COVENTRY Buildbase Bees got their Elite League campaign off to a winning start - but it was far from straightforward against an Eastbourne side who led throughout the first half of the meeting.
The Eagles gave one of their best Brandon displays of the recent past and certainly had Bees worried for long spells in this meeting, until the home side finished with a flourish and collected a useful ten-point advantage with two 5-1s in the last three races.
But although the heat-leaders applied the finishing touches, everyone had cause to be grateful for another super showing from Morten Risager, who will very quickly make a mockery of his 3.65 average if he can keep up the best form of his career so far.
The young Dane added the scalp of Nicki Pedersen to that of Hans Andersen last week, and two of his three wins were during a vital mid-meeting period when Bees were desperately battling to gain some kind of control.
The Eagles had the better gates during most of the early races and certainly made them count, with David Norris and Dean Barker flying away from the start in Heat 1, and Bees skipper Scott Nicholls was unable to make any significant challenge to prevent a shock 1-5 reversal.
But the Bees reserves hit back for their side straight away thanks to a fine start from Risager in Heat 2 and a good pass from a low-on-confidence Martin Smolinski, who made it around Cameron Woodward to set up a home 5-1.
Eastbourne, however, then managed a succession of race wins, starting with Heat 3 when Pedersen and Stefan Andersson totally out-trapped the Bees duo. Rory Schlein managed to pass Andersson on the second lap and rapidly caught Pedersen, but the door was firmly shut on the back straight as he attempted a last-lap pass - and Davey Watt then came up with a repeat performance to fend off Chris Harris in the next with Lewis Bridger taking third spot.
The Eagles may even have extended their lead further in Heat 5 as Norris made it two wins out of two, but Olly Allen rounded Barker for third place at the end of the opening lap.
Then came a major talking point as the tapes hardly rose on the outside for Heat 6, giving Billy Janniro no chance whatsoever of making it off the line with the other riders. Clearly, it was not easy to see this from the aerial, side-on, view from the referee's box, so the race continued for its' four-lap duration, with Watt doing well to hold off Nicholls. But a Bees protest was immediate, and the result of the race was not announced as the referee came to the conclusion that the race would be re-run.
That re-run took place after a lengthy hold-up during which time various alternative starting methods were discussed, before the starting gate was repaired and the action re-commenced with Watt producing exactly the same outcome by fending off Nicholls, whilst Janniro this time made use of a fair start to take third place.
Bees were still four points down but they were galvanised by the spirit shown by Risager, who rode superbly to defeat Pedersen in Heat 7 with Harris chasing hard in third, and Janniro kept them within striking distance by going round Barker for the win on the second lap of Heat 8.
Still Bees were waiting to claw their way back level, or even go in front, and they lost a possible chance for that in Heat 9 as Schlein and Allen made good starts only for Allen to uncharacteristically slide off on the first bend turning a possible 5-1 into a 3-3.
But Bees did manage to level things up in Heat 10 as Nicholls and Pedersen disputed the first bend closely, with the Coventry man taking the advantage and Janniro in third place.
The hard work, however, looked like it could go to waste when Norris and Barker flew out of the start in Heat 11 - only for Risager to excel once again by blasting around the outside coming off the second bend to hit the front. Barker then went too wide going into turn three, and that was the chance Harris needed to come through and put Bees in front.
Risager was immediately brought into Heat 12 to replace Smolinski, although on this occasion he did lose his unbeaten tag to Pedersen, Schlein recovering from a tardy getaway to move inside Woodward going into the second lap.
The key race was then Heat 13, and Nicholls came up with an excellent start to not only hit the first bend in front, but also block the Eagles and allow Chris Harris a run around the outside - and with the 5-1 putting Bees six points up, they could breathe a little easier for the first time.
There was still more action to come, though, first with Bridger being excluded from Heat 14 for tape-touching and his replacement Woodward then making the start with Andersson. Woodward, however, made errors on successive bends to allow first Risager and then Allen past him, and in the end he spun and fell on turn two, a moment which secured the match for the Bees.
But Heat 15 was still potentially important given the aggregate point, so Bees were pleased to take gates 1 and 3 for the last race, which produced an incident on turn one. Nicholls made a great start but Schlein had already decided to cut back when the two Eagles riders collided mid-bend, Pedersen fetching down Norris. The Dane was excluded with Norris emerging for the re-run after brief treatment - but he was squeezed out by the Coventry pair at the start and Schlein and Nicholls then raced clear to give Bees what had looked a most unlikely ten-point winning margin.
Bees were far from at their best in this meeting and had chiefly Risager to thank for dragging them back into contention, but they can take consolation from the fact that they got over the finishing line in the end with that 10-point win, whilst for the Eagles this was significantly better than their Brandon visits last year.
Coventry 50 Eastbourne 40 (Elite League A)
BUILDBASE BEES 50 Scott Nicholls 1 2 3 3 2* = 11+1 Billy Janniro 0 1* 3 1= 5+1 Rory Schlein 2 2 3 1* 3 = 11+1 Olly Allen 0 1* F 1* = 2+2 Chris Harris 2 1 1 2* = 6+1 Morten Risager 3 3 3 2 2 = 13 Martin Smolinski 2* 0 0 = 2+1