MATCH REPORT: Panthers prevail over Lions
Report by Brian Davidson
Kesgrave was the venue for the Lions from Hellingly in this Div 2 encounter in the East South/East league. At the start of the season, both teams had elected to race in Div2 for much the same reasons, but it has to be
said that Kesgrave was to endure the devastating blow of half their team to depart and seek to win trophies elsewhere. Today’s match was all about team pride as the chance of winning the league for Hellingly disappeared with a previous drawn match at Norwich.
After the torrential rain which the whole country has endured over the past couple of days, it was no surprise to find the Kesgrave circuit underwater at both bends, but with less than an hour before the scheduled start all of the offending water was removed. With the surface on both bends obviously still very soft, a dirty match was on the cards (i.e. shale and mud not underhand)! Both sides declared their teams and to be fair, on paper, Kesgrave had no real superstars but still looked to be no pushover. Hellingly on the other hand, had their top three of Martyn and Neil Hollebon and a very much in form Ed Ridley, but being without Jim Cox
meant that young Harry Sexton was to be elevated into the team with Steven Archer and George Morley. Hellingly were under no illusions but marginally favourites for a win and the match began with Kesgrave winning the coveted coin toss choosing gates 1&3 in the first heat.
Heat 1. Lions man Martyn Hollebon jumped out the start from Gate 2 for a somewhat easy win with Ray Pike for Kesgrave keeping Steven Archer at bay to earn a 5-5 drawn heat.
Heat 2. With arguably the strongest pairings from both teams taking to the track, Kesgrave had Pat Kruger and Gary Brown, George Morley and Neil Hollebon for the Lions. With Neil off gate 3 and Gary Brown on 4, a scoring heat for the Lion’s looked to be on the cards. Expectations were quickly thwarted as Pat Kruger for the Panthers trapped across George Morley from gate 2 and managed to hold off the challenge of Neil Hollebon at the first bend and going on to complete an emphatic race win. Gary Brown gave Neil a hard time over the full 4 laps to earn a much unexpected 6-4 heat advantage to Kesgrave.
Heat 3 Torsten Jolly took the win from gate1 for the Panthers with the evergreen Ed Ridley settling for second for the Lions while a battle of David and Goliath was taking place for remaining places. Steve Hammond for Kesgrave gated round Harry Sexton. The stature of the two was so far apart with Harry being just 4ft tall weighing in at maybe 6 stone versus Steve who was approaching 6ft and 14 + stone. Not to be outdone, Harry gave chase and dived under Steve at the first bend, lap 2 and managed to hold him off for the next lap and a half before Steve finally powered by Harry for the third spot. This was the second 6-4 to Kesgrave on the trot to bring the score to 17 – 13 to Kesgrave.
With Lions backs against the wall disaster struck in heat 4 as Kesgrave gained a massive 7-3 maximum from the outside gates over Steven Archer and Martyn Hollebon. So the writing was clearly on the wall, undoubtedly the Panthers were performing and racing as a team while the Lions relying very heavily on their top three. Once again physical fitness was proving the downfall of the Lions as at no time in the meeting did they lead the scorecard, and in fact only managed a heat advantage on two occasions in heats 6 & 8. At the midway point, the scorecard read Kesgrave 48, Hellingly 42 and Pat Kruger for the Panthers still unbeaten by a Lion, such was his domination that he went on to score 18+2 from five rides and to remain
The second half of the match was more of a consolidation effort from Hellingly in an effort to keep the score close with six of the seven heats all 5-5’s to bring the scores to Kesgrave 79 – Hellingly 71 at heat 15. With only the nominated race to go and the result already confirmed in Kesgrave’s favour, it was jointly decided to track the youngsters from both teams in heat 16. It was Harry Sexton, gate 1 and George Morley gate 3 for Hellingly with Charlie Parr and Charlie Beaton on 2-4 for Kesgrave. Tapes up and a battle royal commenced with Harry Sexton emerging from bend 1 in the lead with the two Charlie’s in hot pursuit. For some unexplained reason, George tailed off and showed no interest in competing further while the other three were no more than a bike length apart with all spectators cheering them on and Harry managing to take the glory. This was by far the most entertaining race of the meeting with only personal honour at stake. To sum up, Kesgrave ran out winners by 8 points, deservedly so, with a comprehensive team performance. For Hellingly for the second match in a row physical fitness took its toll although Ed Ridley and Harry Sexton are deserved of a mention, Ed scoring 13+1 even though racing from the outside grids 4 out 5 times and young Harry thoroughly justifying his team placement collecting 11 points.
Kesgrave Panthers 84 Hellingly Lions 76
Pat Kruger 18+2 (5r), Gary Brown 17 (5r), Torsten Jolly 15 (5r), Steen Jolly 10+2 (4r), Ray Pyke 8+3 (5r), Charlie Beaton 7+1 (3r), Steve Hammond 6 (4r), Charlie Parr 3 (1r), Pheobe Hammond DNR
Neil Hollebon 18+1 (5r), Martyn Hollebon 13+2 (5r), Ed Ridley 13+1 (5r), Harry Sexton 11 (6r), George Morley 11 (6r), Steven Archer 10 (5r)