Sunday July 24, 2022
LEICESTER have finished top of the Championship for the second time in three seasons.

The Watling JCB Lions defeated Berwick 55-35 at the Paul Chapman & Sons Arena to leave themselves uncatchable by their rivals, who are now left to fight for the other automatic ticket to the play-off semi-finals.

And by virtue of finishing top, Lions will have the benefit of choosing their own semi-final opponents from the quarter-final winners later in the season.

They got the job done in fine style against the Bandits with few nervous moments – despite the absence of team manager Stewart Dickson, who had to miss the meeting due to illness.

Co-promoter Marc Bates stepped in and enjoyed a straightforward evening as the Lions took early control to go ten points up after five races.

Skipper Kyle Howarth and Richie Worrall were both unbeaten from their first four rides, only to see their maximum hopes thwarted by a brilliant opening lap from Berwick No.1 Chris Harris in Heat 15.

But that was Harris’s only victory, with the visitors’ only other successes coming from Ricky Wells in the penultimate race, Leon Flint with a good ride to defeat Lions guest Richard Lawson in Heat 6, and their own guest – Lion Cubs regular Connor Coles in Heat 2, when Leicester’s Joe Thompson suffered a puncture whilst he was challenging for the lead.

Worrall twice combined with Dan Thompson for 5-1s, the second of which was dramatic in Heat 5 as Thompson produced a tremendous burst to go around Harris off the fourth bend, and proceeded to keep the treble British Champion behind him.

And Harris was also defeated by Lions reserve Max Clegg who rode a superb first two turns in Heat 11 to pass both Harris and Howarth, with the Lions captain tucking into second place for the remainder of the race.

That was the last of four Leicester 5-1s, with Connor Mountain providing plenty of entertainment in Heat 8 as he worked his way from last to first, getting the better of Coles and Nathan Stoneman to team up with Joe Thompson.

Worrall eased out Jye Etheridge on the first lap of Heat 12 to reel off his fourth win, and Howarth was all-action as he used the outside line to fire his way past Harris and Flint in Heat 13 and remain unbeaten, only for Harris to have the final say in the finale – albeit far too late to affect the overall result.

Howarth said: “It’s a great result, and it’s a great season all in all. To finish top is one of the main goals, and it takes a bit of pressure off us now.

“The main job was to get three points, and we can sit back a bit now and see what happens with the other teams in the play-offs.

“It was nice to see Max get some points on the board and get his confidence going, that’s what he needs and when we got the 5-1 together he won and he had speed and he looked great. I think if he can get a few more of them under his belt, he’ll be away.”

With league matters now parked for the immediate future, the Lions now turn their attentions back to the Championship Jubilee League with Redcar the visitors next Saturday.

LEICESTER 55: Richie Worrall 13+1, Kyle Howarth 13+1, Richard Lawson 8, Dan Thompson 6+2, Connor Mountain 6+1, Max Clegg 6+1, Joe Thompson 3+1.
BERWICK 35: Chris Harris 11, Leon Flint 7+2, Ricky Wells 7, Connor Coles 5+1, Jye Etheridge 4+1, Nathan Stoneman 1, Theo Pijper 0.

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