KNOCK OUT CUP FINAL
Eastbourne Eagles 59
Mildenhall Fen Tigers 31
Josh Bailey exacted his revenge on the Mildenhall Fen Tigers on Sunday with a 15-point maximum to put the Eastbourne Eagles within touching distance of winning a third successive National League Knock Out Cup.
After tasting defeat in a run-off while guesting for the Plymouth Devils against the West Row outfit in the National Trophy final, the Eagles’ number one ensured that the Sussex side sit in a commanding position ahead of Sunday’s second leg after racing to five straight wins.
Having overcome National League champions Belle Vue Colts 92-88 on Friday, the Fen Tigers quickly found themselves on the backfoot with Bailey and Charley Powell racing to an opening heat 5-1, before Drew Kemp shared the spoils with the visitors’ sole victory in heat two.
Luck was on the side of the hosts after referee Chris Gay excluded Jordan Jenkins in heat three, when sitting in third behind team-mate Luke Ruddick, for unfair riding, before ruling Kemp as the cause of a stoppage in heat four, turning two 3-3s into 5-1s for the hosts.
With heat three maximum men Georgie Wood and Tom Brennan teaming up for their second 5-1 of the meeting in heat five, followed by a 4-2 led home by Bailey in the next race, it left the Fen Tigers with a tall order that was to be beyond them.
Although the Fen Tigers shared the spoils in six of the next eight heats they failed to grab any kind of advantage, despite the best efforts of the fast starting Luke Ruddick in heats seven,10 and 14.
The meeting started as it finished with Bailey leading home a 5-1 which was backed up by the equally impressive Wood leaving the Fen Tigers with a mountain to climb in the second leg.
Ruddick said: “I just seemed to get the bike dialled in. It’s a hard place to come and I’ve only ridden in two meetings in the last month and a bit I was getting a good feel towards the end.
“I really enjoyed it and I was making the gates. Obviously as a team we would have liked to come away with more points, but it means we have just got to ride harder on Sunday.
Eastbourne Eagles 59: Josh Bailey 15, Charley Powell 6+1, Georgie Wood 14+1, Tom Brennan 9+3, Jake Knight 9, Jason Edwards 2, Matthew Bates 4+1.
Mildenhall Fen Tigers 31: Luke Harris (g) 2+1, Dan Halsey r/r, Jordan Jenkins 4+3, Luke Ruddick 7, Jon Armstrong 8, Alex Spooner 0, Drew Kemp 10+2.