COVENTRY got the better of great rivals Poole 43-41 in an epic contest at Brandon on Friday – but the meeting was marred by a last-race horror crash for World Champion Chris Holder.
The Australian superstar was attempting to link up with team-mate Darcy Ward for a 5-1 which would have turned the match the Pirates’ way, but as he looked to complete an outside pass on Grzegorz Zengota he appeared to make the faintest of contact with the rear wheel of Ward and flew into the fence at almost unbroken speed.
With the medical crews required to give lengthy attention to Holder before he was transferred to hospital, the result was declared after fourteen races as Holder’s disqualification from Heat 15 meant the outcome was clear-cut with the Buildbase Bees taking two league points and the Pirates one.
The crash ensured the meeting finished on a flat note but prior to that the two sides had given everything in a match that rivalled several of the classic encounters between the clubs in the past, with the biggest crowd of the season in attendance.
Three early 4-2s for Poole had the Bees on the back foot but a 5-1 in Heat 4 got the home side going as Scott Nicholls led from the front and Aaron Summers worked his way into second place, passing Micky Dyer at the start of the last lap.
That brought the meeting alive and Zengota, often the fastest man around Brandon, did it again in Heat 5 with a brilliant ride to defeat Ward and have the crowd in the main grandstand on their feet.
A series of shared races followed with Nicholls getting the better of Holder in Heat 7, but key to the meeting was the Bees’ regular defeats of former World Under-21 Champion Maciej Janowski, even though reserve Kozza Smith turned out to be a real thorn in their side.
Zengota and Michal Szczepaniak carded a crucial maximum over Janowski in Heat 9 to put Bees ahead for the first time, and just as they looked set to be reeled back in two races later, Nicholls produced a moment of true magic.
The Bees skipper was under big pressure as Ward had gated with Smith and was looking to shepherd his team-mate home – but Nicholls bulldozed under Ward at the end of the first lap and then shot around a startled Smith to go from third to first in the ride of the season at Brandon.
Poole, though, weren’t finished and after a 4-2 in Heat 12 when Zengota had to retrieve second place after a first-lap error, Ward took revenge over Nicholls with a breathtaking outside move off turn four to keep the margin at just two points.
Bees had hoped to secure victory in Heat 14 but Smith thwarted those plans by taking the win as Summers and Szczepaniak had to work overtime to see off Patrick Hougaard for a shared race.
Ward and Holder have produced the Heat 15 5-1 for the Pirates on numerous occasions and it looked possible again with Ward taking the lead off turn two and Holder moving inside Nicholls on the back straight and then going to the outside to make a pass on Zengota – but disaster struck as he tried to complete the move, and the meeting was resolved in the Bees’ favour.
Coventry promoter Mick Horton said: “It was a sad way for it to finish and our thoughts are with Chris at the moment.
“We were all in agreement to abandon the meeting. I spoke with Neil Middleditch, and Chris was in a bad way and there was then no meaning to the last race. Both sets of supporters were fully understanding of the situation.
“That aside, it had been a fantastic meeting, Middlo and I had been saying it was the best meeting we’d both been involved in this season, it was that good. The crowd was brilliant, it was our biggest of the season and the best meeting by far.
“I haven’t heard the roar that went up when Scott did his ride against Darcy Ward for a long, long time. It’s the best Scott has ridden this year, no doubt about that, but credit to all of the riders tonight, and hopefully we can keep it going.”
COVENTRY 43: Scott Nicholls 11, Grzegorz Zengota 10, Krzysztof Kasprzak 8+1, Aaron Summers 8+1, Michal Szczepaniak 5+3, Adam Roynon 1+1, Stuart Robson R/R. POOLE 41: Kozza Smith 11+1, Chris Holder 10+1, Darcy Ward 10, Patrick Hougaard 6, Maciej Janowski 3+1, Micky Dyer 1+1, Rohan Tungate R/R.
COVENTRY 43 Krzysztof Kasprzak 2 3 2 1* = 8+1 Stuart Robson Rider Replacement Grzegorz Zengota 2 3 3 2 = 10 Michal Szczepaniak 0 1 2* 1* 1* = 5+3 Scott Nicholls 3 3 3 2 = 11 Aaron Summers 0 2 2* R 2 0 2 = 8+1 Adam Roynon 0 M R 1* 0 = 1+1