POOLE Comets took a giant step nearer to retaining the Charity Shield Knockout Cup after winning the regional play-offs against Horspath, Newport and Exeter.

Comets claimed the four-team contest by 16 points to qualify for the national finals, which will be held in Manchester on September 22.

Poole used their home-track advantage to see off a spirited challenge from Horspath, who kept the pressure on throughout the match.

Two points ahead of the Oxford side after 12 races, Poole’s unbeaten home record looked to be in some danger.

But they showed their class by winning the next four races to open an eight-point lead by the halfway mark.

The hosts started the second half with race wins from Jay Briggs, Aaron Smith and Ben Mould, after which the result was never in any doubt as Comets cruised to victory.

Comets had the man of the match in world champion Ben Mould, who scored a perfect four-race maximum. Skipper Wil Bristowe posted one of his best performances of the season, while Fraser Garnett delivered a blistering 15 points from the reserve berth.

Team manager Colin Sutton said: “It was an exceptional team performance which was epitomised by the fact that with every single rider in the team contributed at least one heat win. We only failed to finish first or second in five of the 32 races.

“The national final is bound to be a hard match, but on this form we have nothing to be afraid of.”

Result: Poole 108, Horspath 92, Newport 61, Exeter 56.

Comets: Ben Mould 16, Wil Bristowe 15, Fraser Garnett 15, Aaron Smith 13, Matt Mildon 12, Greg Gluchowski 11, Keiran Yeatman 10, Nathan Goulden 9, Jay Briggs 7.

Comets will be looking to continue their unbeaten home run and stay top of the league standings this coming Sunday when they take on Leicester in a league match at the Harbourside raceway (2pm).

Poole’s women will also be in action this weekend, with teams racing in the British girls under-16 and the British Women’s Club championship.