Leicester Lions 55
Berwick Bandits 35
Skipper Chris Harris saved the best for last on an evening when the Lions confirmed themselves as Championship league top dogs.
They cannot now be caught in the league standings and will go into the title-deciding play-offs on the crest of a wave. But Harris, fresh from helping Great Britain qualify for the European Pairs final, produced the race of the night in heat 15 with a trademark inside pass which denied both Kyle Howarth and Richie Worrall maximums.
It was a typical bit of magic from the FTS Bandits, powered by Keenwood Karpets’ number one and a rare moment of joy for the visitors whose misfiring middle order was again exposed.
Leicester’s biggest problems in the early heats came via a running feud with referee Dave Watters who warned Connor Mountain, Max Clegg and Kyle Howarth for moving at the start in the first four heats.
In truth the reruns did Bandits few favours, Harris and Pijper were holding a 5-1 when the red lights came on in heat one and in heat four Howarth took the opportunity to swap his misfiring machine for one which relegate Leon Flint to second place.
Connor Coles, guesting for visa victim Jonas Knudsen, won heat two at a track where he represents the home side in the National Development League, Nathan Stoneman finishing third for what was Berwick’s only early heat advantage as they trailed 20-10 after five heats, young Dan Thompson holding Harris at bay after a good tussle on a dry, slick bumpy track which meant that gating was all-important.
Flint added to his burgeoning reputation by holding off guest Richard Lawson to win six but Coles slid off after again looking well on the pace.
The visitors kept the deficit at ten points until heat eight when Coles, replacing the out of touch Pijper, and Stoneman were on the wrong end of a Lions’ 5-1.
Berwick played the tactical sub in heat nine, Harris and Flint sharing the spoils as Worrall just hung on to pip the hard-charging number one on the line.
But the Bandits’ skipper found himself on the wrong end of a rare 1-5 in 11 when Howarth thwarted his every move to get up and challenge race leader, former Newcastle man Max Clegg.
Leicester found themselves on the end of a similarly impressive piece of team riding in 13 as Harris and Flint combined to relegate Lawson to fourth place with Howarth off into the distance.
Ricky Wells, who recovered well from a dreadful opening ride, won heat 14 to ensure a share of the points before Harris’ virtuoso heat 15 performance.
After the dust settled Berwick team manager Gary Flint said: “Leicester were caught moving at the start in the early heats but the referee’s decision not to let it go penalised us more than them.
“Heat one and heat four in particular we were on 5-1s when he stopped the races. To be fair he explained his reasoning and he was consistent but instead of being 10 points up we found ourselves six down.
“Connor Coles was unbelievable as a guest, doing more than we could have expected from him while Ricky was ok after his first ride and Nathan never stopped trying.
“Jye still seems to be struggling the effects of his damaged hand so it was left to Bomber and Leon to take the fight to what, after all, is the best team in the league this season.
“Bomber took a while to get dialled in but was sensational in 15 while for Leon it is all good experience to be in heats 13 and 15.
“Points at Leicester were always an outside bet but we now have to make sure that we put it all together against Plymouth, Scunthorpe and Birmingham.
“And there’s the small matter of a visit from Glasgow to take into consideration too.”
Bullet Luke Crang scored 4+1 as a guest for Oxford Chargers who underlined their NDL play-off credentials by winning 47-42 at Kent on Sunday lunchtime.
Lions: Richard Lawson 8, Connor Mountain 6+1, Richie Worrall 13+1, Dan Thompson 6+1, Kyle Howarth 13+1, Max Clegg 6+1, Joe Thompson 3+1.
Bandits: Chris Harris 11, Theo Pijper 0, Jye Etheridge 4+1, Ricky Wells 7, Leon Flint 7+2, Connor Coles 5+1, Nathan Stoneman 1.