The Eastbourne Forman IT Eagles have won the National League KO Cup for the fourth successive time.
They stunned the Mildenhall Fen Tigers in the second leg at Arlington as they clawed back a 14-point deficit from last night’s defeat at West Row.
Here’s the stats from tonight
NATIONAL LEAGUE KO CUP FINAL 2nd leg
EASTBOURNE 58: Tom Brennan 13+1, Georgie Wood 12+2, Ethan Spiller 9+1, Charlie Brooks 7+3, Mark Baseby 7+1, Jason Edwards 6, Charley Powell 4+2.
MILDENHALL 32: Drew Kemp 13, Josh Bailey 6, Ryan Kinsley 6, Matt Marson 6, Jordan Jenkins 1, Sam Bebee 0, Danny Ayres r/r.
Eastbourne win 96-84 on aggregate.
It has been a night of drama at Arlington as Eastbourne kept a firm grip on the National League KO Cup.
In the end, they were clear winners on aggregate as they gradually applied more and more pressure to their opponents.
Mildenhall have been the stand-out team of the National League this year but Eastbourne’s steady, step-by-step improvement over the season has come to fruition at the right time.
The team refers to this process as ‘the pendulum’ which they believe has been swinging in their direction for some months.
Some will argue the hard rows were hoed last night at West Row in the first leg.
Early doors the home side threatened to run away with the tie but the Eagles dug in and turned a 20-point deficit at one stage to a final defeat in the first leg of ‘only’ 14 points.
It left the tie finely balanced. Eastbourne didn’t make the most confident of starts but the visitors were in trouble when they lost reserve Sam Bebee and captain Jordan Jenkins in crashes.
And when Eastbourne upped their game, Mildenhall had nothing left in the tank.
There were some superb individual performances from Eastbourne which Kevin Ling’s detailed report, which we will publish later on Sunday, will highlight.
Captain Mark Baseby has long said the 2018 Eagles were a work in progress which would be at its best in October when the trophies are handed out.
He said: “The boys were incredible tonight. I knew we could do it. There is a strong belief in our team and we seem to work well under pressure.
“Our top two tonight (Georgie Wood and Tom Brennan) were absolutely incredible. Jason Edwards, Charley Powell, Ethan Spiller were great and what about heat 14 when Brooksie (Charlie Brooks) stepped up to the mark.
“It was an unbelievable team performance, as it was last night.
“Mildenhall thought they were going to have it all. We have nicked one off them.”
Team manager Connor Dugard said: “We were the better team over two legs, simple.
“I was a bit upset when I saw posts on Facebook saying that Eastbourne had thrown it away after the first leg.
“What’s the point of having a two-legged tie if you think it is over after the first leg? It is never over.
“We carried the momentum from those last five heats yesterday (Friday) and I think we can do it again in the league.”
Dugard had high praise for reserve Charley Powell. “He was unreal tonight. I don’t think people realise the pain he was suffering from his crash last night. He can barely walk but he still put in a shift in.
“This team is absolutely unreal.”
Dugard was delighted that the Eagles had once again landed silverware.
“It is incredible. People have said we are second fiddle to Mildenhall,. Yes, they built a good team but clearly Eastbourne built a better one,”
Tomorrow: Kevin Ling’s heat-by-heat analysis of how this second leg cup tie unfolded.
Also tomorrow, there Forman IT Eagles head to Leicester to take on Coventry in the first leg of the National League Play Off semi-final.
Team manager Connor Dugard said: “We have enjoyed a huge success in retaining the KO Cup but our sights are still very much on being league champions. Now we are in the Play-Offs, the first step is to get past Coventry in the semi-final.
“Clearly, we go to the Midlands in great heart but we all realise there is still a lot of hard work to do in 2018 season. My team is ready.”
The second leg is due at Arlington next Wednesday.
Here is Kevin Ling’s detailed report of last night’s action
Eastbourne ‘Forman IT’ Eagles are the National League Knockout Cup winners for a fourth successive season following a determined 58-32 victory over the Mildenhall Fen Tigers at Arlington stadium on Saturday.
The Sussex side clawed their way back from a fourteen-point deficit, having lost at West Row 52-38 at West Row the previous evening.
The Eagles finally nosed ahead over the two legs for the first time following a 5-1 from Mark Baseby and the wholly impressive Charlie Brooks in heat 12 and from there they proceeded to kick on with two further maximum advantages and a 4-2 in the closing races.
For Eastbourne, Tom Brennan and Georgie Wood led the charge, each only suffering one defeat to an opponent, however again it was an all-round display with every member contributing but special plaudits are reserved for both Brooks and Ethan Spiller who each weighed in with match winning displays.
For the visitors, Drew Kemp reigned supreme in the early part with four majestic wins but an untimely fall in his fifth ride hampered his progress and swung the balance firmly Eagles way and his final outing saw him succumb to a 5-1 against Brennan and Wood after the Cup was already lost.
One had to feel sympathy for the Fen Tigers however, an otherwise glorious season has been blighted with injuries, they suffered once again last night as both Sam Bebee and Jordan Jenkins ended the night in the treatment rooms.
Bebee suffered a fall in heat two and was subsequently ferried to Eastbourne General Hospital suffering a shoulder injury.
Further misfortune followed for the Suffolk side as Jenkins was also a casualty having run into the back of a stricken Baseby in race five.
He contested the rerun to pick up the odd point gifted by Baseby’s disqualification and appeared in his next outing but pulled up suffering a reported ankle injury. Though not officially withdrawn from the meeting he took no further part.
Injuries sadly part and parcel of this great sport and Mildenhall have suffered more than most throughout the campaign, hopes and good wishes of course extend to both Bebee and Jenkins for the swiftest of recoveries.
They have normally handled such adversity well to keep on winning however on this occasion it appeared just too much a hurdle to overcome.
With Eastbourne showing such dominant home form once again however they would most likely have been too difficult to resist in any case.
In spite of a slow start a brace of maximum advantages in heats two and three really ignited their challenge and put them on course for a third consecutive Cup defence.
Mildenhall started proceedings as if they might hold onto their 14-point advantage. Kemp and Ryan Kinsley leading into the first turn of heat one leaving both Jason Edwards and Wood trailing.
Though there would be no catching Kemp, Kinsley suffered a loss of control allowing both Edwards then Wood past for an eventual share of the spoils.
Matt Marson was a fast starter in the second and just as it appeared Bebee might also feature he piled into the fourth turn air fence and unfortunately out of the contest for the evening.
The rerun saw Marson take the win from Brooks and Charley Powell who was suffering the effects of a fall suffered at West Row the previous evening.
The powerful start Eastbourne craved hadn’t transpired as they’d hoped it was merely delayed as Baseby and Spiller combined to deny both Josh Bailey and Jenkins in heat three.
Finally Eagles were on a roll and had made some inroads into the Fen Tigers first leg lead.
Better was to follow as Brennan romped to victory in the fourth however it was Brooks who brought the house down sweeping through on the inside of both Marson and Kinsley out of bend two to bank a second successive 5-1.
This set the scores at 16-8 and reduced the aggregate margin to just 6-points. Suddenly the Eagles fans were starting to believe.
With Baseby suffering that exclusion and Kemp securing a second win in the fifth from Spiller, such hopes were quelled momentarily as Mildenhall took a 4-2.
However the hosts responded in kind as Wood headed Kinsley home with Edwards similarly getting the better of Marson in heat six.
Race seven proved another disaster for the visitors as Jenkins pulled up down the back straight then Bailey took route one into the fourth bend safety barrier. He duly remounted but there was no way back as Brennan and Powell took the 5-1 that moved the scores to 27-15 on the night and just 2-points short of their visitors over the two legs.
Kemp and Marson gated in the eighth but both Edwards and Brooks rode either side of the latter out of bend two thus keeping the aggregate deficit at just 2-points.
Kinsley produced a brilliant effort to round both Baseby and then Spiller in heat nine, halting Eastbourne hopes of a 5-1 and injecting fresh hope into the beleaguered Fen Tigers.
It was all square following the next however as Wood took the win ahead of Bailey while Edwards rode home unchallenged with Jenkins a non-starter.
Kemp continued to fight the good fight for the visitors with a fourth victory in a restarted eleventh race, the Fen Tigers number one taking advantage of a momentary lapse by Brennan to roar through on his inside and anchor a 4-2 with Bailey also getting the better of Powell.
This put the visitors back ahead but only momentarily and Brooks was again the hero as he withstood early pressure from Bailey and swept around Marson in heat twelve to join Baseby for the 5-1 that saw Eastbourne lead for the first time over the two legs.
It proved a supreme effort from a young man still at the outset of his career and a determined ride that proved a defining moment in Eagles Cup success and one that saw him outpace a rider who had donned the Eagles number one jacket to such great effect in the corresponding Final match up against Mildenhall just 12 months earlier was richly and understandably celebrated by the home fans.
The visitor’s misery was effectively complete as their talisman Kemp suffered a fall on the final turn of lap one in race thirteen after Wood had darted through on his inside.
With Kemp disqualified, it was now advantage Eastbourne and although Kinsley made a fine start to lead the rerun, Wood again had his measure down the back straight and with Brennan blasting through heading into the third bend to complete the 5-1, the Knockout Cup was all but in Eagles hands.
The result was set in stone as Spiller, another true hero of the Sussex sides night of success forged a way past the swift starting Marson, Powell following on for the 4-2 that put them beyond the reach of the Fen Tigers.
Brennan and Wood set the seal on yet another glory night for the Eagles as they finished with a comfortable 5-1 against Kemp in the final race.
So 58-32 proved the final score with Eastbourne winning by an overall 12-point margin 96-84 over the two legs. The whole of Arlington celebrated as one and so they should with an unprecedented fourth successive Knockout Cup now wrested.
Eagles: Tom Brennan 13+1(5), Georgie Wood 12+2(5), Ethan Spiller 9+1(4), Charlie Brooks 7+3(4), Marc Baseby 7+1(4), Jason Edwards 6(4), Charley Powell 4+2(4).- 58(96)
Fen Tigers: Drew Kemp 13(6), Josh Bailey 6(5), Ryan Kinsley 6(6), Matt Marson 6(7), Jordan Jenkins 1(3), Sam Bebee 0(1), Rider Replacement for Danny Ayres. – 32(84)