POOLE Pirates produced a strong second half to ensure they took a lead into the second leg of their Championship play-off semi-final against Leicester.

Trailing after eight heats, Pirates stormed back to win three of the final seven, with the spoils shared in the others as the hosts won 48-42 on the night at the Wimborne Road.

New number one Steve Worrall led the charge with 12+1, ably supported by guest star Zach Cook’s 10+2.

Former Pirate Kyle Howarth was Lions’ top performer, with his 12 points ensuring the contest is nicely poised ahead of Saturday’s second leg.

Pirates, in action for the first time since defeating Leicester in the Knockout Cup semi-finals on September 29, named the same septet from that night.

That meant Zach Cook again guested in place of the injured Stefan Nielsen, but there was a reshuffle to the rider order following an October change to averages kicking in. Worrall took the number one jersey from Rory Schlein, while Danyon Hume moved up into the main body of the team, replaced by Benjamin Basso at reserve.

Leicester welcomed Chris Harris in as their guest for the injured Hans Andersen.

And Poole almost got off to the dream start. Nick Morris out in front saw his bike pack up in heat one, allowing Poole pair Worrall and Hume to burst through. But with the 5-1 on the cards, Ryan Douglas nipped ahead of Hume to split the duo in the final lap.

Pirates did extend their early lead with a maximum in heat two with Zach Cook leading home Basso.

However, that proved to be as good as it got during the early part of the night for the hosts as Leicester embarked on a run of six successive race wins.

Kyle Howarth burst through from third to first ahead of both Schlein and Ben Cook in a shared heat three, before Leicester’s first 5-1 of the evening led home by Harris, with Aussie Zaine Kennedy holding off Danny King.

Schlein did well to split the Lions pair of Morris and Douglas in heat five, but after Ben Cook fell, the 4-2 to Leicester levelled the meeting.

Lions then got their noses in front, Harris again out in front, with Worrall helping to reduce the damage by getting in ahead of Kennedy to take second.

The next two heats were shared, won by Howarth and Douglas, the former doing well to hold off a strong King challenge.

Trailing by two points, Pirates finally got back in the winner’s circle in heat nine. Schlein led from the front alongside Ben Cook, but the young Aussie was caught by Harris. However, ‘Bomber’ could not quite reel in Schlein as Pirates took the 4-2.

It was the same outcome in heat 10 as Poole moved back in front again. Worrall took the win ahead of in-form Howarth, with Hume doing well to keep Dan Thompson at bay.

Zach Cook then produced arguably the ride of the night. Pirates were dealt a blow when King was excluded having been deemed to have forced Douglas into the fence. Despite being slowest out the gate on the re-run, Zach Cook produced a brilliant move to dart between both Douglas and Morris to take the race win.

Pirates then got back in the ascendancy with a big maximum in heat 12 as Basso and Schlein eased to victory.

Lions were dealt a blow after the final track grading of the night, Harris’s engine failing to start at the tapes of heat 13. However, Morris held off King and Worrall to at least take a share of the spoils.

A strong showing from the Cook brothers ensured the six-point advantage remained heading into heat 15, after Ben Cook finally reeled in Kennedy to take third in the final lap.

And that is how it stayed after a third consecutive 3-3, Worrall winning heat 15 with Schlein at the back.

Pirates take a 48-42 advantage into Saturday’s second leg at Beaumont Park.

Pirates 48: Steve Worrall 12+1, Danyon Hume 2, Rory Schlein 8+2, Ben Cook 4+1, Danny King 5, Zach Cook 10+2, Benjamin Basso 7+1.

Leicester 42: Nick Morris 9+1, Ryan Douglas 8, Dan Thompson 0, Kyle Howarth 12, Chris Harris 8, Joe Thompson 0, Zaine Kennedy 5+1.