POOLE went down swinging in the race for the SGB Premiership Grand Final after pushing Swindon all the way in a semi-final nail-biter at Blunsdon tonight.

The Robins triumphed 51-38 on the night to seal a 97-82 aggregate win, but their margin of victory doesn’t do justice to a Pirates side which made the play-offs against all the odds, and almost found the reserves to reach an unlikeliest of Grand Finals.

After six home league losses in their regular league season, this year’s Poole side has not always been lauded for its battling qualities.

But even after a 46-44 defeat in the first leg on September 10, it was clear they were ready to upset the odds as they came within a point of the Robins with just four races remaining.

Pirates started the night by pulling back their two-point deficit when Brady Kurtz and Jack Holder trapped terrifically in heat one.

Holder lacked pace and Robins racer Adam Ellis quickly reeled him in for second. But World Championship leader Jason Doyle was sluggish at the back, allowing Pirates to open with a 4-2.

Swindon hit back instantly with one of their own, led by Bradley Wilson-Dean, with Pirates reserve Paul Starke flying under Robins guest Liam Carr on lap two, turn one to limit the damage.

Tobiasz Musielak extended Swindon’s lead with a commanding victory in race three, with Pirates’ Timo Lahti second and his team mate Edward Kennett unable overhaul David Bellego for third.

Poole edged back within two in race four when skipper Hans Andersen used all his guile to keep the much-faster Nick Morris behind him and triumph, with James Shanes sneaking past Carr on the penultimate turn to seal a Pirates 4-2.

The Robins responded in kind to regain a four-point lead on aggregate, when Bellego nipped past the fast-trapping Kurtz on the back straight to lead Musielak to a 4-2.

Pirates’ chances were boosted for heat six when Ellis slipped off on bend one and was excluded.

The re-run was also pulled back by referee Graham Flint, with Andersen making a flier in white.

It was Doyle who reacted first at the third time of asking, leaving the Dane and Starke trailing from the tapes for a shared race.

Pirates were still very much in touch with Swindon at just 65-61 down. But the Robins took flight in race seven when Morris and Wilson-Dean jetted from the tapes to seal their first maximum over Kennett and Lahti.

Swindon should have surged to a second 5-1 in race eight, when Ellis flew past Holder to join Wilson-Dean at the front.

But the former Pirate crashed on lap four, bend three, allowing Holder and Starke through to snatch a 3-3 and keep their side within eight of Swindon.

Poole closed the gap to six in heat nine when former Robins racer Andersen triumphed over Musielak, with Shanes getting the better of Bellego superbly for third.

Pirates’ were given another lift in race 10, when Morris slipped off on bend three while holding a 5-1 with Carr.

The Aussie was excluded and Carr left alone against World Under-21 finalists Kurtz and Holder.

Incredibly, the plucky reserve out-trapped them again, but disaster struck for the young Brit, when he crashed on bend four, handing Poole the chance to score a massive 5-0.

With the boys in blue and white now one up on the night and just one down on aggregate, the comeback was on.

But Swindon slammed the brakes on the Pirates charge with a huge 5-1 from Wilson-Dean and Musielak over Starke and Kennett.

Now five points ahead, Robins had the chance to seal their final spot with two races to spare as their top two Doyle and Morris tackled Andersen and Kurtz in heat 13.

Swindon all but ended Pirates’ gallant challenge when Morris promptly got the better of Andersen on bend two. Despite having a World Championship to chase, Doyle had no fears about getting stuck in after missing the start.

First he blazed past Kurtz for third on turn three. He then wound the gas on and rocketed around Andersen on lap two, turn two to complete a 5-1 which saw Blunsdon breathe a huge sigh of relief.

Bellego and Wilson-Dean made mathematically certain of Robins’ final spot with a maximum over Shanes and Lahti in heat 14, before Morris and Musielak finished the job with a 4-2 over Andersen and Kurtz in heat 15.

Despite allowing Swindon a glossy 15-point aggregate win, Pirates left Blunsdon with their heads held high after giving their fans the chance to dream at the end of a season which threatened to become a nightmare.


SWINDON 51: 1 Jason Doyle (0-3-3-2*) 8+1, 2 Adam Ellis (2-X-F) 2, 3 Tobiasz Musielak (3-1-2-2*-1) 9+1, 4 David Bellego (1-3-0-3) 7, 5 Nick Morris (2-3-X-3-3) 11, 6 Bradley Wilson-Dean (3-2*-3-0-3-2*) 13+2, 7 Liam Carr (1-0-R) 1. Team manager: Alun Rossiter.

POOLE 38: 1 Brady Kurtz (3-2-3-0-0) 8, 2 Jack Holder (1-0-2-2*) 5+1, 3 Edward Kennett (0-1-2-0) 3, 4 Timo Lahti (2-R-1*-0) 3+1, 5 Hans Andersen (3-2-3-1-2) 11, 6 Paul Starke (2-1*-1*-1) 5+2, 7 James Shanes (0-1-1-1) 3. Team manager: Neil Middleditch.

Referee: Graham Flint.


Ht 1: Kurtz, Ellis, Holder, Doyle, 66.02 (2-4).

Ht 2: Wilson-Dean, Starke, Carr, Shanes, 66.46 (6-6).

Ht 3: Musielak, Lahti, Bellego, Kennett, 65.49 (10-8).

Ht 4: Andersen, Morris, Shanes, Carr, 66.95 (12-12).

Ht 5: Bellego, Kurtz, Musielak, Holder, 65.55 (16-14).

Ht 6: (second re-run) Doyle, Andersen, Starke, Ellis (f.exc), 66.36 (19-17).

Ht 7: Morris, Wilson-Dean, Kennett, Lahti (ret), 67.46 (24-18).

Ht 8: Wilson-Dean, Holder, Starke, Ellis (f), 67.34 (27-21).

Ht 9: Andersen, Musielak, Shanes, Bellego, 66.68 (29-25).

Ht 10: Doyle, Kennett, Lahti, Wilson-Dean, 66.87 (32-28).

Ht 11: (re-run) Kurtz, Holder, Carr (ret), Morris (f.exc), 72.41 (32-33).

Ht 12: Wilson-Dean, Musielak, Starke, Kennett, 67.02 (37-34).

Ht 13: Morris, Doyle, Andersen, Kurtz, 66.18 (42-35).

Ht 14: Bellego, Wilson-Dean, Shanes, Lahti, 67.21 (47-36).

Ht 15: Morris, Andersen, Musielak, Kurtz, 66.94 (51-38).


ON A night when nerves always jangle, Pirates needed a steady skipper to steer the ship.

Hans Andersen may not have been the fastest man on track at Blunsdon, but twice he proved the smartest with cool victories over Nick Morris in race four and Tobiasz Musielak in race nine.

He topped the scorechart on 11 points as he returned to his former stomping ground to sign off his season in style and give Pirates fans hope until the end.