MATCH REPORT: Heckmondwike take control in title race.
Heckmondwike Saints are on the verge of their first Northern League title twenty years after defeating rivals Sheffield Stars by 105-69 in Division Two of the North and Scotland League.
The midweek match came about after Sheffield were unable to track a full six riders last Sunday. Stars were still struggling, having to field an ineligible rider (Kielan Burton) and club coach (Rob Mawhood) in the six rider team.
The first race was a drawn heat, Burton content to team ride Oliver Banyard for the 5-5, by keeping Dave O’Callaghan in last place. The first half of the match had five drawn heats and three 6-4 wins for Heckmondwike, who led 43-37 at the break.
Mark Rushby and Darren Kent had each won three races, with Sheffield’s only race winner being Kieran Hale in heat three.
Saints only 7-3 maximum came in heat 9, Kent and Pat Beacock keeping Joe Brownell in a safe third place. O’Callaghan relegated Hale to last place in heat ten, as the Saints had back to back heat advantages. That put Sheffield 12 points in arrears and the opportunity to claim inside grids. The move worked a treat as Banyard and Burton got the Stars only 7-3 maximum, over Saints reserve pairing of Lee Warhurst and Phil Vanner. Rushby completed his maximum in heat 12, coming from last place to pass Hall and Brownell around the outside.
Kent was the next rider to complete a maximum score, winning heat 13. Heckmondwike secured a win on the night with a 6-3 result in heat 14. Beacock gaining his second race win after chasing down and passing Banyard on lap three.
Sheffield were on for a second 7-3 result in the last race until Ian Johnson’s perseverance saw him pass Burton on the final bend.
The final score of 80-69 was adjusted by 25 points to 105-69, putting Heckmondwike top of North and Scotland League Division Two. Saints need one win from their final two matches to claim the title and go into the play off final against Fife.
A look at the league table though shows that anyone of four teams could still be Northern champions, Astley and Tyldesley, Hull, Sheffield or Heckmondwike.
Heckmondwike (105) – Dave O’Callaghan 6, Darren Kent 20, Ian Johnson 9, Pat Beacock 13+1, Mark Rushby 20, Justin Naylor 7, Declan Lindsay 1, Phil Vanner 1, Lee Warhurst 3.
Sheffield (69) – Kielan Burton 12+3, Oliver Banyard 15+1, Laura Watson 15, Rob Mawhood 5, Kieran Hale 13+2, Joe Brownell 9.
Referee – Stuart Hardaker
The Division Three match saw a four rider Heckmondwike team defeat Sheffield’s sole under 13 (Oliver Banyard) by 45-16 to claim their first win of the 2023 season.