AFTER a faultless Midland League campaign, maybe Coventry’s start to the season was just too good to be true.
In the history of the Elite League, the Buildbase Bees’ history is littered with examples of them losing their first home Elite League fixture, most recently in 2010 also on Good Friday against Peterborough.
But nobody could really have seen this setback coming after nine races in which the Bees had scored solidly and consistently, with a minimum of last places, to establish control of the meeting with a ten-point lead.
But then enter Darcy Ward, whose role changed from chief resistance to victory-leader – and with his captain Chris Holder stepping up from a disastrous start to the meeting (which had been largely covered for by a fine display by Sam Masters), Poole suddenly hit hard and fast to take the points.
That made it a somewhat peculiar day for the Bees, with lower-order men Aaron Summers and Henning Bager particularly impressing, but with some of their big guns encountering problems – rarely, if ever, will there be an occasion at home this season when Chris Harris and Scott Nicholls win just one race between them in nine attempts.
In front of a bumper Bank Holiday turnout, Bees initially adapted well to conditions which, due to the morning meeting, were somewhat different to normal, with Summers flying off gate one to take another Heat 1 win and Holder going too wide on turn two as he tried to gain ground, and instead he ended up losing his third place to Harris.
Bees added another 4-2 in Heat 2 thanks to a good start from the outside by Bager, with Adam Roynon comfortably holding Todd Kurtz at bay, although that was cancelled out by Poole’s own 4-2 in Heat 3 as Ward won in the fastest time by a distance at that stage with Edward Kennett slipping inside Dennis Andersson off turn two to split the Pirates.
Heat 4 initially looked problematic for Bees as Adrian Miedzinski gated and Nicholls found himself hemmed in at the back, but he overhauled Kurtz on lap three and was followed through by Bager one lap later to keep Bees two points up.
And with Holder in big trouble on turns three and four in Heat 5 and going to the back behind Larsen, Kennett’s win over the lively Masters added another 4-2 to the Bees’ count – with the next not too far away as Harris won Heat 6 comfortably with Summers splitting Miedzinski and Kling.
Nicholls made a super start from gate two in Heat 7 to lead Ward into the first bend, and Roynon had a good outside run going too – but it all went wrong as Nicholls lifted violently out of turn two and somehow maintained enough control to stay on his machine. Ward shot through and Bees were happy enough with a 3-3 as Roynon read the situation and stayed ahead of Andersson.
So there were still no problems for Bees as Summers dominated Heat 8 with Bager pouncing on an error by Kurtz at the end of lap three for third place – and yet another 4-2 followed in Heat 9, this time with a fine ride by Larsen who went wide on turns three and four and swept round Miedzinski for the win, with Kennett just unable to follow him through.
That put Ward on a tactical ride in Heat 10, off the totally unfavoured gate three, and he was clearly behind going into the first bend – but the meeting changed completely with one Ward cutback off turn two which took him inside Harris and in front along with his team-mate Andersson, who he proceeded to team-ride home perfectly despite a big mistake by Andersson off turn four midway through the race.
The 1-8 was clearly a setback and the 1-5 which followed was the perfect double-whammy as far as the Pirates were concerned, as this time Holder did make it from the start and Nicholls found himself caught out on turn three to such an extent that Masters came through for a maximum which put the visitors ahead.
With Ward covering Heat 12 despite an enthusiastic challenge from Larsen, the Pirates were one race closer to victory, and with Bees looking for points in Heat 13 the race went the other way – Bees compromised from the very start as Harris broke down on the start-line and Nicholls lost out to Holder.
A race advantage in Heat 14 was essential to keep Bees in with a semblance of a chance and they did manage it with Kennett taking his second win of the day and Bager, who rode solidly all meeting, in third place – but with the home side still one point down, they had to find a way past the Ward/Holder combination in Heat 14.
Nicholls was selected to join Kennett but with Poole having choice of gates the odds were stacked against the Bees, and the game was up virtually from the start as Ward – not previously noted for his gating – fired away from gate 4, and with Holder moving past Nicholls on the third bend it was the large contingent of visiting fans who were left celebrating.
And leaving home supporters once again reflecting on the fact that, thankfully, titles are decided in September and October rather than April!