Battling Bullets denied Comets’ revenge

Published on 21st May 2023
Author George Dodds
Leading men Danny and Jamie keep Sam McGurk at bay

Workington Comets 50


There is no such thing as a mundane Bullets meeting! Sunday’s debut at Northside was a case in point as missing ambulances, wrecked air fences, a string of falls and controversial refereeing combined to keep the crowd and officials on their toes.

Amid the mayhem this became the second cracking meeting of the weekend between the new “old” rivals, Comets’ number one Connor Bailey being the difference between the sides, the Aussie/Brit recording a superb, but somewhat fortuitous six-ride paid maximum and lowering his own track record twice.

The home side made hay in the rider replacement stakes as the injured Luke Crang’s four rides returned nine points. In contrast the Bullets banked just three from Archie Freeman’s programmed outings.

But amid the disappointment of another defeat there were many positive signs including another powerful performance from birthday boy Jamie Halder, Danny Phillips’ second double figure haul of the weekend and Mason Watson putting a wretched Saturday night behind him to get among the points again.

They say that all good things come to those who wait – well the late arrival of the medical team and ambulance, delayed by traffic congestion caused by an accident en-route to Cumbria meant that heat one was delayed by over 50 minutes but when the action started it was for Bailey to set a new track record after flying past Connor Coles to join his team-mate Ace Pijper for a 5-1.

Kelsey Dugard’s afternoon ended prematurely when he ploughed into the fence on the second lap, Elliott Kelly also becoming trapped under the air fence after getting caught up in a frightening crash.

Mason inside the busy Elliot Kelly

The Comets’ number six ended the afternoon with a suspected broken arm and collarbone in addition to ligament damage while Kelly – who had enjoyed an eventful as well as rewarding weekend – emerged from the debris to return a match-winning double figure haul.

Halder and his father had worked through the night to rebuild an engine blown to smithereens at Shielfield and that hard work was rewarded as the birthday boy joined Phillips for a heat three 5-1 which levelled the scores.

Workington took advantage of a new addition to this year’s rulebook which allowed number eight –  technically their “additional rider” – Luke Harrison to be introduced to the action, the former Berwick Academy star watching from third as Bailey trimmed his own track record by a further eight-tenths of a second with Greg Blair in hot pursuit.

There was no track record but another 5-1 with Pijper in six over Blair and guest reserve Jack Shimelt before luck finally smiled on the Bullets in seven when Harrison fell while comfortably third allowing Phillips and Halder to share the points.

Heat eight almost deserves its own Netflix series, Pijper strolling to an easy enough victory while rider-replacement Blair passed Kelly only to then fall and remount. Watson fell but cleared the track only for Kelly’s machine to lose power, the all-action Yorkshireman just having the momentum to coast over the line and take the chequered flag with Berwick’s skipper closing fast.

Danny takes on Connor Bailey and Sam McGurk in heat 15

Blair won the following heat but Sam McGurk’s fall while second led to carnage behind as Harrison and Watson smartly laid down their machines to avoid the stricken teenager, referee Michael Breckon awarding a 4-2 to the visitors.

Phillips beat Bailey to the first turn in ten only for the home number one to roar past and the Bullets were sharp out of the gate again in 11, Connor Coles – another burning the midnight oil on Saturday to rebuild an engine – holding on for the win but Kelly forced his way past Watson for second.

Battling Berwick still had hopes of victory as Halder and Watson left the Comets in their wake in 12 before a mistake by the Berwick reserve let the home pair through. Sam McGurk and Halder then enjoyed a titanic battle for the win, the hugely impressive Bullet holding on.

Another Sunday, another controversial Blair exclusion. Along with Coles and Bailey the Berwick skipper entered the third bend three abreast in 13. He was the man who hit the fence and whose exclusion light came on despite it appearing that Bailey had entered the bend hot on the inside and left the visitor with nowhere to go.

Mr Breckon added another chapter to a series of controversial calls over the weekend by awarding the race win to Bailey even though Coles was leading when Blair came to grief turning a Bullets’ 5-1 into a Comets’ 4-2 with one decision.

Phillips and Watson produced a 4-2 in the penultimate heat but Bailey and Sam McGurk ended a long afternoon on a high with a heat 15 maximum which sewed up a ten point victory after another absorbing encounter between two teams who find themselves at opposite ends of the NDL table.

Comets: Connor Bailey 17+1, Ace Pijper 8+2, Sam McGurk 12, Harry McGurk 0, Kelsey Dugard 0, Elliot Kelly 10+2, Luke Harrison (number eight) 3

Bullets: Connor Coles 9, Jamie Halder 8+2, Danny Phillips 10, Greg Blair 7, Mason Watson 5, Jack Shimelt 1+1, Owen Booth (number eight) not used

Pictures: Courtesy Dave Payne
The skipper clamps Luke Harrison to the kerb
George Dodds
George Dodds

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