MATCH REPORT: The tide turns for the Lions

Relentless sunshine created a very warm welcome to the Norwich Stars at Hellingly on Sunday, but made racing conditions difficult and wearing.

Hellingly won the coin toss and selected gates 1 and 3 in heat 1. Neil Hollebon off gate 3 was gone and looked a class above the rest, but Jim Cox off gate 1 was pinned on the white line and had all the chasing to do.

On lap 3 on the pit bend Craig Norton slipped off his pedals so Cox seized the opportunity and blasted past, on lap 4 on the pit bend again, Norton dived for a gap that was really not there in an attempt to pass Cox, both riders clashed and crossed the outside line of the track resulting in a referee decision to stop the race.

After a quite lengthy delay, the race was re-run with all 4 riders because the referee could not decide who was at fault.

The result was a drawn heat with 5 pts each and Neil easily the winner. The 5-5, which might have been more for Hellingly, set the tone for the following 8 races which seemed to affect the Lions far more than Norwich.

Dan Welch for the Lions was having a day to forget, with a tapes exclusion in heat 4 followed by two falls while in good point scoring positions.

The elder statesmen of the team, Neil and Martyn Hollebon, along with the reborn Ed Ridley, all showed their vast racing experience by steadying the ship.

With 5 race winners to Lions and 4 to the stars alongside some contested decisions, it came as no surprise that the mid way scoreline was close – 44 pts to Hellingly and 45 pts to Norwich.

During the interval, copious amounts of water were put down on the track in an effort to get it rideable and copious cups of tea were put down the riders to make them rideable!

Unusually, the Lions decided upon a team talk, rarely seen before!

With the interval over, the Lions emerged somewhat re-energized, same riders but either the cups of tea or the team talk worked its magic and something clicked – the tide was to turn!

Heat 10, Martyn and Dan secured a 6-4 heat advantage moving from 1pt down to 1pt up. Moving forward to heat 15, Dan partnered Steven Archer to add another heat advantage with a 7-3 bringing the score to Hellingly 77 Norwich 72.

Heat 16 was a shared 5-5 bringing us to heat 17 and possibly the race of the day. Representing the home team was the unbeaten Neil Hollebon partnered by young George Morley, who was not having his best of days. The scene was set; the Lions were 5 pts up, Neil was on gate 1, George on gate 3 and expecting nothing less than a 5-5 result.

Predictably, Neil leapt out from the gate and was gone, leaving the others to sort themselves out. Suddenly from nowhere George was on the button. He achieved a classic first turn manoeuvre and emerged in second spot and promptly chased after his Lions partner Neil.

The rest of the Lions team and most spectators erupted into a crescendo resembling England scoring against Germany in the world cup. Neil wondering what was going on took a look behind, seeing George in second spot allowed him to pass and rode a classic two laps to bring home a match winning 7-3 heat advantage with just one race remaining.

With Martyn Hollebon also in great form with partner Steven Archer in heat 18, the match already won, no favours were about to be given. A 6-4 to the Lions brought an end to a match that was very much of two halves.

The final score was Hellingly 95 Norwich 84 :-

Hellingly 95
Neil Hollebon 18+2, Jim Cox 12+1, Steven Archer 13+1, Jamie Morley 5+1 (3r), Ed Ridley 13+1, Martyn Hollebon 19, Dan Welch 8, George Morley 7

Norwich 84
Lee Grange 15+2, Dave Spauls 3 ( 3r), Paddy Wenn 13+1, Dave Blackmore 4 (4r), Gary Colby 12+1, Jamie Medler 10, Martin Voller 10, Craig Norton 17+1.

In division 2, Norwich, like Hellingly, are somewhat lacking in travelling junior racing staff, so chose to use 3 first team members Dave Blackmore, Dave Spauls and Jamie Medler, with Hellingly using Dan Welch and Steven Archer.

Dan using it as a testing session on a change of machinery and promptly went on to record 4 wins from 4 starts. George Morley and Isaac Westwood also had a good meeting both dropping just one point each.

The story of the match must go to the Lions’ latest recruit, Harry Sexton. This being only his second official match, and with only a couple of training sessions, put in an outstanding performance to record a score of 16 points from 6 rides including a deserved ride in the nominated heat 16.

As for the opposition credit to Norwich for fielding a team with 3 riders not even out of junior school, making the long journey and prepared to give it a go.

Hellingly 93
Harry Ridley 4, Dan Welch 16, Jamie Morley 13+2, George Morley 19, Isaac Westwood 19+4, Harry Seyton 16, Steven Archer 6+1.

Norwich 67
Dave Blackmore 9+1, Tom Blackmore 13, Dave Spauls 15, Paul Jarret 7+1, Jamie Medler 12, Kieron Alton 6+1, Tabby Wierop 3