PIRATES produced a thrilling comeback to defeat Leicester Lions and progress into the Knockout Cup final.

Trailing by eight points following first-leg defeat at Beaumont Park, it took Poole until heat 11 at Wimborne Road to level the contest on aggregate.

And the hosts produced a strong finish to power to a 55-35 victory on the night, triumphing 96-84 on aggregate.

Poole, who were led by Steve Worrall’s scintillating 15-point maximum, will face either Edinburgh Monarchs or Glasgow Tigers in the final as their hopes of a league and cup double remain alive.

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Poole were once again without the injured Stefan Nielsen, with Zach Cook, brother of Pirates’ ace Ben, guesting at reserve. Benjamin Basso was passed fit to ride despite crashing out of last week’s win over Redcar with rib damage.

Leicester, who finished third in the Championship table, two places and seven points behind Pirates, operated rider replacement for Dan Thompson. The youngster missed out due to illness.

After a shared opening heat, won by Nick Morris, Pirates recorded a big 5-1 in heat two to halve the deficit in the tie.

Guest Zach Cook and rising star Danyon Hume both got out the gate well and team rode to a comfortable victory.

Aussie Ryan Douglas appeared to move on the start line in heat three, but racing was allowed to continue with Worrall producing a big sweep around the outside on bend four of lap one. He would not relinquish his lead with the spoils shared as Ben Cook trailed at the back.

Pirates would have been pinning hopes on Danny King reducing the aggregate arrears in heat four. However, the skipper, so prolific around Wimborne Road in recent weeks, broke through the tapes and had to start with a 15-metre handicap in the re-run.

He managed to battle back to overtake teammate Hume, but Zaine Kennedy held firm when the pair went wheel-to-wheel in the final lap, with Leicester claiming a maximum to level the contest at 12-12 on the night before the first track grading break.

Worrall then continued his strong start to the night. After battling hard with Lions’ number one Morris throughout the first lap, the Merseysider nipped ahead on bend four, supported by Ben Cook in third with the heat win cutting the aggregate score to 63-57 to the Lions.

Poole extended their lead on the night in a re-run heat six. After Hans Andersen was warned for an unsatisfactory start, Rory Schlein got away well. Basso did what he could to push ahead of Andersen into second, but had to settle for third with Kennedy doing well to stay on the bike after wobbling as he looked to get ahead of Basso at the back.

But Lions roared straight back to deal Poole a major blow with their second maximum of the night. Douglas and skipper Kyle Howarth got out the gate well and after King lost speed, straightening up as he attempted to overtake on bend four of lap one, he could not recover to challenge.

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Leicester looked well set for consecutive maximums in a thrilling heat eight. After Hume lost second spot, it was left to Basso to produce two brilliant passes, including one on the inside to get ahead of Howarth and rescue a share of the spoils with a race win.

Pirates knew they needed a big spell of results after the second track grading pause, and they most certainly got it. Ben Cook set the tone with a brilliant start off the inside in heat nine, and while teammate Worrall overtook him, the pair held off Andersen for a much-needed maximum.

A thrilling heat 10 was shared as Howarth just about held off Schlein, before Basso edged ahead of Douglas to nick third.

And the tie was levelled on aggregate as Poole recorded another maximum in heat 11. King picked up his first race win of the night, ahead of Zach Cook as the semi-final went 78-78.

Disaster then struck for Leicester as Pirates moved ahead. The race appeared to be heading for a 4-2 to Poole, only for Douglas to fall, gifting the hosts back-to-back 5-1s, with Worrall awarded the race win.

And the maximums just kept on coming, with a stunning heat 12. Morris gated well, but King got around the outside on bend two and, after multiple failed attempts, Schlein finally got his man in the final lap to open up an 88-80 advantage.

Poole then secured their spot in the final with a shared heat 14 as the Cook brothers split the Leicester pair.

And, fittingly, Pirates ended the night with another maximum led home by rider of the night Worrall ahead of Schlein.

Pirates 55 (96): Rory Schlein 11+2 (2, 3, 2, 2+1, 2+1), Benjamin Basso 6+2 (1, 1+1, 3, 1+1), Steve Worrall 15 (3, 3, 3, 3, 3), Ben Cook 5+1 (0, 1, 2+1, 2), Danny King 8 (1, 1, 3, 3), Zach Cook 8+3 (3, 0, 2+1, 2+1, 1+1), Danyon Hume 2+1 (2+1, 0, 0).

Leicester 35 (84): Nick Morris 8 (3, 2, 1, 1, 1), Ryan Douglas 4+1 (2, 2+1, 0, 0), Kyle Howarth 12+1 (1+1, 3, 2, 3, 3, 0), Hans Andersen 6 (3, 2, 1, 0), Joe Thompson 1 (0, 0, 0, 1), Zaine Kennedy 4+1 (0, 1, 2, 0, 1+1, 0).