COVENTRY opened the new season with a 63-27 defeat at Leicester in the first leg of the East Midlands Bowl.
Sunday lunchtime’s meeting at the Jordan Road Surfacing Stadium was one in which very little went according to plan for the Buildbase Bees, with the Lions serving notice that they have put together a more than tidy line-up for the 2015 campaign and will be hard to beat at home.
Bees were always going to be somewhat on the back foot with the absence of No.1 Hans Andersen due to family reasons, and the rider-replacement facility for the Dane was worth just two points – neither of those ahead of home riders, which clearly widened the margin between the teams.
A series of falls and mechanical problems also cost Bees points, starting when James Sarjeant came to grief when third in Heat 2, whilst Jakub Jamrog crashed out of second spot on the fourth bend in Heat 4.
Jason Garrity was next to hit the deck as he got out of shape on turn two in Heat 5, whilst the gremlins struck Stuart Robson, who twice retired from races, and Jamrog who also suffered a breakdown.
Leicester had few such problems and there were impressive debuts from Mikkel Michelsen and Szymon Wozniak in particular, whilst Jason Doyle eased to a five-ride paid maximum and Josh Auty was unbeaten from four outings.
The general story was that the Lions were far sharper from the starts, and the only real exception came when Danny King collected a race win for the Bees in Heat 3, their sole success of the day, with a good ride from the outside.
Garrity came close in the best race of the day, missing out to Wozniak on the line after a fine Heat 8 battle which saw the two riders exchange places on more than one occasion.
And Sarjeant was unlucky in Heat 12 when he appeared to be passing Ben Morley off the final turn but was adjudged to have finished at the back of a three-way blanket finish with Garrity having lost speed in front of them.
Skipper Chris Harris battled away to a double-figure score, splitting the Polish combination of Grzegorz Walasek and Wozniak with an inside pass on the latter in Heat 6, but he wasn’t able to find a way past either Doyle or Bjarne Pedersen despite chasing hard in later races.
Manager Gary Havelock said: “It was a meeting to blow the cobwebs away although obviously it would have been nice to put on a better show for the fans who came here.
“It’s always difficult starting away from home, whether it’s a challenge match or not, and it will definitely be a different story on Friday. We’ll bounce back, and we certainly want to start off with a win at home.”
LEICESTER 63: Jason Doyle 14+1, Szymon Wozniak 11, Josh Auty 10+2, Mikkel Michelsen 9, Grzegorz Walasek 8+1, Bjarne Pedersen 7+2, Ben Morley 4. BUILDBASE BEES 27: Chris Harris 10, Jason Garrity 7, Danny King 6+1, James Sarjeant 3, Stuart Robson 1, Jakub Jamrog 0, Hans Andersen r/r.
BUILDBASE BEES 27 Hans Andersen Rider Replacement Stuart Robson R 1 0 R 0 = 1 Danny King 3 1^ 1* 0 1 0 = 6+1 Jakub Jamrog F R 0 0 = 0 Chris Harris 1 2 1 2 2 2 = 10 Jason Garrity 1 2 X 2 2 = 7 James Sarjeant 0 2 1 0 = 3