The Plymouth Westcolour Gladiators continued their excellent start to the 2022 Championship season with a hard fought victory against the Berwick Bandits at The Coliseum last night, to move into third place in the Championship League Table just 4 points behind the early League leaders who have ridden 2 matches more. The Westcolour Gladiators are tied on 19 Match Points with the Glasgow Tigers.
Following some heavy rain in the past few days and heavy afternoon rain, the Track was in remarkably good condition in the circumstances, and massive credit must go to Mark Phillips and his dedicated Track Team led by Phil and Ed and others, for producing such a good racing surface, that the Track Record was almost broken on the night.
It’s often said that the mark of a Championship winning side is to “win dirty” and having seen off Title favourites the Poole Pirates and Leicester Lions with thumping wins in the past few weeks, this was the night that the Team not only metaphorically won dirty, but literally got stuck in and dirty, in the wet conditions.
With German Star Erik Riss guesting for the still absent Edward Kennett and new reserves Ben Morley replacing the injured Dan Gilkes and Harry McGirk for the departed Henry Atkins respectively, the new look Westcolour Gladiators quickly got stuck into the task in hand.
Riss got the better of Cornish Speedway legend and Berwick talisman Chris “Bomber” Harris in Heat 1 in a fast time, and with Alfie Bowtell finishing third the Westcolour Gladiators were quickly on the front foot. Morley flew around the outside of Dan Thompson to win heat 2 with McGurk keeping the Bandits reserves on their toes in a shared 3-3 heat. Ben Barker stormed to the first of four successive Heat wins in the third race but with Michael Palm-Toft suffering from a misfiring engine, the Heat was again shared 3-3.
Heat 4 was also shared and once again it could have been a Heat win for the Gladiators with Hans Andersen leading all the way but the unfortunate Ben Morley suffered a fall on the second lap, allowing the distant Kyle Bickley to pick up a fortunate third place.
Following a Track grade Ben Barker then produced a stunning win in Heat 4 with his time of 49.91 seconds being just outside the all time Track Record. With Palm-Toft finishing third behind Chris Harris, the 4-2 heat victory saw the Westcolour Gladiators move into a 4 point lead by 17 points to 13. The match remained very tight with the next 3 Heats shared with 3-3 score lines in each; with wins for Andersen and Berwicks ex-Plymouth rider Ricky Wells who won Heats 6 and 8.
The Westcolour Gladiators then hit the boost button with successive 5-1 Heat advantages in Heats 9 and 10. Barker and Michael Palm-Toft combined to stop Wells winning a third race of the night in Heat 9 and Riss and the ever reliable Bowtell repeated the dose in Heat 10 to stretch Plymouth’s lead to 12 points with the scoreline 36 – 24 in the home side’s favour.
As the Bandits were more than 6 points in arrears Wells came in for a tactical substitute ride in Heat 11 and combined with Harris, who won the heat for a 4-2 victory, with Andersen splitting the Bandits and with Barker and Morley returning the compliment with a 4-2 of their own in Heat 12, the Westcolour Gladiators 12 point lead was restored after Heat 12. A shared heat 13, won by Harris but with Andersen and Riss following him home ensured that the Gladiators reached the 45 point threshold with 2 races remaining meaning just one finisher in either of the last 2 races would secure 3 points for another home win. With the pressure off it was maybe not surprising that some of the intensity deserted the Westcolour Gladiators allowing the spirited Bandits to keep the home side honest with 4-2 Heat advantages of their own in Heats 14 and 15. Barker was a shade unfortunate to suffer machine problems with his killswitch safety engine cut out in the final Heat when in second place spoiling his chances of a 5 ride maximum on the night.
The final 49 – 41 scoreline was a job well done by the Gladiators and a credit to the injury affected Berwick Team who never gave up and delivered an excellent night’s entertainment in tricky conditions. Credit too to all concerned and Referee Tony Steele that the whole match was concluded in just 90 minutes in what had started as inclement conditions.
The Westcolour Gladiators were led by Ben Barker with 12 points from 5 rides, Erik Riss proved an excellent Guest with 11 points also from 5 rides, Andersen was again in good form with 10 points from 4 rides and although Palm-Toft and Bowtell were a bit below their best and impacted by engine problems and a fall respectively, they both chipped in with 5 points. Morley again won the reserves race in a 6 point return and although young Harry McGurk was pointless on the night, he rode very well on his home Championship debut and showed exactly why he is so highly rated in the Sport, with Team Manager Garry May having the confidence to give him all four of his scheduled rides which will boost both his confidence and experience.
The Bandits were well served by Harris with 13 points and Wells with 10 points and will move on to Poole tomorrow after an overnight stay in Plymouth.
The Westcolour Gladiators now have a well deserved 2 week break, this means that the Plymouth SWTR Centurions are in action at The Coliseum next Tuesday in NDL action against the 2019 NDL Champions the Leicester Lion Cubs. Tickets for this NDL Fixture will go on sale ONLINE on Friday 20th May.
The Westcolour Gladiators next Home match will be on TUESDAY 31st May against the aptly named EDINBURGH MONARCHS. It is a very special week with the Special Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday break at the end of that week and of course it’s HALF TERM too. To celebrate The Queen’s 70th Platinum Anniversary and Half-Term watch out for a SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT later on Wednesday and with it being a SPECIAL WEEK – Tickets for the Westcolour Gladiators v Edinburgh Monarchs Match will go on sale later today (Wednesday 18th May)
Plymouth Gladiators = 49
1. Erik Riss (Guest) – 3, 2, 3, 1’, 2 = 11+1
2. Alfie Bowtell – 1, 1’, 1’, 2’ = 5+3
3. Ben Barker – 3, 3, 3, 3, 0 = 12
4. Michael Palm Toft – 0, 1, 2’, 2 = 5+1
5. Hans Andersen – 3, 3, 2, 2 = 10
6. Harry McGurk – 0, 0, 0, 0 = 0
7. Ben Morley – 3, 0, 2, 1 = 6
Berwick Bandits = 41
1. Chris Harris – 2, 2, 3, 3, 3 = 13
2. R/R for Leon Flint (KT – 0, TP – 0, RW – 3) = 3
3. Theo Pijper – 2, 0, 2, R, 0 = 4
4. Kye Thomson (Guest) – 0, 1’, 1’, 1, 3, 1 = 7+2
5. Ricky Wells – 2, 3, 3, 1, 1, R = 10
6. Dan Thompson (Guest) – 2, 0, 0, 2, 1 = 5
7. Kyle Bickley – 1’, 1’, 0 = 2+2
Heat 01: Riss, Harris, Bowtell, K. Thomson 4-2, 50.69
Heat 02: Morley, D. Thompson, Bickley, McGurk 3-3, 7-5, 52.93
Heat 03: Barker, Pijper, K. Thomson, Palm Toft 3-3, 10-8, 51.09
Heat 04: Andersen, Wells, Bickley, Morley 3-3, 13-11, 52.10
Heat 05: Barker, Harris, Palm Toft, Pijper 4-2, 17-13, 49.91
Heat 06: Wells, Riss, Bowtell, D. Thompson 3-3, 20-16, 51.43
Heat 07: Andersen, Pijper, K. Thomson, McGurk 3-3, 23-19, 51.72
Heat 08: Wells, Morley, Bowtell, Bickley 3-3, 26-22, 51.53
Heat 09: Barker, Palm Toft, Wells, D. Thompson 5-1, 31-23, 51.21
Heat 10: Riss, Bowtell, K. Thomson, Pijper (R) 5-1, 36-24
Heat 11 Re-Run: Harris, Andersen, Wells, McGurk 2-4, 38-28, 51.38
Heat 12: Barker, D. Thompson, Morley, Pijper 4-2, 42-30, 51.19
Heat 13: Harris, Andersen, Riss, Wells (R) 3-3, 45-33, 51.19
Heat 14: K. Thomson, Palm Toft, D. Thompson, McGurk 2-4, 47-37, 51.69
Heat 15: Harris, Riss, K. Thomson, Barker 2-4, 49-41
Courtesy of Speedway Updates
Image Credit: Jon Sproad.