Prayers were answered at Harbourside Park as the skies cleared after 36 hours of wet and windy weather, just in time for the start of the eagerly awaited 2018 CS Cup Final – the blue ribbon event in the revamped racing calendar. The four regional play-off winners jointly tracked 36 riders with each team split into two, based on grading and league averages. Runaway winners from the North, Astley & Tyldesley were joined by surprise packets Great Blakenham who clinched their place at the expense of Ipswich in a dramatic last heat of the East regional final. Poole hosted the event after winning the Southern final and were expected to give holders and pre-match favourites Wednesfield a good run for their money in similar fashion to Birmingham who ran the Aces close in the Midland final.

In the opening 4 heats Poole grabbed two race wins from gate 2 courtesy of Aaron Smith and Greg Gluchowski to put them on 13, a point more than Blakenham for whom Adam Cooper and Luke Harrison won from their insides. Wins from the Aces heavy hitters Brandon Whetton, Matt Smith and Paul Heard off inside grids brought the Midlanders within a point of Poole who were content to settle for second places in the second block of heats. Tom Bewick and Chris Jewkes gave the Aces further cause for optimism with race victories apiece to move them a point ahead of the Comets who then responded with a second win from Greg Gluchowski while Jonjo Slaughter gave the Blakenham fans something to cheer in heat 12 with a well taken win.

The Comets’ ‘A’ quartet moved onto inside grids in the final block of heats before the interval, holding a single point advantage over the Aces and with wins from Ben Mould and Matty Ganczarek and 3 points apiece from Wil Bristowe and Fraser Garnett they opened up a gap of six points with Wednesfield only able to add 9 to their tally. Adam Peck and British Champion Josh Brooke were the other two impressive race winners reflecting the top end strength of the Suffolk club. So at the half-way stage Poole led the pack with 51, Wednesfield 45, Blakenham 34, A&T 30.

Three heats later the gap at the top narrowed to 3 points with wins for Chris Jewkes and Scott Docherty but trump card Aaron Smith restored Comets’ 6 point advantage with an important win in heat 20. The next block of races saw Gt.Blakenham ‘A’ quartet dominate their inside gates with three straight wins from Josh Brooke, Adam Peck and Lewis Osborne but when Fraser Garnett won an epic battle for third place in heat 22 against great rival Brandon Whetton and Ben Mould outpaced former team mate Paul Heard a heat later, the Comets were able to extend their advantage to 8.

With just eight races remaining and the Comets highly effective second tier taking inside gates, the stage was set for a change in destination for the trophy, but not before Chris Jewkes sprang into action to win heat 25, relegating Ben Tinsdale to 3rd place in the process. Gluchowski completed his maximum a race later and when Aaron Smith duly matched this triumph in heat 27 the gap at the top widened to 9. Drama in heat 28 saw Scott Docherty, so often the Aces hero in past epic battles, pick up an exclusion for flooring A&T’s Kyle Holland leaving Ben Tinsdale to pick up the vital 4 points with a quality ride in the re-run.

So with four heats remaining, Poole now held an unassailable 13 point lead and with difficult gate 4’s to finish, the pressure was effectively off. Reece Pollitt and Pawel Idzorek enjoyed a couple of race victories for A&T followed by wins for Brandon Whetton and Josh Brooke while champions elect Poole added just 4 points to their final total as Wednesfield closed the final margin to five. After several years in the doldrums of senior competitions the Dorset club once again came out on top and the famous trophy, originally contested in 1951, returned to the town where it first started its life 68 years ago!

Looking at overall performances, A&T were always in the mix despite their 4th place with Pawel Idzorek one of the day’s stand out performers while Gt.Blakenham’s top quartet were on a par with the top two trophy contenders. Wednesfield were hampered by the 11th hour withdrawal of Mark Griffiths due to a domestic priority while Poole made the difficult choice to sideline Dean Hook due to the rules about team construction based on league averages. However, the Comets were able to track 6 homegrown riders, all of whom have progressed through the sport via Clubnights and the BYJL and their strength in depth proved to be the deciding factor.

Poole 91

Greg Gluchowski 16 Aaron Smith 15 Ben Mould 12 Ben Tinsdale 12 Wil Bristowe 9 Matiej Ganczarek 9 Fraser Garnett 9 Nathan Goulden 5 Jay Briggs 4

Wednesfield 86

Chris Jewkes 14 Brandon Whetton 12 Paul Heard 12 Matt Smith 10 Scott Docherty 10 Tom Bewick 9 Lee Kemp 9 Tyler Bould 6 Harry Everiss 4

Great Blakenham 74

Josh Brooke 14 Adam Peck 11 Jonjo Slaughter 11 Lewis Osborne 9 Luke Harrison 9 Adam Cooper 8 Keanu Bowers 7 Jason Ashford 5

Astley & Tyldesley 66

Pawel Idzorek 14 Steve Harris 11 Reece Pollitt 8 Kyle Holland 7 Mark Grantham 7 Paul Graham 6 Mick Knowles 5 Ciaran Collins 5 Emily Burgess 3

Referee – Dave Dart.