MATCH REPORT: Hellingly defeat Londoners in entertaining match
A warm welcome was extended to the old boys from East London to the Hellingly circuit for the Division 2 match in the South East/Eastern league. With the weather somewhat overcast, track watering was kept to a minimum for the match between two sides, whose ages differed vastly and being difficult to predict a result.
The match kicked off with a brace of 6-4s to Hellingly and were, perhaps surprisingly, leading 12 – 8. Captain for the day George Morley and latest sensation 12yr old Harry Sexton came to the tapes off gates 1-3 in heat 3, against the vastly experienced Nick Gunkell and Kevin Smith for the Londoners.
George made it off gate 1 under tough pressure from Nick Gunkell, with them both running wide on the first bend. Then, with his track-craft and racing experience at almost zero, young Harry Sexton made a classic cut back into the massive gap and was closely followed by team mate George to race away with a very well earned 7-3 maximum heat win.
The following 6 races were a little tactical with the Lions heat leaders winning their inside gates, picking up two 6-4s to bring the match score to an unexpected 50 to 40 to Hellingly at the interval.
At the restart, things changed dramatically, with George Morley having to succumb to superior team riding of Richard Austin along with the evergreen Dave Hughes to hit back with a 7-3 for the Londoners.
With the lead now down to 6 points, it was again time to protect the lead for Hellingly, who gained two 6-4s and a shared 5-5 drawn heat ahead of heat 14.
For the Lions it was Jim Cox, who had 4 race wins to his credit, so was in no mood to give anything away. Unfortunately, Jim got caught out by superior team riding, this time by Nick Gunkell for East London, who scored a surprise 7-3, bringing the score to Hellingly 73 East London 67.
Being just 6 points up with two races to go, the Lions could ill afford any more slip ups. George Morley won heat 15 from tapes to flag off gate 1, and with Jamie Morley securing third spot the league points were safe.
The nominated heat 16 was not going to alter the match result, but was still fiercely contested. Ethan Page, with this being his first match back from injury for the Lions, was made to work hard for the race win.
His partner Harry Sexton battled well for third spot for a 6-4 heat win with the Lions running out 10 point winners, 85 – 75. Credit to boys from East London, not just for turning up but being part of an absorbing meeting appreciated by a larger than normal crowd.
Hellingly’s Steven Archer, for the second meeting in a row, raced superbly, beaten only once in 5 rides, along with Jim Cox, who was unlucky not to go unbeaten. It was a solid team performance by Hellingly that won the day.
Steven Archer 19, Jim Cox 18, George Morley 15+1, Ethan Page 12+1, Harry Sexton 12+1, Jamie Morley 7, Harry Ridley 2.
East London 75
Richard Austin 20, Les Stevens 16, Nick Gunkell 15, Dave Hughes 10, Harry Austin 8+1, Kevin Smith 6+1.
Photos by Michelle Rideout.