PIRATES said goodbye to legend Bjarne Pedersen and opened their campaign with a 55-35 victory over Peterborough Panthers in the process.

Zach Cook (10+2) impressed for the hosts having dropped down to reserve for the evening at Wimborne Road, with Danny King (10) also reaching double figures.

Pirates went into the contest with six of their 2022 one-to-seven in the team line-up, with the other in youngster Nathan Ablitt chosen to represent the Panthers at reserve.

That meant Dorset star Kyle Newman came into the Poole line-up for one night only.

Peterborough were without ex-Pirate Ben Basso for the encounter, with Alfie Bowtell coming in as a guest in place of Chris Harris.

Both sides applauded as Pirates legend Pedersen did his farewell laps ahead of the meeting, before racing got underway.

Ben Cook started the new campaign in sublime form in heat one, leading from tapes to flag to claim the race win ahead of Peterborough’s Hans Andersen. Steve Worrall was in third as the hosts opened the new season with a 4-2.

It was then the turn of Zach Cook to take the race win in heat two. Having trailed youngster Jordan Palin, the Aussie slid under to pass him on turn two and ensure the spoils were shared.

Another race win then came for Poole in heat three. Skipper King picked up where he left off in 2021 at Wimborne Road to ease to victory ahead of Ulrich Ostergaard. Newman was third as the hosts extended to four points their advantage.

The first 5-1 maximum came as Pirates turned the screw in heat four. Richard Lawson and Zach Cook teamed up for a one-two, with the latter digging in to see off the challenge of seven-time British Champion Scott Nicholls.

The Premiership champions then responded immediately, however. Michael Palm Toft was followed home by Andersen – they were streets ahead of Poole duo King and Newman.

Panthers then came to the fore once again in heat six to level up the contest. Palin led from the front with Nicholls in second, having passed Worrall with Ben Cook trailing at the back. The sides were all square at 18-18.

Just when they looked on the ropes, Kemp and Lawson helped Pirates respond with a 5-1 themselves. Great Britain youth international Kemp sealing his first win in Pirates colours this season – with Ostergaard and Bowtell left trailing.

The Cook brothers then teamed up for another 5-1 for the home side in race eight, with Zach yet to be beaten by an opposition rider all evening. Andersen was third with Ablitt struggling at the back. Pirates led 28-20.

King showed his class to take the chequered flag in race nine and see off the challenge of second-placed Nicholls. Newman’s third spot took the hosts 10 points ahead.

Poole continued to get it all their own way as the meeting progressed with Ben Cook flying out the gate and leaving Panthers Ostergaard and Bowtell for dust. Worrall was second as the hosts recorded a fourth straight race advantage.

Panthers broke that streak in race 11 with neither Lawson or Kemp able to lay a glove on a classy ride from Andersen – the Pirates duo occupying the minor placings.

Zach Cook continued his impressive night’s work as he slid up the inside on bend two to join race winner Danny King in heat 12 ahead of Ostergaard and Palin. The hosts led 45-27 with the Aussie on a paid maximum from four rides.

Heat 13 was then sponsored in honour of the late Gordon Day at Wimborne Road – with Nicholls picking up a trophy for claiming the race win ahead of Worrall and Lawson.

With Kemp gone from the gate in the penultimate race, Newman looked to pass Bowtell but failed to find the speed on the home straight. Pirates still picked up a 4-2 with Ablitt’s difficult night’s work continuing.

Worrall recorded his first race win of the night in a level final heat, as Poole sealed victory on a night they said goodbye to Danish icon Pedersen, who did his final lap at the end of proceedings.

Pirates 55: Worrall 9+1, B Cook 8+1, King 10, Newman 3, Lawson 8+2, Kemp 7+1, Z Cook 10+2.

Panthers 35: Palm Toft 3, Andersen 10+1, Ostergaard 5, Bowtell 2, Nicholls 9+2, Palin 5, Ablitt 1+1.