Kent Kings edged in thriller
Kent Kings edged in thriller

A thrilling match at Swindon on Sunday afternoon ended with a last heat decider and the Kent TouchTec Kings going down by the smallest possible of margins of 45-44 in the Inter County Challenge first leg – a first ever visit for Kent to the iconic Abbey Stadium in the Wiltshire town.

The highlight for a very large contingent of Kings’ fans who braved shocking traffic conditions on the M4 (what exactly IS a ‘Smart’ Motorway anyway and does parking up a load of heavy machinery blocking the road count in any way as “smart”?!) was the spectacular performance of returning hero Luke Bowen who produced a ride no one will ever forget to pass National League [NL] rising star Jordan Palin in the rerun heat 11 with a trademark dash around the dirt on the final bend to take a win on the line.  

A heat 13 win over another of the big hitters in the current NL, Danyon Hume confirmed that ‘747’ Bowen has truly taken off again – as the exuberant 33-year-old enthused at the end, “That was old School Luke Bowen” – it was certainly teaching the young Turks of today how to do it!

The other ex-skipper in the Kings’ ranks, Ben Morley had a good day too, ‘Guesting’ for missing Drew Kemp and topping the score chart with four heat wins and 13 points.  It was though an unlucky 13 in that his only reverse came in unfortunate circumstances in heat seven and was ultimately to prove decisive.

The race saw Morley and Jordan Jenkins vying in close quarters for two laps to get a 5-1 of their own against Palin and Dan Thompson – Jenkins fell behind the Thompson twin and Morley trailed Palin but looked safe in second ; the teenager Thompson though challenged on the outside down the back straight on the final lap, Morley looked on his inside and suddenly with a second’s fatal loss of concentration the Sprockets’ young reserve was through.

The 5-1 was a second unfortunate maximum conceded in four heats.  The visitors had started impressively with Rob Ledwith winning the opening heat and Nathan Ablitt & Morley repeating the tricks in the next two races  to put the Kings four points to the good. All was set fair for the lead to be maintained as Ledwith led in heat four but he reared up and crashed heavily for the first of those 1-5 reverses to be awarded.

Falls for Jenkins in heat eight and disastrously for Ablitt in the first staging of heat 11 (the victim of the bumping and boring of a first bend bunch) put the Kings up against it and Ablitt out of the meeting – and seemingly out of this coming week’s matches to come also.

Bowen’s heroics and normal service resuming for Morley and Ledwith back in the points despite his earlier mishap, brought the Kings back into contention – chipping away at the seven  points deficit from nine heats onwards.. And when Jenkins beat Dan Thompson in the penultimate race with Jacob Clouting getting a point to make it a vital 4-2 – it was now all down to the final heat.  Morley took the win but try as he could Bowen couldn’t get past Anders Rowe (unusually in Swindon colours for this two-legged challenge) and so agonisingly, the first encounter ended 44-45 in favour of the hosts.

Chris Hunt was proud of his plucky charges but bemoaning more misfortune,

“To keep the score to a single point deficit especially after losing Alex Spooner who broke down an hour away from the track and then the in-form Nathan to a crash was a very good effort.  The fall of Rob when leading heat four and a very uncharacteristic error by Ben Morley who was otherwise imperious were the reason we didn’t actually take a lead into the second leg – but we’ll go into that in just over a week’s time confident we can take this first Inter County Challenge against what is for sure a very strong Swindon select”.


Swindon Sprockets

Danyon Hume   2 2 2 2 0 8

David Wallinger 0  1* FX F 1 + 1

Anders Rowe   2 3 3 2 2 12

Richard Andrews  0 0 1 R 1

Jordan Palin 3  3 2  1* 9 + 1

Dan Thompson  2 2* 1* 2 7 +2

Joe Thompson 1  2* 3  1 7 + 2


Kent TouchTec Kings

Luke Bowen  1 2 3 3 1 10

Rider Replacement – Alex Spooner

Ben Morley [G]  3 1 3 3 3 13

Jordan Jenkins 1  0 FX  1 3 5

Rob Ledwith   3 F 3 2 0 8

Jacob Clouting  0 F 0 0 R 1* 1 + 1

Nathan Ablitt    3 1 1* 2 Inj, 7 + 1