Poole Pirates makes an exciting comeback to reach the Cup Final
PIRATES produced an exciting comeback to defeat Leicester Lions and advance to the Knockout Cup final.
Eight points behind after the first leg loss at Beaumont Park, it took Poole until the 11th inning at Wimborne Road to tie the game overall.
And the hosts produced a solid finish to clinch a 55-35 victory on the night, triumphing 96-84 overall.
Poole, who was led by Steve Worrall’s scintillating 15-point max, will face either the Edinburgh Monarchs or the Glasgow Tigers in the final as their hopes of a league and Cup double remain alive.
Poole was once again without injured Stefan Nielsen with Zach Cook, brother of Pirate ace Ben, guest in reserve. Benjamin Basso has been deemed fit to drive despite falling in last week’s victory over Redcar with rib damage.
Leicester, who finished third in the Championship standings, two places and seven points behind Pirates, replaced Dan Thompson. The youngster did not succeed because of an illness.
After a split opener, won by Nick Morris, the Pirates posted a big 5-1 in set two to halve the tie deficit.
Guest Zach Cook and rising star Danyon Hume both made it through the door well and the team took a comfortable victory.
Australian Ryan Douglas appeared to move to the start line in the third heat, but the race was allowed to continue with Worrall producing a big sweep around the outside on turn four of the first lap. He wouldn’t give up his lead with the shared booty as Ben Cook trailed behind.
The pirates would have bet on Danny King to reduce the backlog accumulated in the fourth round. However, the skipper, so prolific around Wimborne Road in recent weeks, broke the tapes and had to walk away with a 15-meter handicap on the restart.
He managed to fight to pass his teammate Hume, but Zaine Kennedy held on as the pair clashed in the final round, with Leicester pushing for a maximum to tie the contest at 12-12 the night before the first assessment of the track. Pause.
Worrall then continued his good start to the evening. After struggling fiercely with Lions number one Morris throughout the first lap, the Merseysider took the lead in turn four, backed by Ben Cook in third with the Heat victory reducing the overall score to 63- 57 for the Lions.
Poole extended his lead overnight in a resumption of the sixth inning. After Hans Andersen was cautioned for an unsatisfactory start, Rory Schlein fared well. Basso did what he could to get ahead of Andersen in second but had to settle for third with Kennedy doing well to stay on the bike after wobbling as he looked to get past Basso at the back.
But the Lions roared right away to deal Poole a hard blow with their second maximum of the night. Douglas and skipper Kyle Howarth got out of the gate well and after King lost speed, straightening up as he tried to pass on turn four on lap one, he couldn’t recover to challenge.
Leicester looked well positioned for consecutive maximums in a thrilling eighth of the race. After Hume lost second place, it was left to Basso to produce two brilliant runs, including one inside to get ahead of Howarth and save a share of the booty with a race victory.
The Hackers knew they needed a big batch of results after the second track scoring break, and they most certainly got it. Ben Cook set the tone with a brilliant start on the inside in the ninth inning, and while teammate Worrall passed him the pair held off Andersen to a much-needed maximum.
A thrilling 10 heat was shared as Howarth pretty much held off Schlein, before Basso edged out Douglas to take third place.
And the tie was leveled overall as Poole recorded another high in round 11. King claimed his first race win of the night, ahead of Zach Cook in the semi-final was 78- 78.
Disaster then struck Leicester as the pirates moved forward. The race seemed to be headed for a 4-2 against Poole, only for Douglas to fall, offering the back-to-back hosts 5-1, with Worrall taking the win.
And the highs kept coming, with blistering 12 heat. Morris did well, but King rounded the outside in turn two and, after several failed attempts, Schlein finally got his man on the last lap to open a 88-80 advantage.
Poole then secured his place in the final with a shared heat 14 as the Cook brothers parted ways with the Leicester pair.
And, rightly so, Pirates ended the evening with another maximum led home by evening runner Worrall ahead of Schlein.
Pirates 55 (96): Rory Schlein 11 + 2 (2, 3, 2, 2 + 1, 2 + 1), Benjamin Basso 6 + 2 (1, 1 + 1, 3, 1 + 1), Steve Worrall 15 (3, 3, 3, 3, 3), Ben Cook 5 + 1 (0, 1, 2 + 1, 2), Danny King 8 (1, 1, 3, 3), Zach Cook 8 + 3 (3, 0, 2 + 1, 2 +1, 1 + 1), Danyon Hume 2 + 1 (2 + 1, 0, 0).
Leicester 35 (84): Nick Morris 8 (3, 2, 1, 1, 1), Ryan Douglas 4 + 1 (2, 2 + 1, 0, 0), Kyle Howarth 12 + 1 (1 + 1, 3, 2, 3, 3, 0), Hans Andersen 6 (3, 2, 1, 0), Joe Thompson 1 (0, 0, 0, 1), Zaine Kennedy 4 + 1 (0, 1, 2, 0, 1 + 1, 0).