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Kent Kings 45-43 Rye House Rockets
Kent Kings 45-43 Rye House Rockets

The “new normal” is a term we’re all becoming familiar with in recent years and, The Old Gun Site is no different, the new NORA normal for Kent was once again on show as The Kings took on Rye House in the Kent/Herts trophy.

Those new norms, close exciting racing, scores close throughout a hard-fought meeting, raising the profile of getting the name of a defunct media interest and best of all a last heat decider – and for the third meeting in succession all of these boxes were ticked. 

Both teams were weakened before the action got underway as James Laker (partner expecting a baby) for Kent and Charley Powell (injured racing Grasstrack) for Rye House both withdrawing in the run up to the meeting and Rider Replacement being allowed to be spread across the remaining riders meant we were set for several clashes between the big guns, and they didn’t disappoint. 

The racing started as many a Kent meeting has over the years with Ben Morley going tapes to flag and getting the better of not just the opposition number 1 Dayle Wood but also the onset of jet lag as he landed from holiday at 3:40am! It was however the Rockets who took the early advantage with a maximum heat win in the second race Dayle Wood and the evergreen Rob Hollingworth teaming up over Jack Kingston after Nathan Hargrave came to grief in the first staging of the race. 

The Kings made their mark on the match in heats 4 and 5 with back-to-back heat advantages, the first in an eventful fourth race which turned into a straight match race between Morley and Wood after Henning Loof fell on the first corner and was disqualified as the primary cause of the stoppage, but for the Kings their chance to capitalise fully wasn’t to be realised as Jack Kingston shed a chain on the start line and was not under power at the time of the stoppage. Morley made it two out of two over Wood for a 3-2 heat win and a 4-2 quickly followed in the 5th from captain Rhys Naylor and Nathan Hargrave to leave the scores 14-15 in the visitors’ favour. 

One man for the Rockets who returned to grace his 2023 home was Nathan Ablitt and he was in sublime form and dominated the middle part of this contest winning three out of the next four races on his way to a 17-point haul and the fastest of those wins came in the sixth race as he lowered the colours of Ben Morley for the only time on the afternoon and by the end of Ablitt’s affliction the Rockets were five points clear with six heats to go. 

The match changed in the tenth and eleventh races as the hosts hit hard with successive maximum heat advantages to move Kent three points clear. The first came from Ben Morley and captain Rhys Naylor raced to a maximum heat advantage after the lively Dayle Wood fell whilst in to allow Naylor through, this reduced the deficit to a single point. The Kings then moved three points ahead in the next race courtesy of Ben Morley and Sam Woods taking the maximum heat advantage. Rockets number six Chris Laidlaw took a heavy fall at the end of the third lap while last caused the race to be stopped, Laidlaw was to take no further part in the action. A similar fate was to befell the Kings in the next race, when Jack Kingston lifted and fell on the home straight hitting the fence to take the no further part in the meeting. 

If the first twelve races had been dramatic, things reached fever pitch in the final race. Heat 13 got underway, and Rhys Naylor chased Dayle Wood, down the backstraight and as the duo entered the third corner there was contact, and the home captain came down. Initially Naylor was judged but then the decision was reversed, and Rhys was allowed back in for the re-run which was won by Wood from Naylor and Henning Loof, the 4-2 in favor of the visitors left the scores level with two races to go. A shared penultimate race set up the big last race decider.

Battle born Ablitt made the start and led the Kings duo of Morley and Wood with Loof limping around at the bike on a sick sounding machine. At the start of the third lap Morley made a move inside Ablitt down the home straight and took the lead down the home straight and set off for the win and it was the Kings who reigned on this Father’s Day spectacular winning 45-43.

Kent 45

B. Morley 3 3 2 3 3 3 17

S. Woods 0 1’ 1’ 0 2’ 2 1 7+3

J. Kingston 1 X 2 2 FX 5

N. Hargrave FX 1 0 1’ 2 4

R. Naylor 2 3 2 2’ 2 1’ 12+2

J. Laker Rider Replacement

Rye House 43

D. Wood 2 3 2 3 0 3 13

H. Loof 1 FX 2 1 1 1 0 6+1

C. Powell Rider Replacement

R. Hollingworth 2’ 0 1 1 3 7+1

N. Ablitt 3 3 3 3 3 2 17

C. Laidlaw 0 0 0 FX NS 0

  1. Morley, Wood, Loof, Woods 61.4 (3-3)
  2. (re-run) Wood, Hollingworth, Kingston, Hargrave 61.0 (4-8)
  3. Ablitt, Naylor, Woods, Laidlaw 60.2 (7-11)
  4. (re-run) Morley, Wood, Loof (FX) Kingston (exc.) 60.8 (10-13)
  5. Naylor, Loof, Hargrave, Hollingworth 62.2 (14-15)
  6. Ablitt, Morley, Woods, Laidlaw 60.0 (17-18)
  7. Wood, Kingston, Loof, Hargrave 60.5 (19-22)
  8. Ablitt, Naylor, Hollingworth, Woods 60.1 (21-26)
  9. Ablitt, Kingston, Hargrave, Laidlaw 60.4 (24-29)
  10. Morley, Naylor, Loof, Wood (F/rem) 61.7 (29-30)
  11. Morley, Woods, Hollingworth, Laidlaw (FX) AWD (34-31)
  12. Ablitt, Hargrave, Kingston (FX) Laidlaw (NS) AWD (36-34)
  13. (re-run) Wood, Naylor, Loof, Hargrave (F/rem) 61.3 (38-38)
  14. Hollingworth, Woods (F/rem) Naylor (F/rem) 3 riders only 68.7 (41-41)
  15. Morley, Ablitt, Wood, Loof 61.9 (45-42)