RYE House were crowned National League Fours champions after an eventful Sunday afternoon of racing at Brandon.
The Raiders triumphed in a tense three-way shootout for the title which went down to the last race between themselves, Belle Vue and Eastbourne.
Ben Morley completed an unbeaten performance on the day by winning the vital Heat 8, with the Eagles suffering the frustration of seeing their top man Adam Ellis encounter mechanical problems at the start.
Morley and Robert Branford were both unbeaten as the Raiders finished as clear winners of Group A, although it was only in the final two races that they pulled clear of Cradley and Mildenhall.
The Heathens secured second place in the group but only after a nervous finale when Ashley Morris was disqualified from Heat 8 for causing Mildenhall’s Dan Halsey to fall on turn four.
Had Halsey beaten Morley in the re-run, it would have been enough to put Cradley out on count-back, but Morley maintained his winning ways so the Heathens also continued.
Group B also turned into a three-way battle with Coventry Storm unable to challenge in a fiercely contested section.
Their top two riders both ran early last places so they were out of contention before Mitchell Davey finally put them on the board with second spot in Heat 6, a result Liam Carr would have matched before he hit trouble in the next.
Belle Vue secured their progression with Lee Payne’s win in that Heat 6 after a consistent team display, whilst Eastbourne won the last two races to finish five points clear of defending champions Birmingham.
The Final turned out to be a dramatic affair, with the first three heats providing talking points galore.
Rye House’s Luke Priest fell when second in Heat 1, and in the re-run an error by Eastbourne’s Ellis Perks saw him bring down Belle Vue’s Rob Shuttleworth on turn two.
Shuttleworth, who rode for the Storm last season, responded by squaring up to Perks, and referee Dave Robinson saw enough of the subsequent confrontation to exclude the Colts rider from the remainder of the meeting for violent conduct.
With Perks disqualified from the race, that left just Cradley’s Ashley Morris to complete four uncontested laps for three points – but incredibly his team would not score again until Heat 6!
Heat 2 saw the Heathens’ Luke Chessell involved in a high-speed first-bend smash with Ellis with the Eastbourne rider going into the fence at full force.
The verdict of all-four back seemed generous on the Cradley rider, and the re-run produced further controversy when Sam Woods of Rye House went across the path of Belle Vue’s Lee Payne, causing the Colts rider to fall and receive a most unfortunate disqualification.
But Chessell was unable to take his own second chance as he fell when in an uncontested second place, and worse followed for Cradley when Max Clegg came to grief on the last bend of Heat 3 as he tried to dive inside Branford.
Rye House led by two points after Heat 4 and although Bewley reduced the arrears with a great ride to beat Branford in the next, the Colts were always going into Heat 6 with no rider due to Shuttleworth’s ejection from the meeting.
But Clegg’s win in that race kept the meeting open for the top three teams, who were all covered by a solitary point after Heat 7 when Jake Knight rounded Priest to take the victory.
Rye House and Eastbourne were tied on 11 points with Belle Vue one point back, but Morley conjured a flying start in the decider as Ellis hit trouble, and the Raiders rider quickly saw off the challenge of the Colts’ Matt Williamson to start the celebrations in the Rye camp.
Coventry boss Laurence Rogers said: “It was a rough day for our boys, and both Mitchell and Liam really had meetings to forget by their standards.
“They both lifted in their first race and Liam came off in his second when he was trying some stuff out with his bike, which didn’t work!
“I can’t say too much about what went on in the Final, but all I would say is I felt it was very badly handled. Perhaps something like that shouldn’t be done in public view, it should be taken into the changing room, sat down and talked about calmly.”
GROUP A RYE HOUSE 18: Robert Branford 6, Ben Morley 6, Luke Priest 4, Sam Woods 2. CRADLEY 14: Max Clegg 5, Luke Chessell 3, Richard Andrews 3, Ashley Morris 3. MILDENHALL 13: Dan Halsey 5, Jon Armstrong 4, Connor Coles 3, Jordan Jenkins 1. BUXTON 3: Lee Geary 2, Mitchell Beckett 1, Lee Dicken 0, David Wallinger 0.
GROUP B: EASTBOURNE 17: Ellis Perks 6, Adam Ellis 6, Georgie Wood 3, Jake Knight 2. BELLE VUE 17: Dan Bewley 5, Lee Payne 5, Matt Williamson 4, Rob Shuttleworth 3. BIRMINGHAM 12: Jack Smith 3, Tom Perry 3, Jack Parkinson-Blackburn 3, Tom Bacon 3. COVENTRY 2: Mitchell Davey 2, Ryan Terry-Daley 0, Liam Carr 0, Conor Dwyer 0.
FINAL: RYE HOUSE 14: Ben Morley 6, Rob Branford 4, Sam Woods 3, Luke Priest 1. BELLE VUE 12: Dan Bewley 5, Matt Williamson 5, Lee Payne 2, Rob Shuttleworth 0. EASTBOURNE 11: Jake Knight 4, Adam Ellis 3, Georgie Wood 3, Ellis Perks 1. CRADLEY 7: Ashley Morris 4, Max Clegg 3, Luke Chessell 0, Richard Andrews 0.