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Pirates: Holder demands more despite huge Poole triumph
CAPTAIN Chris Holder last night helped powerhouse Pirates roar into the grand final but then warned: “We need to up our game yet.”
The Australian superstar was one of four maximum men as the defending champions ruthlessly dismissed the challenge of Lakeside with utter dominance at Wimborne Road.
Protecting a four-point lead from the first leg in Essex, Pirates were simply far too strong for the Hammers as they provided a timely flexing of the muscles ahead of the upcoming silverware showdown.
In truth, they had their route to the final mapped out within the space of three imperious heats as a 4-2 and back-to-back 5-1s left Lakeside with a mountain they never looked like climbing.
But with Swindon producing an impressive 55-35 semi-final first leg victory at Birmingham, Holder was quick to admit that Poole would need to dig much deeper in their expected clash with the rampant Robins.
The Pirates skipper told the Daily Echo: “We need to be a bit better than we were last night because the Lakeside team was not as strong as the one we will be facing in the final.
“Unless something drastic happens, Swindon are going to be in the final with us.
“Over two legs, if we are going to have a chance of winning, we need all the boys to be scoring points, not just two or three of us. We need everyone.
“There is a lot of pressure there but that comes with the title. If you want to be the best team, you have got to be good under pressure.
“I have managed to win the Elite League twice with Poole and it has always been a massive buzz. But to win as captain would be really good.”
Holder delivered an unbeaten 11 paid 12-point haul to more than play his part as Pirates booked a grand final berth for the third time in four years. And if last night’s action is an accurate gauge, they will take some stopping.
Fresh from his GP Challenge triumph, in-form Krzysztof Kasprzak joined Holder, Darcy Ward and Piotr Pawlicki in remaining undefeated.
Handed an opportunity to push for a place, both Ludvig Lindgren and fit-again Kyle Howarth did their chances no harm with solid displays of their own.
Even with Ricky Kling enduring a night to forget, Lakeside never looked like troubling the hosts.
Devastated by the tragic death of Lee Richardson in May, Hammers deserve to be commended for their excellent achievements in reaching the play-offs.
It soon became clear that their fine run was coming to an end at Wimborne Road, though, as Pirates completed a thoroughly professional job.
Hammers arrived in Dorset without former Pirates captain Davey Watt due to illness. And it showed as the Essex outfit simply did not have the firepower to compete.
The hosts’ dominance began immediately when Ward, donning the number one jacket due to leapfrogging Holder in the averages, lived up to his top billing with a win, Kling holding off the disappointing Peter Karlsson for an opening heat advantage.
Lindgren and Howarth sent a clear selection message to Pirates chief Matt Ford with a commanding 5-1 all the way from the gate in the second race.
Their blistering getaway was matched by Holder and Pawlicki as they romped to arguably the clearest maximum of the campaign, with their nearest challenger a distant half-a-lap behind.
With Pirates already threatening to run up a huge score, Hammers enjoyed some good fortune when a mechanical problem denied the impressive Howarth another 5-1 behind fast-starting Kasprzak.
Karlsson was a tactical rider in heat five but a horror show saw him trailing in last before eventually retiring. Up front, Holder and Pawlicki continued the one-way traffic with a routine 5-1.
Ward and Kling sandwiched Kim Nilsson to open up a 20-point aggregate lead before Kasprzak roared to his second win of the night, Badly in need of halting the Pirates dominance, Lakeside reached into the kit bag and grabbed the tactical colours for Nilsson. They did stop Pirates’ winning run but Robert Mear was the man to claim victory, with Nilsson completing a much-needed 5-2.
However, it was merely a consolation as Poole had all but booked their final spot by that stage.
The dominance of the title favourites was again displayed by dynamic duo Holder and Pawlicki. Hammers could not even get close to the Pirates pair as they completed a hat-trick of 5-1s.
Ward continued his perfect evening in heat 10 before Kasprzak and Lindgren confirmed Pirates’ grand final place with a 4-2 in the 11th race.
Ahead of his upcoming world championship bid, Holder showed no signs of taking it easy as he produced another scintillating ride to keep Pirates in control.
Unbeaten Ward and Kasprzak never looked like losing that record in a routine heat 13, with the Australian even having time to win after a wheelie on the back straight.
Polish race ace Pawlicki looks a major asset to the Pirates title push and he was stunning in the penultimate race.
That earned Pawlicki a deserved call-up for heat 15. With Kasprzak the clear leader, Pawlicki relentlessly hunted Robson before producing a sensational pass to complete a superb paid maximum.
It was a fitting finale to a meeting controlled throughout by Pirates – a fact best reflected by their 14 race wins.