MATCH REPORT: Hammers hold off Aces to take title in nail biter
The final Elite League fixture of 2016 lived up to all pre-match expectations, with nail biting tension in each race at Ashmore Park, where Horspath needed just one more win or a draw to take the title once again.
The first two heats were drawn 5-5, with the away team notching the first heat advantage in race 3, with a 6-4 from Osborne and Nowacki over Griffiths and Aris.
But the Aces bounced back in the next, with their own 6-4 from Smith and Mould against Payne and Boaler. The match was tight throughout all of the races, with the lead changing
from team to team by 2 points either way, several times, leading upto the interval with both teams going in at the break all level at 45-45.
Heat 10 was a drawn heat and then over the course of the next three races, Horspath gained a 6 point lead, but that was reduced to just 1 point in heat 14, when the Aces gained a 7-2 heat advantage after the first of a glut of exclusions over the next 3 races, with Osbourne moving at the start tapes.
The next heat it was Wednesfield’s turn for the exclusion, with Mould adjudged to have obstructed a Horspath rider resulting in a 7-2 to the visitors, putting them back in front by 6 points.
Heat 16 saw a tapes exclusion for world champion, Grabowski, and the Aces took a 6-3, putting the score a bit closer at 77-80.
In heat 17, the Hammers snatched a 6-4 from Harrold and Osbourne against Smith and Heard, while heat 18 was drew 5-5, leaving Horspath in the lead by 5 points, with just the
remaining 2 nominated rider heat to finish the match.
Drama struck in heat 19, when Zac Payne was excluded for obstruction on the first bend. The Aces Paul Heard and Mark Griffiths seized the oppotunity in the re-run and gave the Aces a 7-2 advantage, putting both teams level again 93-93 with just one race left.
The Aces needed a heat advantage to take the meeting and finish on the same league points as horspath, which would force a play-off. However, it was not to be, Matt Smith shot from the gate and led from start to finish, but team partner, Lee Kemp, could not find away past the pairing of Grabowski and Nowacki, resulting in a 5-5 drawn heat and the meeting finishing all square on 98-98.
Congratulations are due to Horspath on taking the Elite League title. Wednesfield will look back and be thinking what could have been had they not lost away at Ipswich and Poole, but then its not been a bad season for the Aces, winning the Open Club Championship title and then the British Team KO cup for a record number of times, as well as a record number of succesive wins.
Add to that the club have had success in the Youth and Junior league finishing runners up nationally and winners in the regional. The Aces also have two British champions, Brandon Whetton in u19s and Ben Mould, the Open Senior Champion.
MATT SMITH 22, CHRIS JEWKES 8, LEE KEMP 3, PAUL HEARD 18+2, MARK GRIFFITHS 17, LEE ARIS 10, BEN MOULD 13, BRANDON WHETTON 7+1.
ZAC PAYNE 10+2, MARK CARMICHAEL 19, JACK HARROLD 15+2, BARTEK GRABOWSKI 12+1, LEWIS OSBOURNE 14+1, LUKAS NOWACKI 13+2, MARK BOALER 12, JAKE NEIGHBOUR 3.