Eastbourne in Shield Final

Eastbourne Speedway are in the final of the Championship Shield.

They powered through the second leg of the semi-final last night (August 3) to win 55-39 on the night and 98-81 on aggregate.

They will face Leicester in the final.

Richard Lawson takes the acclaim of the fans

Richard Lawson top scored for the Fineprint Eagles but the plaudits go to Georgie Wood.

He scored his first paid maximum at Championship level which included a stunning pass of the in-form Rasmus Jensen.

In front of large Arlington Stadium crowd, the Eagles hit a 5-1 to win race one.

It immediately erased the four-point deficit from the first leg.

With their tails up and the crowd roaring them on, the home side banged in two more maximum heat wins in the next two races to take control of the tie.

It was just the start Eastbourne wanted, made easier by Glasgow’s No. 1 and the league’s top rider, Craig Cook, failing to come to tapes for heat one.

The start of racing had been delayed as the Scottish team debated track conditions with referee, Seth Perkin.

Glasgow riders on the track pre-meeting

They felt the surface was ‘patchy’ and, as a result, Mr Perkin asked for some more work to be done on the surface – which was carried out by the Eastbourne track staff.

The referee then ruled the track was ready for racing.

However, Cook failed to appear for heat one and was disqualified but he did appear for his later rides, including heat 15.

Cook, who led the Team GB team in the recent Speedway of Nations final in Russia, was involved in a fracas before racing began and had been at the centre of discussions about the state of the track.

The referee has reported his actions before the racing started to the Speedway Control Bureau, whose co-ordinator, Neil Vatcher, was at the meeting.

Alfie Bowtell, Will Pottinger and Lewi Kerr

Eastbourne joint team manager, Will Pottinger, said: “We got the result. We are in the final. Happy days.

“We made an excellent start and it was just managing it from then on.

“I think we did a really good job. It was a great team effort and everybody contributed, which was really good.”

Pottinger said the controversy before the meeting probably worked in Eastbourne’s favour.

He and other club officials worked on keeping the Eastbourne riders’ minds concentrated on the semi-final, second leg.

“We were telling everyone to stay focussed and keep their mind on the job in hand.

“I think it affected Glasgow a lot more than it did us. 

“The track was good before the meeting. There was no problem for us.

“We just got on with it and we have the result we wanted.”

*Today (Sunday, August 4), Eastbourne are due to ride in a Championship league match at Redcar.

The team is unchanged, although the reserves will switch round with Alfie Bowtell at No 6 and Jason Edwards at No 7.

EASTBOURNE 55: Richard Lawson 13, Georgie Wood 10+2, Lewis Kerr 10, Edward Kennett 9, Alfie Bowtell 6+2, Kyle Newman 4+3, Jason Edwards 3.
GLASGOW 34: Craig Cook 9, Claus Vissing 7+2, Rasmus Jensen 7, Mikkel B Andersen 5+1, Connor Bailey 4+2, Kyle Bickley 2+1, Paul Starke r/r.
Eastbourne win 98-81 on aggregate.

The victorious Eagles

Here is Kevin Ling’s report of the Shield semi-final, second leg

Sussex speedway squad Eastbourne ‘Fineprint’ Eagles are in the final of the 2019 Championship Shield where they will face the Leicester Lions.

The Sussex side swept aside the in-form Glasgow Tigers in dominant style winning by a 55-34 margin at Arlington stadium on Saturday night, the 4-point deficit from the first leg at Ashfield stadium being wiped away in the very first race.

With the Eagles opening proceedings with no fewer than a trio of 5-1s in the first three races, from that point on they always held control.

Just as they had done in the first leg at Glasgow, every member of the Eagles team played their part in the win.

Alfie Bowtell and Connor Bailey

Richard Lawson topped the scorecard with a finely crafted 13-points with Georgie Wood proved the toast of the night courtesy of a superbly taken paid maximum from his four outings, the pick of these proving to be a sensational from the back effort to deny Rasmus Jensen in heat six.

Lewi Kerr also recorded double figures and skipper Edward Kennett went unbeaten in the three rides that he completed but once again this proved an exceptional all round performance from the Sussex side.

As for the Tigers, skipper Craig Cook provided sterling opposition to the home heat leaders in the later heats and one can only speculate as to how differently the course of the match might have gone had he chosen to take his place in the first race.

He looked the quality rider he unquestionably can be in winning his first outing against Kerr in heat five but thereafter, defeats at the hands of Lawson (twice) and Kennett all helped propel Eastbourne towards the final and proved wholly popular with the sizeable and vocal home attendance.

Chris and Trevor Geer with Jason Edwards

Elsewhere however, the expected support from fellow heat leaders Jensen and Claus Vissing in particular failed to materialise, the latter displaying a moment of frustration in heat eleven, riding through the starting tapes after been excluded for exceeding the two minute time allowance due to machinery problems.   

The meeting began on a note of controversy and suffice to say tensions and emotions boiled over in quite extraordinary fashion ,even before the riders came to tapes to contest heat one.

The problem apparently stemmed from the visiting team, or at least certain members within their number expressing their discontent at the track surface and displaying an unwillingness and reluctance to contest the fixture.

Words were said, people got upset and remedial work was duly undertaken in order to appease the aggrieved parties, the result of which seeing referee Seth Perkin giving the go ahead.

Craig Cook heads Richard Lawson

It appeared that some still weren’t happy with this course of event and this unfortunately manifested in wholly unfortunate and distasteful scenes on the pre-meeting parade.

It took time for the dust to settle and for various parties to calm themselves sufficiently for the important business of racing to get underway.

With the Tigers operating the Rider Replacement facility for the unfortunately injured Paul Starke, Kyle Bickley was nominated to take his place but inevitably it would have proved disappointing to the Tigers contingent that their number one and Captain, apparently decided to not to give it a go.

Having been ruled out for missing the two minutes, Bickley’s fellow reserve Connor Bailey was pressed into action to face Kennett and Wood in the opening heat, a daunting task indeed.

A strong first heat from Cook might well have put an entirely different spin and complexion on what would follow but without him, Kennett and Wood made the most of their opportunity and blazed away for the 5-1 that immediately eradicated the first leg deficit in a time of 57.6 and set the aggregate scores level.

All ready to go

That first race experience might well have proved beneficial to both Bickley and Bailey as they immediately lined up once more.

But just as they had in the corresponding race at Ashfield, it was the Eastbourne duo that edged clear out of the second bend and from there they were away and gone, Jason Edwards taking the win with Alfie Bowtell following on ahead of Bailey, the Eagles increasing their early advantage to 10-2 and leading now over the two legs by four (winning time 60.5).

Kerr made a corker of a start in the third and powered into the lead. Vissing wouldn’t enjoy such fortunes as he slid off at the first turn but he did remount to finish.

The meat in this sandwich of conflicting fortunes was a fine overtake by Kyle Newman who stormed under Mikkel B. Andersen heading into bend three for a third successive 5-1 to the Sussex side and with that the scores stood at 15-3, and the Eagles were most certainly in the ascendency (winning time 59.3).

The momentum was certainly with the home side but the visitors did at least manage to weather the storm over the course of the next few races, heats four to seven inclusive remaining shared.

It’s a serious business, this speedway

Race four witnessed a flying win for Lawson (in a time of 59.1) but although Bowtell joined him at the front in the early part, Jensen and Bailey swept through to fill the minor places. Bowtell didn’t give up the chase however, his efforts coming to an untidy end as he slid off on the final bend in a last ditch attempt to catch Bailey. 

Cook did indeed make his entry in heat five and he made an instant impact, proving what a talent he surely is by getting the better of Kerr on the third turn and coming home for the win in a time of 58.4.

With Newman getting the better of Bickley however, the difference on the night remained at 12-points 21-9 with the Sussex men still holding the whip hand over the two legs by a margin of eight (64-56).

Heat six had some bizarre content and also both highs and lows for the home supporters.

Jensen hit the front and led from Wood with Kennett making up for a difficult first lap by charging around the outside in his customary style.

The final turn of lap one saw him go a little too wide as he snagged the air fence and almost came down. He stayed aboard and over the course of the next lap fought his way past Bickley into third place to bank a likely looking share of the spoils.

It was at that point however that the referee had noticed that the air fence panel had started to deflate and he called a halt, disqualifying Kennett as the cause of the stoppage.

That was the low but the restart provided the unquestioned high as Wood stormed past Jensen (in fantastic form both home and away in recent weeks) on the inside out of bend two and he not only fended him off, he actually went away from him over the course of the four laps to come home to the rich acclaim of the Sussex supporters (winning time 57.9).

Georgie Wood’s trademark style around Arlington

Lawson then made it two wins out of two in the seventh (winning time 58.7) but a crumb of comfort came for the visitors as Vissing and Andersen combined to fill the minor places ahead of Edwards but with that the difference remained at twelve, 27-15, Eagles still leading by 8-points (70-62) over the two legs.

Heat eight would see the Eagles pick up the baton and run once again however; putting themselves further out of reach of the Tigers claws.

Wood again makes a superb start and storms away and with Bowtell following on ahead of the ever pressing Bailey and Andersen, the 5-1 extended the home advantage to a mammoth 16-points (32-16), a score line and a scenario that the Tigers certainly haven’t been used to in season 2019 (winning time 58.9). 

Jensen banked only Glasgow’s second heat victory in the ninth (winning time 58.2) as he powered home ahead of Kerr and Newman but with Bickley bringing up the rear and the 16-point disparity (now 35-19) still in place (78-66 over the two legs) this moved Eastbourne ever close to the final date with Leicester.

Indeed Kennett and Wood made all but certain of overall victory as they romped away from Vissing and Andersen in race ten (winning time 58.5).

With that the match score stood at 40-20 and the aggregate at a no less impressive 83-67 in Eagles favour, this meant that Glasgow needed maximum 5-1s in no fewer than four of the last five races simply to take the tie to golden heats.

Lawson continued his winning ways to the delight of the home fans, especially as it came at the expense of Cook in the eleventh (winning time 58.1).

Jon Cook accompanies Jason Edwards back to the pits after the rider fell

With Edwards having been ruled out following a fall, the night’s sixth 3-3 meant that Eagles were within touching distance of the Final. 

Once again the simmering frustration among certain of the visitors emerged once again as Cook and Vissing lined up alongside Lawson for the restart.

The Dane’s machine failed him at the start line and he was struggling to get it to start. Just as he did he turned to face the tapes only to find that his yellow exclusion light had already ignited.

A fit of pique presumably but Vissing drove straight through the tapes heading back to the pits. He did reappear to take his third place unchallenged from 15 metres back but by now the lights on the Glasgow challenge had all but snuffed out.   

Heat twelve would prove eventful and ultimately see the Eagles through but given the amount of incident that fact largely past the supporters by.

Firstly Bailey was ruled out following a fall (again soon up and okay) and then Bowtell was put back 15 metres (though few could understand why). He was facing the wrong way when the two minute time allowance was up.

Newman’s bike then failed him and just as he started running across the centre green to source a replacement, Kennett rode around to lend him his own machine.

Andersen led the early running but as Newman got used to the skipper’s steed he continued to put pressure on the Dane, the first bend of the third lap saw the Eagle storm through on the inside and though little contact appeared to be made, the visiting rider became unseated and fell.

Heated words were exchanged between the pair but the referee again had a decision to make and he duly ruled Andersen the race winner ahead of Bowtell with Newman adjudged the cause of the stoppage.

This offered Glasgow their one and only advantage of the night but it was to prove of scant consolation with the Eagles now through to the Final.

Kennett posted another popular win over Cook in heat thirteen (winning time 58.2), the Team GB rider keeping the Eagles Captain honest throughout and in so doing he also inflicted Lawson’s only defeat of the evening.

Edward Kennett offers his hand to Craig Cook

Kennett offered the handshake but Cook apparently rejected it.

Words were once again exchanged but it was seemingly of little consequence to the Eagles number one as he rode around on his lap of honour to the acclaim of Arlington faithful.

Kerr took the honours in the penultimate race ahead of Vissing and Bailey in the penultimate race, the latter completing a competent first Arlington performance with a defeat of his opposite number, early race leader Edwards.

The night’s seventh 3-3 saw Eastbourne maintain their progressive 21-point lead, the aggregate victory (now standing at 17-points) having long been assured.

Lawson ran out the clock with another commanding defeat of Cook in the final race though the British Final rostrum man was giving his all with every turn of the wheel. Race honours once more remained even with Vissing getting the better of Newman, the closing share of the spoils seeing the Sussex outfit as comprehensive 55-34 winners over the powerhouse Glasgow Tigers.

The overall 98-81 aggregate success saw them through to a Championship Shield Final date against Leicester with a degree of comfort.

A bitter sweet symphony in many ways considering some of the scenes that were witnessed particularly earlier on during the evening. However that did not stop the Sussex contingent and their enthusiastic supporters celebrating the moment.                    


Eagles: Richard Lawson 13(5), Georgie Wood 10+2(4), Lewis Kerr 10(4), Edward Kennett 9(4), Kyle Newman 4+3(5), Jason Edwards 3(4), Alfie Bowtell 6+2(5). – 55 (Aggregate 98)

Tigers: Craig Cook 9(4), Claus Vissing 7+2(6), Rasmus Jensen 7(4), Mikkel B. Andersen 5+1(5), Connor Bailey 4+2(6), Kyle Bickley 2+1(5), Rider Replacement for Paul Starke.  – 34 (Aggregate 81)

Images: Mike Hinves and Tiffani Graveling Photography