Big guns make it two from two

Published on 31st March 2024
Author George Dodds
The 2024 Border Trophy winners

Workington Comets      43

Jewson Bandits, powered by Keenwood Karpets         47

(Bandits win 103-77 on aggregate)

Team manager Stewart Dickson dedicated Berwick’s Border Trophy win to the memory of Robin Morrison, a victory achieved after a battling performance which would have had the lifelong Bandits’ supporter, sponsor and confidante, who died last week aged 87, purring with delight.

In truth they did the heavy lifting with the previous evening’s 22-point first leg victory but on Sunday showed a willingness to dig deep against a Comets’ side which looked a much more potent force on home shale.

Berwick sides of recent vintage would probably have crumbled as an early six-point lead was reeled in but the 2024 version already shows signs of being a much tougher proposition home and away.

At one point Workington levelled Sunday’s meeting and took a momentum into the last three heats which made them slight favourites for the win.

Instead Lewis Kerr produced his best gate of the weekend in heat 13 to dash the hopes of Craig Cook and Troy Batchelor, visiting captain Rory Schlein keeping it out wide to complete a 5-1.

After Drew Kemp had split the home pairing in 14, the dynamic duo saw out the match in a frantic last heat, Kerr again jetting from the tapes and seeing off the challenge of the super-impressive Antti Vuolas, Schlein defending third and becoming the first Berwick skipper for quite some time to get his hands on a trophy.

Vuolas has shown plenty of promise for little reward the previous night but on Sunday the Finn showed just why he is so highly rated.

After a quiet Saturday night Berwick’s big two led from the front on Sunday with 11 points apiece while their team-mates all had their moments in another thoroughly entertaining encounter.

Two from two in heat one for Danyon

Danyon Hume had a delightful déjà vu moment as for the second night in a row he won heat one with a tapes to flag victory over Craig Cook. Freddy Hodder and Bastian Borke continued the good work with maximum points from the reserves’ race with home fans perhaps fearing another rout was on the cards.

Berwick continued to lose out from the gate with Schlein having to overcome a 5-1 in heat four, accounting for Celina Liebmann fairly quickly but having to wait until the third lap before he roared inside Batchelor.

Vuolas’ first race win turned into Workington’s first heat advantage when Claus Vissing passed Hume for third place but Jye Etheridge repelled a series of attacks from Batchelor to steady the ship in seven, Kemp’s third place restoring the six-point lead.

Tate Zischke caught Hume right on the line to share a frantic heat eight but Workington clawed the deficit back over the next two heats. Vuolas swoopped around Schlein to win nine while at the back Hodder, while again looking very fast, just couldn’t catch Vissing on the run to the line.

Cook and Zischke levelled the scores after ten, two shared heats raising home hopes of a morale-boosting victory before Kerr and Schlein clinically slammed the door on them.

In the final analysis there was much to be happy about from this weekend’s challenge matches, not least the fact that all seven riders won at least one race over the 30 heats.

Without really finding a gating consistency many of those wins were from the back on two very different tracks.

Berwick now go into Saturday’s opening BSN Series encounter with Glasgow at Shielfield confident in their ability but knowing that there are still areas where they can improve, especially from the gate.

Major plusses were the form of reserves Hodder, who looked especially quick even if the points did not come at Northside, and Bastian Borke.

They will need to be on their game if Berwick’s rotten recent record against the Tigers is to be consigned to the history books. They have lost the last 13 encounters between the teams – six at home – their last win coming in 2019.

A similar run against Redcar was emphatically ended in 2023, the many fans who made the trip to Cumbria on Sunday believe they have a side with the ability to tame the Tigers too.

Comets: Craig Cook 7+1, Tate Zischke 7+1, Antti Vuolas 11, Claus Vissing 8, Troy Batchelor 7, Sam McGurk 2, Celina Liebmann 1+1

Bandits: Lewis Kerr 11, Danyon Hume 6+1, Jye Etheridge 8, Drew Kemp 4+1, Rory Schlein 11+1, Freddy Hodder 4+1, Bastian Borke 3+2

Pictures: Taz McDougall
George Dodds
George Dodds

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