Eastbourne moved to the top of the National League on Sunday after scoring a decisive victory 54-39 over the Rye House Raiders at Arlington.
The IT First Eagles are top thanks to race points difference in a league where just one point separates the top five clubs.
Eastbourne, Birmingham, Cradley and Mildenhall all have 13 points with Coventry in fifth on 12.
The match began in spectacular fashion with a four-lap duel between the respective No 1’s, Bradley Wilson-Dean and Robert Branford – but it wasn’t for first place.
While all eyes were on them, Eagles’ Mattie Bates stole away from the start and kept the lead throughout as the No 1’s squabbled over the minor placings.
Branford just won the race for second place on the line as he forced away past Wilson-Dean. The next time the duo met, Wilson-Dean crashed out before gaining revenge in a clear-cut victory in heat 15.
Branford on this occasion became locked with Eagles’ Marc Owen early on, leading to the two exchanging words at the end of the race.
Good news for Eastbourne was the return to form of young reserve Kelsey Dugard.
He made some alterations to his bike before the start of the meeting and looked far more comfortable than he has in recent weeks.
Dugard, who had been dubbed the “King of Crash” after a series of falls in recent weeks, looked far more in control and never once threatened to slide off into the safety fence on his way to 9+2 points.
Richie Andrews, on his return from injury, twice ran into problems at the start line.
On the first occasion a mechanical problem propelled him through the tapes.
The referee excluded him for exceeding the time limit, rather than a tapes offence, because the green light had not come on to bring the riders under starter’s orders.
In his text outing, he was too keen to getaway and hit the tapes. He was forced to start off a 15m handicap in the re-run which proved too big an ask. Rye House looked down and out until they took a 6-3 in heat 11, thanks to a double points heat victory from Branford. This sparked a mini revival with Kyle Hughes shepherding Danyon Hume home for a 5-1 in the next race and Branford and Luke Chessell taking a 4-2 in heat 13.
This closed the score to 46-35 – it had stood at 40-20 when the interval was taken after ten heats.
Rye House’s hopes of a losing bonus point were snuffed out as the Eagles took 4-2 heat wins in the final two races.
Team manager Martin commented: “It was a great all-round team performance against Rye House here and a decisive win, although they did come back at us in the closing stages.”
He admitted the Eagles now needed to start winning matches away from home and he has targeted a win on Saturday in the return league fixture at Rye House.
On Sunday, the Eagles are in the NL Fours at Coventry – the club has never won a national Fours title in all its history.
EASTBOURNE 54: Marc Owen 10+1, Bradley Wilson-Dean 10, Kelsey Dugard 9+2, Georgie Wood 8+1, Matt Bates 7+2, David Mason 7+1, Richard Andrews 3.
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