MATCH REPORT: England dominant in Home International

As temperatures soared, Goshen Sports Centre, Bury, was the venue for this season’s edition of the Home Internationals.

The day’s action opened with the new Women’s Regional Best Pairs event at 10am, surely a prelude to a full international at some point in the coming years. In the early stages of the match most races were shared, only Laura Watson and Emily Burgess from North and Scotland recorded a race win before the unfortunately fall by Burgess in heat six, which ultimately resulted in a trip to the hospital.

Slowly, British Champion Lauren Hookway took control of the match, producing three second half wins, which alongside two third places for partner Maddie Saunders, put South and South Wales in real contention on 31 points.

Midlands’ pair Chloe Whitehead and Elizabeth Rigley had amassed points steadily throughout the match and drew into the joint lead with a final heat 7-2. Similarly Lauren Jacobs, Chloe Pearce and reserve Charlie-Jane Herbert had just one heat win, but equally, didn’t lose a race on the way to their 31 points.

So, it was a three way run-off for the title. Lauren Hookway made no mistake from grid one, followed by Lauren Jacobs and Elizabeth Rigley, to give South and South Wales an inaugural victory.

Perhaps last word should be for Laura Watson, who impressively battled on, scoring well throughout despite racing solo for most of the match.

South and South Wales 31 (1st after run-off)
Lauren Hookway 21+1 (from 6 rides), Maddie Saunders 10 (6)

South East and Eastern 31 (2nd after run-off)
Lauren Jacobs 19+1 (6), Chloe Pearce 7 (3), Charlie-Jane Herbert 5+1 (3)

Midlands 31 (3rd after run-off)
Elizabeth Wrigley 22 (6), Chloe Whitehead 9+2 (6)

North and Scotland 22
Laura Watson 17+1 (6), Emily Burgess 5 (2)

Next up was the Over 40s Veterans’ Home International, which turned out to be the beginning of a whole day of dominance for a powerful England squad.

Dropping just one point in first half of the match, the Three Loins’ side of Mark Griffiths, Steve Harris, Norman Venson, Craig Marchant and Neil Howarth looked controlled and confident on a dusty and tricky surface.

Wales’ superstar, Mark Winwood, won heat three to prevent the perfect half for England and as the match progressed it was the Dragons who took control of the race for second place, with both Winwood and Dave Murphy scoring well throughout.

Birmingham pair Andy James and Carl Winwood were also very competitive and on another day would have scored more for their efforts. Stuart Raven came in as a late reserve, contributing well to the team score. Paddy Wenn was the stand out rider for Ireland, with two excellent second half wins, one from a grid four in heat 11 making full us of the first bend action inside him.

Evergreen Phill Hemming, legend John Murphy and joint team managers Gary Colby and Steve Copping gave good backup across the 18 heats. Irrepressible Scotland Team Manager Jamie Ball had tried hard to muster a team bearing the saltire, in a competition that they had won last season, but in the end was forced to assemble a home nations’ select, with Northumbria’s Jason Keith heading the way, ably and enthusiastically backed by Bob Prince, Jim Collier and John Whetton.

England duly took the spoils, proving the strength in depth at this level as more than one rider finished unbeaten.

England 69
Steve Harris 16 (4), Neil Howarth 16 (4), Craig Marchant 15 (4), Mark Griffiths 12 (3), Norman Venson 10 (3).

Wales 45
Dave Murphy 12 (4), Mark Winwood 12 (4), Andy James 9 (4), Carl Winwood 8 (4), Stuart Raven 4 (2).

Ireland 39
Paddy Wenn 13 (4), Gary Colby 8 (4), Phil Hemming 7 (4), John Murphy 6 (2), Steve Copping 5 (4).

Home Nations Select 25
Jason Keith 9 (4), Jim Collier 6 (4), Bob Prince 6 (4), John Whetton 4 (4).

There was a notable increase in both speed and competitiveness throughout the field of riders as the Junior riders took to the track, but England’s domination was again evident from the outset.

Four wins from grid threes in their first round of races set the tone for the rest of the fixture, as Wales and the Home Nations Select exchanged positions throughout, both on the track and overall.

Brandon Whetton unlined his credentials with four excellent wins, with Ed Morton dropping just one point to the speedy Carl Parfitt. Parfitt impressed throughout to lead the Wales’ scorers, ultimately resulting in securing a second place for the Principality.

Sean Bennett scored well from reserve and Callum Gower was consistently good, with the whole Welsh side contributing significantly to a final total of 41.

The brothers Bacon were on top form, as Pierce had three wins for England and Harrison a win and three seconds to top score for the Home Nations Select, local Stockport star Devon Campbell also impressing for the blues. Another local, Sheffield’s Adam Watson, had his score trimmed somewhat by a heat 16 exclusion, but overall it was England who were in command taking 65 points, including a reserve three ride maximum from Wednesfield’s Haydn Rowley.

The Irish side scored consistently across the team, building a very creditable 32 points.  Here once again great testament must be paid to joint team managers Gary Colby and Steve Copping, who had assembled three teams, with reserves, at the three different levels.

England 65
Brandon Whetton 16 (4), Ed Morton 15 (4), Pierce Bacon 14 (4), Haydn Rowley 12 (3), Adam Watson 8 (3).

Wales 41
Carl Parfitt 13 (4), Callum Gower 10 (4), Sean Bennett 9 (4), Ryan Winwood 6 (3), Billy Winwood 3 (3).

Home Nations Select 40
Harrison Bacon 13 (4), Devon Campbell 10 (4), Josh Whetton 9 (4), Jamie Penny 5 (3), Skye Mitchell 3 (3).

Ireland 32
Ciaran Collins 8 (4), Jimmy Wassall 8 (4), Katie Adams 7 (4), Ciaran Wenn 7 (4), Kieron Alton 2 (2).

As the day reached its climax, with the open age Senior event, the competition again stepped up, with passing and action in almost every race, even to secure the all important third places that make the difference in this type of fixture.

One thing didn’t change, as England launched their challenge with four wins in the first four heats, this time from grid ones. Josh Brooke showed early on that his 2017 form is very secure, ensuring no doubt that he will again be amongst the favourites for the summer’s individuals.

Similarly Paul Heard, who dropped just one point to the impressively combative Leon Mower, who in turn top scored for the Ireland side. Equally aggressive and impressive were Wales’ Dean Hook, Jack Harrold and Carl Parfitt, who were both at the centre of the action throughout the match.

As mentioned earlier, the Scotland/Home Nations Select manager, Jamie Ball, is the very definition of irrepressible. In this match he proved his quality on the track, including a good win heat 13 and despite an exclusion in heat 18.

Brandon Whetton, this time riding at reserve for the Home Select side, again caught the eye. In the end it was another convincing win for England, with a very strong four in Brooke, Heard, Lewis Osbourne and former British Champion, Zac Payne, reserve British Indoor Champion, Jake Read, weighing in with a win in heat 14.

England 64
Josh Brooke 16 (4), Paul Heard 15 (4), Lewis Osbourne 14 (4), Zac Payne 13 (4), Jake Read 6 (2).

Wales 45
Dean Hook 12 (4), Jack Harrold 10 (4), Carl Parfitt 9 (3), Adam Bennett 8 (3), Mark Winwood 6 (3).

Home Nations Select 37
Brandon Whetton 13 (4), Jamie Ball 10 (4), Nathan Groves 8 (4), Josh Hill 4 (4), Jamie Whetton 2 (2).

Ireland 31
Leon Mower 9 (4), Harley Hamill 7 (4), Aaron Herbert 6 (4), Dan Butler 5 (4), Jonjo Slaughter 4 (2).

Finally, thanks from Bury Cycle Speedway to all involved in the preparation, organisation and running of the day, including the three match day referees, John Burston, Graham Lush and Darren Kent.