If the recent 60-30 home thrashing of the 2019 Champions Leicester Lions set down a marker that the 2022 Plymouth Westcolour Gladiators were serious contenders in 2022, and the win at the usually impregnable Eddie Wright Raceway Scunthorpe last Friday night sent a minor tremor through British Speedway, then there is no doubt that the Ocean City must still be shaking from after-tremors right now as the Westcolour Gladiators rode rings round the 2021 Double winners and hottest of hot favourites for 2022, the Poole Pirates with another stunning all round team performance.
The Plymouth management had asked for fans to turn out in force to back their injury hit heroes and turn out in force they did, to witness an outstanding performance. With number 1 Edward Kennett joined on the injury list by the in-form Dan Gilkes after a sickening crash on Friday where he suffered a collapsed lung, 5 broken ribs and serious arm injuries, you’d be excused for thinking that the Westcolour Gladiators would limp in to action feeling somewhat sorry for themselves, given the fact all the bad luck and some dubious decisions have already gone against them so far this season.
Promoter Mark Phillips and Team Manager Gary May galvanised the Westcolour Gladiators however, bringing in Cornwall’s favourite son Chris Bomber Harris to replace Kennett, delved in to the form book and highlighted Ben Morley from the Kent Royals as a usually excellent performer round the tight Coliseum track to replace Gilkes and also bought in young British talent Jason Edwards to replace the absent Henry Atkins, who has decided to leave the Club after a mixed start to the season.
With Poole arriving with their fully fit normal 1-7 few would have anticipated a home win and many would have expected a significant defeat. Nothing is ever won in sport though on paper and you can never discount any team with the outstanding work rate and excellent spirit that the Westcolour gladiators are building and they attacked the fiixture from the start.
After a first race, where Harris and Bowtell followed Danny King the Poole Captain and No 1 home, the home team then struck with three successive 4-2 Heat wins with Morley and Edwards, Barker and Palm-Toft and Anderson and Morley combining for the Home Team.
A couple of setbacks then occurred with Barker suffering a spectacular fall after clipping the fence on the exit of the final turn on the first lap of Heat 5, and Bowtell unlucky to slide off whilst looking for a way round Drew Kemp in Heat 6.
The subsequent re-run races delivered 4-2’s to the visitors to give them a somewhat flattering 2 point deficit after 6 races. With the visitors securing their own third successive 4-2 in Heat 7, and a match score of 21-21 at that stage and the momentum with the visitors few could have anticipated what happened next.
A 5-1 Heat win by Morley and Bowtell in Heat 8 restored a 4 point advantage for the home team and the gap remained the same after Richard Lawson won the following heat for the Pirates with a visibly struggling Barker (with what looked like a hand injury) and Palm-Toft in his wake.
Heat 10 saw Alfie Bowtell emerge out of a brutal first bend with all 4 riders inches apart with his nose in front and with Harris in third place but the cornishman then produced a trademark blast from the back to pass Worrall with a terrific burst of speed to follow Bowtell home for another 5-1 to stretch the lead to 8 points at the Interval.
A collection was then held for the injured Gilkes who must have been buoyed with the news that his teammates were doing him proud from his Hospital bed and the Club would like to thank all supporters including many visitors from Poole and elsewhere for their wonderful generosity, before the action recommenced with 4 heats remaining and the Westcolour Gladiators ahead by 37 points to 29, and most home fans pinching themselves that their home heros could get the match over the line.
The Pirates threw in their tactical joker in Heat 12 pairing Lawson with Worrall against the battered Barker and reserve Morley and would surely have expected a 5-1 heat result to put massive pressure on the home side.
Cometh the hour though cometh the man and Barker rode through the pain to leave the Pirates chasing his wake with Morley never giving Lawson a moment’s peace and unlucky not to get a deserved third place.
With the tactical move thwarted, the Westcolour Gladiators led 40 points to 32 points and the always pivotal Heat 13 threw the big guns from both teams, Danish superstar Hans Andersen and multi British Champion Harris against Lawson and King for the Pirates.
What happened next can only be described as perhaps the best race yet witnessed at The Coliseum. Andersen made the start and rode away at the front with King and Lawson in pursuit, with Harris at the back and literally scraping the fence to try to find some grip and speed yet still behind entering the final bend on lap 3 he roared around the outside of a shocked King and with a staggering turn of speed and bravery then passed Lawson on the inside on the first bend of the final lap sending the Home fans in the raptures and earning a fantastic round of applause from all present.
The resultant 5-1 gave the Westcolour Gladiators a match winning 45-33 lead and not to be outdone Palm-Toft and Morley repeated the feat in Heat 14 with the completely demoralised Pirates suffering salvo after salvo amidships and on their way to their biggest defeat of the season.
Harris again delivered an excellent ride in a shared Heat 15 to make the final score 53 to the Westcolour Gladiators and 37 to the stunned Pirates and the Speedway world surely now waking up to the powerful Gladiators building momentum in the South West.
Once again every Westcolour Gladiator contributed to the Team effort with no weak links; and an especially outstanding performance from Morley at reserve with 2 race wins and 9 points from his 5 rides. Hopefully that will make young Mr Gilkes feel a little bit better and boost his fight back from injury.
The Westcolour Gladiators will now go on the long trek up the M5 and M6 and across the border in to Scotland to the fortress of the Glasgow Tigers, another formidable opponent; led by one of the most forward thinking Promotions in UK Speedway on Friday night, once again the underdogs but not to be underestimated in this level of form and intensity.
The Coliseum on a Tuesday night at 7 is now THE PLACE to be for West Country Sports lovers with a club on the up and a team for us all to be proud of.
The next Home match is NEXT Tuesday at 7pm v the Oxford Cheetahs led by multi British Champion Scott Nicholls and Team Managed by Global Speedway superstar Jason Crump returning to his Devon roots in his first season of Team Management.
ONLINE Match Tickets are available on the Club website here and with the club on the crest of a wave and awareness spreading across the South West the best way to reserve a Seat is by Booking early. Cash and Card sales are available on the night.
Please note, this fixture will NOT be streamed LIVE by Gladiators TV due to a contractual agreement that sees the excellent new BSN cover the Fixture on their new Network – Full details are here
We’ll be back with some exciting Sponsorship News and early details of an amazing Queen’s Jubilee Offer in our preview of the trip to Glasgow on Friday morning.
Plymouth Gladiators = 53
1. Chris Harris (Guest) – 2, 2, 2’, 2’, 2 = 10+2
2. Alfie Bowtell – 1’, F/X, 2’, 3 = 6+2
3. Ben Barker – 3, F/X, 2, 3, 1’ = 9+1
4. Michael Palm Toft – 1, 2, 1’, 3 = 7+1
5. Hans Andersen – 3, 2, 3, 3 = 11
6. Jason Edwards (Guest) – 1, 0, 0 = 1
7. Ben Morley (Guest) – 3, 1, 3, 0, 2’ = 9+1
Poole Pirates = 37
1. Danny King – 3, 1, 2, 0, 0 = 6
2. Zach Cook – R, 3, 1, 1’ = 5+1
3. Steve Worrall – 2, 3, 1, 2, 3 = 11
4. Ben Cook – 0, 1, 0, 1 = 2
5. Richard Lawson – 2, 3, 3, 1’, 1 = 10+1
6. Drew Kemp – 2, 1, 0, 0 = 3
7. Nathan Ablitt – 0, 0, 0 = 0
Heat 01: King, Harris, Bowtell, Z. Cook (R) 3-3, 3-3, 50.91
Heat 02: Morley, Kemp, Edwards, Ablitt 4-2, 7-5, 52.50
Heat 03: Barker, Worrall, Palm Toft, B. Cook 4-2, 11-7, 51.41
Heat 04: Andersen, Lawson, Morley, Ablitt 4-2, 15-9, 52.91
Heat 05 Re-Run: Z. Cook, Palm Toft, King 2-4, 17-13, 51.12
Heat 06 Re-Run: Lawson, Harris, Kemp 2-4, 19-17, 51.19
Heat 07: Worrall, Andersen, B. Cook, Edwards 2-4, 21-21, 52.25
Heat 08: Morley, Bowtell, Z. Cook, Kemp 5-1, 26-22, 53.03
Heat 09: Lawson, Barker, Palm Toft, Kemp 3-3, 29-25, 51.43
Heat 10: Bowtell, Harris, Worrall, B. Cook 5-1, 34-26, 52.03
Heat 11: Andersen, King, Z. Cook, Edwards 3-3, 37-29, 51.69
Heat 12: Barker, Worrall, Lawson, Morley 3-3, 40-32, 52.00
Heat 13: Andersen, Harris, Lawson, King 5-1, 45-33, 52.03
Heat 14: Palm Toft, Morley, B. Cook, Ablitt 5-1, 50-34, 51.50
Heat 15: Worrall, Harris, Barker, King 3-3, 53-37, 52.25
Courtesy of Speedway Updates
Image CreditL Jon Sproad.