MATCH REPORT: A&T regain North & Scotland League Championship

Report by Mike Hack

Astley & Tyldesley are the 2022 North & Scotland League Champions! A&T beat Sheffield, 93-86, in the Division 1 decider, at The Graves Centre, Sheffield on Sunday afternoon. This win over last year’s champions, gives A&T their fourth title from the past five completed seasons. It was a terrific match, between two committed, well matched teams, hard fought, but ridden in a great spirit throughout.

A&T moved into an early six points lead after heat 4, but Sheffield hit back with a 7-3 to reduce the deficit. A 6-4 to the visitors in heat 6 extended the lead to 4 points. A&T were unlucky in heat 8, as Pierce Bacon came down heavily after clashing with Ed Morton, as the Sheffield rider charged through. A smart ride from Steve Harris in the re-run saw him split the home riders, for a 6-3 to preserve A&T’s lead, 40-39, at the interval. Sheffield took the lead with a 6-4 in heat 9, but A&T promptly regained it in the following race. Kyle Holland, Lizzie Rigley and Paul Graham all came down heavily on the home straight in heat 12. After a lengthy delay, all four were back in the re-run and the A&T pairing of Graham and Reece Pollitt took their second 7-3 of the match, to put A&T 62-57 ahead. A&T’s tactics were to sit on the lead and to keep the ever dangerous tactical reserve, Ed Morton, at bay. Five successive shared races saw this objective achieved and A&T clinched the match, with one race to spare, before taking a 6-4 in the final race to secure a 93-86 win.

This was a magnificent team display by A&T, with all eight riders making valuable contributions, against an impressive and committed Sheffield team, who didn’t concede their league title easily. The match most certainly lived up to its billing as the title decider, as the two teams fought hard on a dry, dusty track. A&T skipper Reece Pollitt raced unbeaten, with Paul Graham winning his two races and vital points scored by the other six riders. Damian Natonski top scored for Sheffield, with Ed Morton causing A&T problems all match, taking the unfavourable gate positions and assisting his race partners. These two were utilised as tactical reserves. In the end, A&T’s strength in depth proved decisive. Full marks to Sheffield for giving the A&T team a guard of honour, as they made their way on to the centre green to be presented with the Division 1 Cup by North & Scotland Regional Chair, Mike Hack.

North & Scotland League Division 1 result

Sheffield 86 Astley & Tyldesley 93

Sheffield: Damian Natonski 18, Niall Morton 16 (1), Kielan Burton 14 (1), Kyle Holland 14 (1), Ed Morton 13 (2), Dariusz Pilas 6, Will Banyard 2, Lizzie Rigley 2, Sam Stansfield 1.

A&T: Reece Pollitt 22 (2), Pawel Idziorek 16 (2), Steve Harris 12 (2), Pierce Bacon 10, John White 9 (1), Joel Partington 9, Paul Graham 8, Tom Morrissey 7, Duncan Whalley dnr, Charlie Burgess dnr.

Referee – Luke Morton.

The victorious A&T team with the Division 1 Cup. Photo courtesy of Chaz Whalley.

A&T also pipped Sheffield to win 76-73 in the Division 2 match. This was Sheffield’s first defeat of the season and delays their sealing of the Northern group section. Sheffield took an early lead, after John White suffered a gate exclusion, but A&T took the lead in heat 7 and held on to win. Charlie Burgess sealed victory with a win in the last race, holding off strong pressure from Luke Morton and Lacey Ackroyd. Duncan Whalley raced unbeaten, pulling off some excellent passes in the match.

North & Scotland League Division 2 result

Sheffield 73 Astley & Tyldesley 76

Sheffield: Will Banyard 14, Luke Morton 11 (1), Sam Stansfield 11, Patrick O’Shea 10 (1), Joe Brownell 8 (1), Laythan Sharp 7 (2), Lizzie Rigley 6 (1), Lacey Ackroyd 4 (1), Oliver Banyard 2.

A&T: Duncan Whalley 19 (1), Charlie Burgess 15 (1), John White 15 (1), Frank White 14, Levi Edwards 7, Josh Pilkington 6.

Referee – Kyle Holland.

The Division 3 match was even closer, as title contenders A&T and Sheffield both fielded ten riders apiece and raced to a 111-111 draw! A&T looked to be snatching the win, but a fall by Nahom Tumzighy in the last u-10 race proved costly. Harriet Belt secured second place behind Oliver Banyard in the final u-13 race, to ensure that the match finished as a draw. Frank White raced unbeaten in the u-13 match, with Robin Darlington unbeaten by an opponent, and Lacey Ackroyd and Oliver Banyard losing only to Frank White. Levi Edwards and Josh Pilkington were both unbeaten by an opponent in the u-10 match. A&T need a draw in the final match at home against Heckmondwike on 9th October, to secure the Division 3 title.

North & Scotland League Division 3 result

Sheffield 111 Astley & Tyldesley 111

Sheffield: Lacey Ackroyd 15, Robin Darlington 14, Oliver Banyard 14, Lincoln Ackroyd 12, Charlie Taylor 12, Eddie Owalabi-O’Shea 12, Toby Darlington 10, Danny Cowley 10, Courtney Logie 7, Evie Kennen 5.

A&T: Frank White 16, Levi Edwards 15, Josh Pilkington 15, Nahom Tumizghy 12, Oscar Belt 11, Alex Lawless 10, Harriet Belt 10, Elijah Rechembei 8, Amelia Harrison-Jones 8, Chloe Bassett 6.

Referees – Ed Morton, Niall Morton.