King’s Lynn 48, Poole 45
Lynn team boss Rob Lyon admitted his men threw away their chances of building a major first leg lead in tonight's Elite League play-off semi-final against Poole.
The Stars were 11 points ahead entering the final stages of the televised Norfolk Arena meeting before the Pirates' 'dream team' Chris Holder and Darcy Ward hit back in style. Former Lynn ace Ward and high class compatriot Holder won two of the final three tours to put Poole firmly in command ahead of next week's second leg return. Lyon is refusing to give up the fight, but conceded Lynn need a hurclean effort heading to the south coast with only a slender three point lead.
'We threw it away, didn't we?,' said Lyon. 'To get into that position when we had done all the hard work, it was a shame. I honestly felt looking at the rest of the programme after heat ten we could pull a good lead. The turning point was heat 11 when (Kevin) Wolbert came alive. We hit back but in heats 13 and 15 you can't take it away from the Aussie boys – they were a class above. That was the difference. We have world class riders as well but on the night they were head and shoulders above anybody.
'We felt early on that we could repel the challenge and it was working quite well but fair play to Poole, they came back at us really well. I thought they might crumble after about ten heats but credit to them. We have done that before away from home this season. We have got a three point lead and we have to go with the attitude of winning the meeting – and getting the boys up for it.'
Holder smoothly trapped ahead of Kenneth Bjerre to dictate the opener in an ominous sign for the hosts. Sam Masters replied before skipper Olly Allen looked impressively swift in heat three. Masters briefly headed more illustrious compatriot Ward in the next only for the pair to defer to Niels Kristian Iversen – Ward winding it on for a thrilling top bend assault. Holder oozed class in another sub-60 second tour prior to Ward starring in a second crackerjack joust.
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Lynn's Bjerre boys trapped to initially head the World U21 champion but Ward squeezed inside Lasse to launch a ferocious onslaught on his elder sibling – Kenneth holding firm to ease Lynn into an eight point lead.
Ward and Iversen stole the headlines in heat seven again, but the real story was Thomas Jonasson edging a gruelling battle with Filip Sitera for the minor spoils. The excellent Masters maturely threw his machine in front of Lynn old boy Kevin Doolan to dip into Lasse Bjerre's tyre tracks for an opening full house for the Stars.
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Pirates' chief Neil Middleditch deployed Ward on a tactical mission and the young prodigy obliged with a stunning trap to head Allen and Mads Korneliussen. Lynn responded with Kenneth Bjerre and Danish U21 champion Lasse powering away from Wolbert to ease Lyon's men into an 11 point lead.
Wolbert re-appeared swiftly on a reserve switch that paid full dividends as bodyguard Holder frustrated Iversen. Masters and Allen superbly thwarted the marauding Wolbert to huge cheers from the home fans but Holder and Ward wrestled back the initiative in a heavyweight heat 13 - the Aussies gating in tandem to trap Bjerre senior in a visiting pincer. Jonasson's lock up in the penultimate heat gifted Lynn a share of the spoils before the magnificent Holder and Ward shut out Iversen and Kenneth Bjerre in the finale to leave Poole heavy favourites to progress on home shale.
• Stars: K Bjerre 9, L Bjerre 7+2, Allen 8+2, Korneliussen 6+1, Iversen 7, Sitera 2+1, Masters 9+1.
• Poole: Holder 14+1, Doolan 1, Jonasson 3, Ward 17+2, Wolbert 10, Risager 0.