Kent Kings 50-37 Plymouth Gladiators
Kent Kings 50-37 Plymouth Gladiators

The Kent TouchTec Kings opened their home National League [NL] account with a 50-37 win over the Plymouth Gladiators in a hard fought encounter on Monday evening.

Although never headed, it took the Kings until the latter stages of the meeting to finally shake the visitors off their tails with the Devonians keeping hitting back with heroics from some unlikely sources -, in particular former Kent rider Adam Sheppard, who after his first three races was unbeaten by an opponent.

The star of the show for the home side was undoubtedly 17-year-old heat leader, Anders Rowe. The Swindon-based teenager registered a paid 15 point maximum, which included four heat wins -, the first of which came in the fastest time of the season around Central Park, a sizzling 56.9 in heat three.

The meeting started well for the home side as two maximum heat advantages in the opening three races, put the TouchTec Kings eight points to the good, setting the hosts on the right course for victory against the side from the Naval city. In between the two maximums was a quite outstanding reserves race, which saw visiting rider Jamie Bursill go from first to last, after he made the start he was passed firstly by his team mate, Sheppard, and then Kent reserve Jacob Clouting got by Bursill at the end of the first lap. Nathan Ablitt and the aforementioned Bursill then had a battle for third for the rest of the race before the Kent man got past his rival at the start of the last lap.

There was a dramatic heat four, which at one point set whispers going of a recurrence of the infamous 0-0 heat result from 2014. As the tapes went up Ablitt’s bike ground to a halt then, going into the third bend former Kent favourite Nathan Stoneman lost control and took an awkward tumble, so with both riders disqualified – Stoneman as the cause of the stoppage and Ablitt for not being under power at the time of the stoppage -, this left a match race between Kent captain Rob Ledwith and Adam Sheppard.  This rerun asted until the first corner when Ledwith gained extra drive and took a spill, earning an exclusion. The result was a second race win of the evening for the returning Sheppard, completing four laps on his own.

With the gap at five points, Kent registered two 4-2’s to extend their lead; before Plymouth hit back in Heat 8 with a 5-1 of their own.  This came with Adam Extance taking the win after he was superbly shepherded home by Sheppard! Kent restored the lead to 9 points with a 5-1 in the ninth heat from Rowe and Jordan Jenkins.  However the lead was to be cut again – Plymouth took 4-2 heat advantages either side of the interval break.

The race directly preceding the interval, was dramatic as Kent number one Drew Kemp fell in the first corner, and was adjudged to be the cause of the stoppage. The restart was won, by the visiting skipper, Richard Andrews who recently helped the Kings clinch the National Trophy.

The final three races was where the home side turned the screw with a 5-1 and two 4-2’s to seal the victory. Captain Rob Ledwith said “it was great to get the win, and from here we move forward with the league campaign.”

Kent move onto Knock-Out Cup fixtures with Belle Vue Colts now – the first leg is to be held at the National Speedway Stadium in Manchester on Thursday (20/6), with the second leg back at Central Park, next Monday (24/6). In between that the TouchTec Kings welcome back Luke Bowen as they visit Swindon on Sunday (23/6) in the first leg of the Inter-County Challenge.

Kent TouchTec Kings   50

Drew Kemp   3, 3, FX, 2′   8+1

Alex Spooner   2′, 1, 0, M 3+1

Anders Rowe  3, 3, 2′, 3, 3   14+1 [PM]

Jordan Jenkins   2′, 0, 3, 3, 1 9+1

Rob Ledwith – FX, 3, 2, 3   8

Jacob Clouting   2, 1, 0, 1 4

Nathan Ablitt  1′, R, 1, 2, F  4+1

Plymouth Gladiators   37

Ben Wilson   0, 1′, 3, 1 5+1

Adam Extance   1, 2, 3, 1, 0 7

Scott Campos   0, F, 1, 2 3

Richard Andrews   1, 2, 3, 2, 2 10

Nathan Stoneman   FX, 2, 1 3

Jamie Bursill   0, 0, 0, 1′      1+1

Adam Sheppard   3, 3, 2′, 0, 0  8+1

Heat details

1 (rerun) Kemp, Spooner, Extance, Wilson  58.1 [5-1]

2 Sheppard, Clouting, Ablitt, Bursill   61.3 [8-4]

3 Rowe, Jenkins, Andrews, Campos  56.9 [13-5]

4 (rerun twice) Sheppard, Ledwith (fell exc.), Stoneman (fell exc.), Ablitt (ret.)  63.6 [13-8]

5 Rowe, Extance, Wilson, Jenkins 57.8  [16-11]

6 Kemp, Stoneman, Spooner, Bursill  58.6 [20-13]

7 (rerun): Ledwith, Andrews, Clouting, Campos (fell)  58.8 [24-15]

8 Extance, Sheppard, Ablitt, Spooner  61.3 [25-20]

9 Jenkins, Rowe, Stoneman, Bursill 59.4 [30-21]

10 (rerun): Andrews, Ablitt, Campos, Kemp (fell exc.), Spooner (exc 2M)  59.4 [32-25]

11 Wilson, Ledwith, Extance, Clouting  62.4 [34-29]

12 Rowe, Campos, Bursill, Ablitt (fell)  61.4 [37-32]

13 Ledwith, Kemp, Wilson, Sheppard  61.4 [42-33]

14 Jenkins, Andrews, Clouting, Sheppard  59.9 [46-35]

15 Rowe, Andrews, Jenkins, Extance  59.5 [50-37]