The Ecco Finishing Bears’ cup dreams were shattered when they crashed 55-35 in the semi-final at Rye House, so losing 97-83 on aggregate, while Leicester edged ahead of the Teessiders in the battle for the final play-off place in the league through a 50-40 victory over Edinburgh.
“It wasn’t the best night in the Bears’ history,” lamented Bears boss Jitendra Duffill, who must have sensed the omens were not good when Thomas Jorgensen, lined up as a guest in place of Matej Kus, was forced to withdraw with a back injury while riding for his own club-side Scunthorpe in the first part of the double header in Hertfordshire.
Rye House went on to win that league match 50-40, then tore into the Bears with five heat advantages, including three 5-1s, in the opening six heats to lead 26-10 and already have one foot in the final.
“After that we held our own and even clawed a couple of points back before heat 14,” pointed out Duffill.
“They used their experience from the previous match to know exactly how the track was riding from the start, whereas our boys took a race or two to dial into the conditions and get race sharp.
“We were definitely at a disadvantage going on second.”
Between matches Duffill went to great lengths ensuring that he could utilise Ashley Birks, who had top scored with 12 for Scunthorpe, as a new guest for Kus and, despite a protest from Rockets promoter Len Silver, the proposed move was sanctioned.
But Birks suffered a groin strain in his opening race for the Bears and failed to replicate his earlier form, while Ulrich Ostergaard and Carl Wilkinson both struggled with equipment amid a generally below par performance from the visitors.
Micky Dyer, Aaron Summers and Birks all went on to win races but the early deficit was too great to overcome and the rampant Rockets went out with a bang, extending their winning margin further in the closing two races.
“I heard bits and pieces from Leicester throughout the meeting,” added Duffill, “but didn’t know the final result until after we’d finished and that was just the final nail in the coffin of a very disappointing night.”
The Lions are now level in the table with the Bears but have a marginally better race-points difference of eight, with both sides facing one more away match.
The Bears return to Rye House on September 14 and should know exactly what they need to do by then as Leicester conclude their fixtures at Newcastle next Sunday.
Duffill stressed: “It’s not often we want our greatest rivals to do well but we need Newcastle to do what they do to most teams at home and that’s destroy Leicester. But it won’t be any easier for us at Rye House - it could all come down to race points difference, but I hope it doesn’t.”
There is no speedway at South Tees Motorsports Park on Thursday.
ROCKETS: Anders Mellgren 14+1, Tyson Nelson 12+2, Jason Bunyan 12, Olly Allen 8, Ben Morley 5, Kasper Lykke 4, rider replacement for Pontus Aspgren.
BEARS: Micky Dyer 9, Carl Wilkinson 7, Hugh Skidmore 6+1, Aaron Summers 6, Ashley Birks (guest) 5, Ulrich Ostergaard 2+1, Steve Worrall 0.
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