PIRATES gave their top-four hopes a huge boost as they grabbed a 45-45 draw in an exhilarating and controversial Elite League meeting at Eastbourne.

Referee Dan Holt incurred the wrath of Poole team manager Neil Middleditch on several occasions but the visitors still earned two points thanks to the final-heat heroics of Darcy Ward and Shamek Pawlicki.

Grand Prix star Ward had earlier seemingly escaped further damage to his left knee – which requires an operation – following a heat six spill.

Facing an Eagles side that had only dropped one point at home in nine fixtures, Pirates were up against it from the start, particularly given that Pawlicki and Vaclav Milik were paying their first visits to Arlington.

Ward shielded Josh Grajczonek round for an opening 3-3 but the play-off-chasing Eagles forged ahead as reserve Lewis Blackbird triumphed in heat two.

Pawlicki then rode a terrific first couple of bends to storm past Joonas Kylmakorpi, while Maciej Janowski held off Mikkel Michelsen for third.

Grajczonek grabbed his first victory and Kyle Newman’s point gave the visitors a 13-11 advantage heading into the first break.

Belying pre-meeting expectations, Milik shot off the outside and led in Pawlicki for the first 5-1, before Ward was excluded after running out of room by the boards.

Pirates had salt rubbed into the wound when Cameron Woodward and Kylmakorpi racked up a 5-1 on the re-run.

Returning to his all-action style in heat seven, Milik was fortunate not to come to grief, but the hosts still brought the score back to 21-21.

Grajczonek and Pawlicki profited from errors by Kylmakorpi to snatch a 3-3 and keep matters level, only for Ben Hopwood to cause the visitors problems by easing Halsey off his machine.

Newman, who had led the initial race, was second-best to Blackbird in the re-run.

Referee Holt then enraged Middleditch again by pulling back heat 10 for an unsatisfactory start, with the Eagles nailing a 4-2 on the re-run.

Ward produced under pressure following Milik’s heat 11 spill but Blackbird’s jet-propelled start and the support of Timo Lahti brought up a 5-1 for the hosts.

However, Janowski swooped round the outside and was protected by Ward as Poole replied with a maximum of their own.

The race of the night followed in heat 14 when Blackbird and Woodward rode blinders to pull it back to 3-3 after being third and fourth early on.

However, Ward and Pawlicki stunned the home faithful by rocketing to a closing 5-1, giving Pirates two points for their efforts and Eastbourne just one.


Eagles 45: 1 Bjarne Pedersen (0-1-3-1) 5, 2 Timo Lahti (3-3-1-2*-0) 9+1, 3 Joonas Kylmakorpi (2-2*-r-1*) 5+2, 4 Cameron Woodward (2-3-3-1*-1) 10+1, 5 Mikkel Michelsen (0-0-2-0) 2, 6 Lewis Blackbird (3-0-3-3-2) 11, 7 Dan Halsey (1-1-1) 3. Team manager: Trevor Geer.

Pirates 45: 1 Darcy Ward (1*-fx-3-2*-3) 9+2, 2 Josh Grajczonek (2-3-2-1) 8, 3 Shamek Pawlicki (3-2*-1*-2-2*) 10+3, 4 Vaclav Milik (3-2-fx-3) 8, 5 Maciej Janowski (1-1-0-3) 5, 6 Ben Hopwood (0-0-fx) 0, 7 Kyle Newman (2-1-2-0-0) 5. Team manager: Neil Middleditch.

Ht 1: Lahti, Grajczonek, Ward, Pedersen (3-3)
Ht 2: Blackbird, Newman, Halsey, Hopwood (7-5)
Ht 3: Pawlicki, Kylmakorpi, Janowski, Michelsen (9-9)
Ht 4: Grajczonek, Woodward, Newman, Blackbird (11-13)
Ht 5: Milik, Pawlicki, Pedersen, Michelsen (12-18)
Ht 6 (re-run): Woodward, Kylmakorpi, Janowski, Ward (fell/dsq) (17-19)
Ht 7: Lahti, Milik, Halsey, Hopwood (21-21)
Ht 8: Woodward, Grajczonek, Pawlicki, Kylmakorpi (retired) (24-24)
Ht 9 (re-run): Blackbird, Newman, Halsey, Hopwood (fell/dsq) (28-26)
Ht 10 (re-run): Pedersen, Pawlicki, Lahti, Janowski (32-28)
Ht 11 (re-run): Ward, Michelsen, Kylmakorpi, Milik (fell/dsq) (35-31)
Ht 12: Blackbird, Lahti, Grajczonek, Newman (40-32)
Ht 13: Janowski, Ward, Pedersen, Michelsen (41-37)
Ht 14: Milik, Blackbird, Woodward, Newman (44-40)
Ht 15: Ward, Pawlicki, Woodward, Lahti (45-45)