RICHARD Lawson showed Plymouth Gladiators exactly what they were missing, as he fired in a paid maximum on his first competitive outing in the skull and crossbones.

The 36-year-old Poole asset originally looked set to join the Gladiators for this season, before arriving at Wimborne Road to sign for Pirates.

He recorded 13+2 from five rides as the visitors took the advantage 48-42 in an entertaining meeting in their Championship Knockout Cup quarter-final first leg at the Coliseum.

Steve Worrall (13) also impressed from the number one spot, as Poole put themselves in the box seat to progress ahead of tomorrow’s second leg at Wimborne Road.

Pirates had their full 2022 one-to-seven on track as a team together for the first time and they started their competitive campaign with a 4-2 heat advantage in race one.

Worrall surged into the first corner in front of home number two Ben Barker, with former Plymouth man Zach Cook chasing him home for Poole in third.

Gladiators’ number one Edward Kennett took a tumble and ended up in the air fence on the final lap at the back.

On the tight track in Devon, the hosts got the better of the reserves’ race. Plymouth’s Dan Gilkes just beat Drew Kemp out of the gate with Henry Atkins picking up a point for the hosts ahead of Nathan Ablitt at the back, to level it up.

Lawson then took the chequered flag in a shared heat three. He had to see off the challenge of Alfie Bowtell for the hosts, who tried to run wide to find some extra grip. He eventually ended up third behind Michael Palm Toft.

The hosts then stamped their authority on the meeting with a 5-1 in heat four. Atkins burst out of the gate to surprise team-mate Hans Andersen and Poole skipper Danny King, who failed to get through some expert team riding.

Gilkes was then called on for the home side after Palm Toft went through the tapes in heat five – and boy did he deliver.

Coming off gate three, he got the to the first bend alongside Bowtell. The speed of Worrall and Zach Cook then allowed them to pass Bowtell to earn a 3-3.

Plymouth then increased their advantage to six points on the night with Barker roaring round the outside to pass King on the opening lap of race six. Kennett left Kemp trailing at the back for third, with the hosts leading 21-15 at the first track grade.

Lawson continued to impress as he took the spoils in a shared heat seven – before Poole got their first maximum in race eight.

A reserve switch from team boss Neil Middleditch saw Kemp replace Ablitt – with the former taking the race win with Zach Cook, in a one-two ahead of Barker and Atkins.

A slick cutback from Gilkes, who was enjoying his night’s work at reserve, surprised former British champion King in race nine – Palm Toft then chased home the Poole captain for third but was unable to pass him. Plymouth led 29-25.

Poole’s Ben Cook then went through the tapes to continue his frustrating night’s work. He was replaced by Kemp, as tempers flared in the re-run.

Lawson made the gate with Barker finding extra grip and lifting down the back straight. The Pirates rider ended up in the air fence on turn three and was animated, pointing at Barker after the race was stopped.

With Barker excluded, Kemp and Lawson took advantage and levelled the meeting up at 30-30 with a 5-1 in race 10. Worrall picked up his second race win of the night in a level heat 11.

Lawson’s impressive night’s work continued as he got the better of Bowtell. Kemp finished ahead of Atkins as Pirates regained the lead at 37-35.

An astounding meeting for Gilkes then continued as Plymouth responded with a 4-2 of their own. The reserve flew out of the gate to get the better of Worrall, who managed to slip away from Andersen to claim the runner-up spot.

Drama then ensued as Gilkes, who had been warned for a previous unsatisfactory start, was excluded from the re-run in the penultimate race and replaced by Atkins.

Ben Cook then came to the party – passing Palm Toft with Ablitt picking up his first Pirates point, as Poole sealed a 4-2 and led by two going into the final-heat decider.

And it was Worrall and Lawson who held their nerve in the finale to give Poole a six-point advantage heading into tomorrow’s second leg.

Pirates 48: Worrall 13, Z Cook 4+2, Lawson 13+2, B Cook 3, King 5, Kemp 9, Ablitt 1.

Gladiators 42: Kennett 2, Barker 6, Bowtell 3+1, Palm-Toft 5, Andersen 6+3, Gilkes 16, Atkins 4.