Elite League play-off semi-final second leg: Poole Pirates 47, King’s Lynn Stars 43 (Poole win 92-87 on aggregate)
- Credit: Denis Murphy
Brave Lynn's dreams of lifting their first Elite League title finally came to an end at a drenched Wimborne Road tonight.
At the fourth time of asking, Poole finally hosted the play-off semi-final second leg and won by four points on the night to book their fifth consecutive appearance in the British scene's showcase – something Lynn have never experienced. And although they triumphed by five across both legs it fails to tell the full story of a heroic Stars' effort that left team boss Rob Lyon brimming with pride.
As the rain poured down conditions became almost unrideable in Dorset with riders barely able to see let alone turn a corner properly. Yet Lyon's heroes kept digging and digging and hung in there and would have drawn on the night had fortune not deserted them again.
Captain Rory Schlein and Kenneth Bjerre were on a 5-1 until the former's engine packed up for the second time during the meeting which gifted the hosts a win they had to fight all the way to achieve. While the visitors only bagged two heat victories on the night it wasn't through a lack of effort as in the end a season that promised so much ultimately delivered nothing.
After the farce of three failed attempts, at least the wet weather stayed away until the sixth heat before it wiped out any sort of home advantage – just like it had in the first leg which Poole won by a point at Lynn on September 29.
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As the first drops started to fall the Stars were four points down – and five on aggregate – in the decider. And while many thought they would wilt in the ensuing bog, they rolled up their sleeves. First, Schlein – just after brave guest Chris Harris had picked up Lynn's first race win of the night – and Bjerre bagged the away team's maiden heat advantage to close the gap.
Jason Garrity came from third to first to win the seventh, although how he saw a path by two bikes was a miracle in itself. A couple of shared heats kept the men from Nelson's County in it until they threatened the most sensational of comebacks.
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Brendan Johnson fell as racers struggled to deal with the downpour and the Pirates' overall advantage was reduced to just one. Yet it was in the 10th when it was, in reality, lost, with Eddie Kennett pulling off the ride of his life to lift the roof off the home of the champions.
The Poole guest blasted his way to the front as Schlein's machinery failed on him and Poole's 4-2 restored their three-point aggregate advantage. While the Stars didn't roll over by any means, that was the moment that everybody inside the stadium knew the fightback was off.
With the track getting less safe by the minute there was a delay while referee Christina Turnbull threatened to abandon proceedings. However, the action continued with some riders opting to remove their goggles so they could actually see.
In the end, the vision of a Lynn victory disappeared as Maciej Janowski, nicknamed Magic, showed a bit of wizardry in the 11th to miraculously hug the inside bend and turn a 5-1 deficit into a shared one. It really was the final nail in his former club's coffin.
Lyon's troops refused to be handed a death sentence as they kept things interesting with all of the seven riders doing their utmost. Danny King's pass on Garrity in the 14th sucked the life out of the clash with Lynn needing a rare 5-0 to take it to a race-off. It wasn't to be as Schlein packed up while in second, just yards behind Bjerre, and the Stars' hopes of travelling to Coventry for the first leg of the final this evening faded away for another season.
Poole: T Batchelor 4+1, E Kennett 8, S Pawlicki 7+1, D King 6+1, M Janowski 10, B Johnson 1, K Newman 11+1
Lynn: K Bjerre 7, R Lambert 5+1, C Harris 11+1, S Robson 3, R Schlein 4+1, J Garrity 11+1, S Lambert 2+1