To be down all meeting and come back like that was perfect for the supporters.
“Richard [Lawson] looked awful early on but he came back towards the end of the meeting and was back to his old self.
“Tom was absolutely brilliant today and he could have got a maximum but it was bad luck that let him down.
“I did have him earmarked for heat 15 but at the end we had to go with Lewi and Richard because they looked so good.
“I thought it would be close tonight but not this close. I thought we would win more easily than we did.
“It was a full house crowd with Covid restrictions and next week hopefully we will have a few more people in here when we race Kent.
Eastbourne: Lewis Kerr 12+1, Richard Lawson 10, Tom Brennan 6, Kyle Newman 5+2, Jason Edwards 5, Edward Kennett 4+1, Drew Kemp 3+1.
Poole: Steve Worrall 13, Danny King 9, Rory Schlein 8+1, Danyon Hume 5+2, Stefan Nielsen 5+1, Zane Keleher 2+1, Ben Cook 2.
Here is how Kevin Ling saw the match unfold.
Speedway returned to Arlington Stadium following an enforced absence of some 609 days and it was certainly back with a bang.
The Eastbourne HG Aerospace Eagles overcame a catalogue of adversity in the early part of the meeting to get their noses in front for the very first time courtesy of a frenetic final four laps.
The Sussex side trailed Dorset rivals, the Poole Pirates by 3-points 43-40 heading into heat 15 with the hitherto unbeaten Steve Worrall lining up in opposition alongside former British Champion Danny King the signs might have appeared bleak for the Eagles.
However, cometh the moment, cometh the men and to the delight of the partisan Arlington faithful Richard Lawson combined with Captain Lewi Kerr to bag the maximum 5-1 they required to edge the Eagles ahead at the crucial time by the narrowest of margins, the 45-44 final score line bagging them the match points.
The substantial attendance celebrated the victory against arguably one of the club’s greatest rivals who were making their first visit to the venue since season 2014.
The lead up to that moment largely suggested an alternative outcome as the Pirates continued to capitalise on a disastrous first heat for Eastbourne and for the most part they seemed to have the whip hand on proceedings.
Number one Edward Kennett suffered a first bend fall that ruled him out of heat one and then Tom Brennan ground to a halt, having shed a primary chain in the restart in spite of having led proceedings twice in impressive style (heat one winning time 58.6).
This served to gift the opposition an opening 5-0 as current British Champion Rory Schlein led Australian and Arlington first-timer Zane Keleher to the chequered flag unopposed.
The hosts looked set to counter the result in race two as Jason Edwards leapt from the start with Drew Kemp in hot pursuit. The 5-1 looked on the cards as Ben Cook (also making his first appearance at the venue) and Danyon Hume continued to give chase but the former’s industry was rewarded as Kemp hit problems on the final bend of lap 2 allowing the Australian a route through on the inside, one that limited the damage to a 4-2 (heat two winning time 58.2).
For much of the meeting the Pirates appeared the sharper from the start and race three and that was certainly the case as Worrall took the first of four heat wins.
This saw him lower the colours of Kerr but concerns of a Poole 4-2 were alleviated as Kyle Newman forced his way past Stefan Nielsen heading into lap three (heat three winning time 57.3).
The scores stood at 10-7 in favour of the visitors but heat four saw them forge further ahead as King became the Pirates third race winner combining with Hume for the 5-1 that extended their lead to 15-8.
It had proved a disappointing opening for Lawson who trailed the Poole duo throughout together with Kemp, the latter slowing on the final lap as the outcome appeared cut and dried (heat four winning time 58.0).
Kerr and Newman appeared to hold the initiative in race five as they led into the first bend. Schlein was soon to make his presence felt however as he got the better of Newman heading down the back straight, though he was unable to catch the flying Kerr (heat five winning time 56.9).
That earned the hosts a 4-2 that cut the margin to 5-points (17-12) once more but better was to follow as Brennan and Kennett exorcised their first race demons with an uplifting 5-1 over King and Cook in the sixth (heat six winning time 57.8).
This reduced the difference to a single point (18-17 still in favour of the Pirates) and with that the fight back appeared to be on but the visitors showed that they weren’t about to lay down as they responded with a 5-1 of their own in heat seven.
Worrall would prove an all the way winner and he was backed ably by Neilsen who contained the chasing Edwards throughout. Bringing up the rear Lawson would suffer further misfortune seemingly forgetting to turn his turn his fuel on at the start, a lapse that effectively ruled him out of contention from the word go (heat seven winning time 58.2).
With that the margin was back to 5-points (23-18) with Eastbourne having much work to do.
An extended break followed due to the setting sun and the visibility issues it presented before they would face those tasks, however.
They would make inroads on the deficit as Brennan posted a second fine win in heat eight ahead of the impressive Hume.
Kemp secured the third place and the 4-2 with Keleher having suffered a tumble on the fourth bend of lap one (heat eight winning time 57.8).
The difference remained at 3-points, 28-25 following the ninth as King romped to a second win in three outings ahead of Kerr and Newman though the visitor appeared far from happy as he exchanged words with the starting marshall following the four laps (heat nine winning time 57.1).
Heat ten proved another tense race, one in which the Eagles appeared to hold the initiative.
Kennett and Brennan led the early running but once again misfortune was destined to strike.
Worrall produced a determined effort to split Kennett and Brennan heading down the back straight. Kennett held firm but Worrall continued to exert pressure on the Eastbourne number one.
It became apparent later that Kennett had lost his steel shoe but in the moment eyebrows were raised as to the comparative ease that Worrall and Brennan passed Kennett out of bend two of the second circuit.
A 3-3 appeared the likely outcome but Arlington hearts sank as Brennan slowed on the final lap, his engine having seized thus allowing a Pirates 4-2, Worrall taking the win from Kennett with Neilsen the happy recipient of the gifted third place point. (heat ten winning time 58.1).
A 4-2 to the Pirates and once more the deficit was back to the 5-points (32-27) that had continued to haunt the hosts right from that wholly unfortunate first race.
Heat eleven offered some succour as Lawson arrived at the party, securing his first victory of the 2021 campaign in fine style from Schlein. With Edwards coming from the back to get the better of Keleher, the swift response 4-2 reduced the margin to 3-points (34-31) but with just four races left on the card and the unbeaten Worrall due out in two of those the Eagles knew they still had a mountain to climb (heat eleven winning time 58.0).
With shared heats following in each of the next three races however, Poole placed themselves at the threshold of victory while all with an Eastbourne bias knew that their team was staring down the barrel of a gun.
Worrall made it four wins out of four at the expense of Newman and Kemp in a rerun twelfth race and it might have been worse as some felt that Cook could consider himself unfortunate to be excluded following a high-speed crash that saw his machine fly over the fence on the fourth turn.
Thankfully both Cook and Kemp who also fell eventually rose to their feet seemingly none the worst for the experience (heat twelve winning time 58.6).
Eastbourne might have looked to heat thirteen to finally seize the advantage but though Lawson was again on the money securing a controlled win, Kennett appeared far from comfortable King sweeping by him on the third turn of lap one and then Schlein repeated the dose forcing his way past of bends one and two of the final circuit (heat thirteen winning time 57.5).
The sands of time were slipping swiftly away and in spite of Kerr producing a Captain’s ride to secure the penultimate race both Nielsen and Hume apparently knew too much for Edwards.
The Poole duo secured the minor places behind Kerr and with that the score line stood at 43-40 in favour of the visitors ahead of the all decisive last race (heat fourteen winning time 58.2).
The signs looked ominous as Worrall and King lined up in opposition to Lawson and Kerr, the former as yet unheaded and numbering six victories in eight races between them.
The Eastbourne fans still dared to dream however and as the tapes flashed up their faith was rewarded as Lawson and Kerr hit the front together.
Some might have feared a late sucker punch or twist in the tail but to the delight of the home supporters in never came.
Lawson and Kerr’s resolve held firm and they rode home ahead of Worrall with King bringing up the rear (heat fifteen winning time 58.4).
It proved the perfect finale for the HG Aerospace Eagles who eased ahead for the first and only time of the night, the final result settling at 45-44. To the Eastbourne supporters it mattered little however and after 20 long months without their favourite sport this would prove the ideal start to their 2021 Championship campaign.