Thrills, spills but no cup miracle

Published on 24th July 2022
Author George Dodds
Luke Crang and Tom Spencer get close up and personal. Picture: Keith Hamblin
Berwick Bullets 41
Leicester Lion Cubs 49
Aggregate 68-112

Neither side appeared to get the memo that this cup semi-final was effectively a dead rubber after the Cubs had won the first leg 63-27.

Instead the GHT Bullets and their Leicester counterparts produced the standard 15 heats of thrills – and spills – which have become a hallmark of the NDL at Shielfield.

Of course there were some lines to be drawn in the sand with the Cubs taking over at the top of the table from long-time leaders the Bullets and the teams likely to meet again in the play-offs.

But as far as the cup is concerned it is the visitors who will face Mildenhall in the final later this year thanks in no small part to the second maximum of the night for a visiting number one.

Dan Thompson was no less dominant than Edinburgh’s Sam Masters an hour or so earlier and he was well backed up by his side on the night.

There was a hint of the excitement to come as early as heat two when Ben Rathbone and Kieran Lyden gated only for first Max Perry and then Vinnie Foord to roar around the guest for the night. Luke Crang then found himself passed by both Connor Coles and Tom Spencer before Berwick produced their first heat win of the night.

Greg Blair revels in being different and the great entertainer had to win head four twice, leading when team-mate Rathbone fell as the riders entered the third lap. Most expected it to be awarded but referee Jim McGregor ordered a rerun which Blair then confidently won.

Kyle Bickley put a first ride disaster behind him to win heat six, Ace Pijper’s third place cutting the deficit to four points. A second Blair win, this time from the gate, was followed by Pijper’s dominant victory in an awarded heat eight after the very fast, but slightly erratic Mickie Simpson fell at the back.

The 15-year-old was at the front again two heats later as he diced with Connor Coles only to fall trying an inside pass on the experienced Cub on the last lap.

Heat 13 was a cracking battle of the big guns but it ended painfully for Blair who tried one wide blast two many and fell untidily against the pit gate.

Close quarter action as Ace Pijper, Max Perry, Ben Rathbone and Mickie Simpson challenge on the first bend. Picture: Taz McDougalll

Thankfully, he was soon back on his feet as was Spencer after hitting Crang from behind as the pair roared into the third bend, the Bullets’ man managing to stay on his bike despite a wall of death rider around the polyfoam fence on bends three and four.

He won the rerun, one of just three Bullets’ heat advantages up to that point.

Bickley was an impressive winner of the final heat, Leicester giving impressive 15-year-old reserve Max Perry a ride, but Coles fell awkwardly to gift Pijper a point which his efforts on the night deserved.

The Bullets are in action again on August six, rounding off their home league fixtures against Plymouth Centurions.

Bullets: Kyle Bickley 10, Ace Pijper 7, Mason Watson 2+1, Luke Crang 9, Greg Blair 8, Kyran Lyden 0, Ben Rathbone 5.

Cubs: Dan Thompson 12, Mickie Simpson 2, Connor Coles 9+2, Tom Spencer 5+1, Joe Thompson 7, Vinnie Foord 5+2, Max Perry 9+1

George Dodds
George Dodds

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