THIS was not in the script.
Darcy Ward’s return to the Pirates line-up was intended to kick an already-healthy season on to the next level, but as it was, the Aussie’s first Elite League outing this year proved a mere sideshow to a sublime Coventry fightback.
The Bees, who did not secure a single heat advantage in the first 10 races, benefited from an inspired Kenneth Hansen as they clawed their way back from 12 points down to record a 48-47 triumph.
It was Pirates’ first home defeat since August last year and gave Neil Middedlitch’s men an almighty reality check ahead of their trip to league leaders King’s Lynn tomorrow night.
All this after the meeting had begun in positive fashion.
Still contending with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, Ward showed no rustiness in easing to victory in heat one, before honours were again shared in a from-the-gate reserves race.
The meeting exploded into life in heat three when Polish fireworks saw Pirates rack up a 5-1. Shamek Pawlicki and Maciej Janowski were both passed by Ryan Fisher early on, but swiftly hit back to propel Poole into an 11-7 lead.
A final-bend move from Vaclav Milik was not quite enough to overhaul former Pirate Kyle Howarth, before Ward and Janowski maintained their flawless cards with a 5-1 maximum.
Another ex-Poole rider, Hans Andersen, was fortunate not to be passed by backmarker Milik late on in heat six, and that shared race was followed by another as Josh Grajczonek somehow clung on to win from Garrity.
Fisher’s unfortunate evening continued with a spill in heat eight and Milik dived inside Howarth on the re-run to notch a third maximum and take the hosts’ lead out to 30-18.
Heat nine proved a virtual repeat of the first reserves’ race as Garrity once more triumphed, before Chris Harris was frustrated by Ward on a tactical.
Then, the meeting’s critical heat. Hansen was handed the black and white helmet and he and Andersen left Janowski and Pawlicki in the dust, ending the latter’s winning record in the process.
The Bees looked set for a second straight heat advantage, but Grajczonek battled back superbly from third to win and ensure a 3-3.
Last out of bend two in heat 13, Ward rocketed back into second and would surely have passed Andersen with an extra lap, giving the Dane less than a bike-length at the line.
Hansen then stunned the Wimborne Road faithful with a second huge win, which supported by Garrity in third, put Coventry a point behind with one heat left.
Ward was then controversially excluded by referee Christina Turnbull after he attempted to clear the track following a bend-two spill – with Poole on a 3-3 when the Aussie crashed – and Pawlicki could not oust Andersen in the re-run.
- Pirates will be unchanged for the first time in the 2014 Elite League when they make the trip to the Norfolk Arena tomorrow night (7.30pm).
The visitors face a table-topping team that has brought in reigning world champion Tai Woffinden, while Young Stars rider Darren Mallett will feature in a reserve berth.
Stars: (from) Niels-Kristian Iversen, Nicklas Porsing, Rory Schlein, Robert Lambert, Tai Woffinden (guest), Lewis Kerr, Darren Mallett (guest).
Pirates: (from) Darcy Ward, Josh Grajczonek, Shamek Pawlicki, Vaclav Milik, Maciej Janowski, Kyle Newman, Ben Hopwood.
Meanwhile, Pawlicki, Janowski and Grajczonek will fight it out for Grand Prix race-off spots when they line up at Berwick on Saturday, June 7.
Ten qualifiers will advance and earn themselves a berth at either Gorican, Croatia or Czestochowa, Poland.
The six top riders from each of those subsequent meetings will then compete in the Grand Prix Challenge in Lonigo, Italy on Saturday, September 20.
POOLE v COVENTRY: HEAT DETAILS
Pirates 47: 1 Darcy Ward (3-2*-3-2-fx) 10+1, 2 Josh Grajczonek (0-3-1-3) 7, 3 Shamek Pawlicki (3-3-3-0-2) 11, 4 Vaclav Milik (2-0-2*-2) 6+1, 5 Maciej Janowski (2*-3-1-0) 6+1, 6 Kyle Newman (2-1*-2-0-0) 5+1, 7 Ben Hopwood (1*-0-1*) 2+2. Team manager: Neil Middleditch.
Bees 48: 1 Hans Andersen (2-1*-2*-3-3) 11+2, 2 Kyle Howarth (1*-3-1-2) 7+1, 3 Ryan Fisher (0-m-fx-0) 0, 4 Kenneth Hansen (1-2-6^-3-1) 13, 5 Chris Harris (1-2-4^-1) 8, 6 Jason Garrity (3-r-1*-3-1*-1) 9+2, 7 James Sarjeant (r-0-f) 0. Team manager: Gary Havelock.
Ht 1: Ward, Andersen, Howarth, Grajczonek, 60.07 (3-3)
Ht 2: Garrity, Newman, Hopwood, Sarjeant (retired), 61.31 (6-6)
Ht 3: Pawlicki, Janowski, Harris, Fisher, 60.65 (11-7)
Ht 4: Howarth, Milik, Newman, Garrity (retired), 60.85 (14-10)
Ht 5: Janowski, Ward, Hansen, Fisher, 60.28 (19-11)
Ht 6: Pawlicki, Harris, Andersen, Milik, 60.79 (22-14)
Ht 7: Grajczonek, Hansen, Garrity, Hopwood, 61.10 (25-17)
Ht 8 (re-run): Pawlicki, Milik, Howarth, Fisher (fell/dsq), 61.00 (30-18)
Ht 9: Garrity, Newman, Hopwood, Sarjeant (fell), 62.22 (33-21)
Ht 10: Ward, Harris (tactical), Grajczonek, Fisher, 60.88 (37-25)
Ht 11: Hansen (tactical), Andersen, Janowski, Pawlicki, 61.50 (38-33)
Ht 12 (re-run): Grajczonek, Howarth, Garrity, Newman, 60.94 (41-36)
Ht 13: Andersen, Ward, Harris, Janowski, 60.53 (43-40)
Ht 14: Hansen, Milik, Garrity, Newman, 41.90 (45-44)
Ht 15 (re-run): Andersen, Pawlicki, Hansen, Ward (fell/dsq), 60.90 (47-48)
ECHO STAR RIDER: DARCY WARD
On a different night Ward would have had a full house, but fine margins meant he ended up with 10 points instead of 15.
Considering the Aussie is still recovering from a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament, it was a remarkable effort, even for a rider of his ability.
Ward’s charge in heat 13, when he nearly took three points despite having come out of bend two in fourth, was scintillating and thrilling in equal measure.
It’s good to have him back.