PIRATES began their 2022 SGB Championship title defence with a dominant 58-32 home victory over Oxford Cheetahs at Wimborne Road.

Richard Lawson was again the star of the show for Neil Middleditch’s men, banging in another paid maximum with 13+2 from five rides as four of the hosts totalled double figures.

There were impressive displays from Steve Worrall (11+1), Danny King (10+1) and Drew Kemp (10+1).

Ahead of racing, those at Wimborne Road paid their respects in a minute’s silence following the death of legendary commentator Nigel Pearson, who died at the age of 52.

Reborn Oxford went into the contest without the services of Aussie Josh MacDonald – a member of Poole’s 2020 team that never was - through injury, meaning Nathan Stoneman came in as a guest at reserve.

Poole got off to the perfect start in the opening heat. Worrall and Zach Cook breezed away from Jack Thomas and Troy Batchelor from the gate, to seal a 5-1 race advantage.

Kemp took the spoils for the hosts in a shared reserves’ heat, after Stoneman and Dillon Ruml managed to get past home charger Nathan Ablitt.

But Middleditch’s side stamped their authority on proceedings with another maximum in race three. Ben Cook was let past by Lawson to take the chequered flag ahead of Kyle Newman and Cameron Heeps.

Ablitt then hit the dirt in heat four with all four riders back. Cheetahs skipper Scott Nicholls opened his account with a race win in the re-run ahead of opposite number Danny King and Ruml – as the visitors pulled two points back.

Lawson continued to impress after winning a shared heat five, before the visitors made a tactical substitute and brought in number one Batchelor to team up with Nicholls for race six.

The power-packed Cheetahs pair were thwarted, however. Worrall was gone from the gate to ensure Poole grabbed a 3-3 and led 21-15 on the night.

Newman was then excluded from race seven after taking a heavy fall on the first bend. Poole took their chance with the man advantage, with King and Kemp teaming up to see off the threat of Heeps.

Kemp however did not have a good time of it in race eight. The Great Britain youngster was left at the start after a chain issue which caused sparks.

However, Zach Cook held his nerve to ensure the race was level, after he led home Thomas and Ruml. Pirates led by 10 at the second track grading.

Lawson and Ben Cook continued to show their chemistry as a duo as they banged in another 5-1 in race nine ahead of Nicholls and Stoneman, to make the score 34-20 to the hosts.

Poole continued to dominate as Worrall sealed a hat-trick of race wins – Zach Cook was behind him in second, well ahead of Newman and Heeps as a bumper home crowd celebrated once again.

The hosts were dominant. Kemp then managed to cling on out in front after his bike lifted on turn two – by this point King had roared round the outside of Batchelor for another 5-1.

Drama then ensued in heat 12 as Stoneman took a heavy, somersaulting fall on the home straight after tangling with Ablitt. The Pirates charger was judged the cause of the stoppage and was excluded.

Stoneman was given a warm reception as he got to his feet after being checked over and was able to take his place in the re-run. Lawson continued a flawless night’s work to take the race win.

King was gone from the gate in the battle of the big guns in heat 13. Worrall saw off the challenge of Nicholls to take second in a race that went down to the wire.

Ben Cook was the next man to take a tumble when he was pushing hard to move through the field in the penultimate race. Kemp was ahead of Newman and Ruml as the race was awarded.

And Lawson’s sublime night’s work was capped off in the finale, when he took the race win to bank another paid maximum.

Poole make the trip to Beaumont Park to face Leicester tomorrow (7pm). 

Pirates 58: Worrall 11+1, Cook 7+2, Lawson 13+2, Cook 6, King 10+1, Kemp 11+1, Ablitt 0.

Oxford 32: Batchelor 3+2, Thomas 4+1, Heeps 3, Newman 4, Nicholls 9, Stoneman 3+1, Ruml 6+3.