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Royals overturn deficit to win bonus league point
Royals overturn deficit to win bonus league point

The Kent Royals took their first victory of the season at The Old Gun Site with a 54-34 victory over the Berwick Bullets in the National Development League.

It was a testament to hard work, gritty determination and team spirit which saw The Royals get over the line in an incident packed meeting at the Iwade circuit.

Not content with just the two league points for the win, the hosts dug deep and matched Berwick’s twenty-point victory from the return fixture at Shielfield Park last weekend, with an eventful end to proceedings at The Old Gun Site.

The scores being levelled on aggregate, meant we saw history in the making at Iwade, with the staging of the National Development Leagues first ever Super Heat to decide the destination of the aggregate bonus point.

The Kent duo of Ben Morley and Nathan Ablitt kept their cool and rode a perfect opening lap to slot into the lead and take the bonus point.

The Royals led from the front with a sublime full maximum from number 1 Ben Morley. The Southend speedster went tapes to flag for the bulk of his five race wins, which included the fastest winning time of the season so far at Iwade. He also wasn’t afraid to get stuck in and come from behind if the situation demanded it.

Alongside Morley’s maximum there was a season best performance from captain Tom Woolley, dropping just one point from his four rides to score 11. There was also a battling performance from the reserve berth, where Tom’s younger brother Sam Woolley scored six paid ten.

It was a battle of attrition for Sam who was pressed into taking a full quota of seven rides. Sam’s fellow reserve Connor King sustained injuries in a frightening second heat crash which saw Connor withdrawn from the rest of the meeting.

There were also battling performances from second string Rhys Naylor with two paid wins and new signing Jack Kingston, who after a tough start with machinery problems finished his final two rides being unbeaten by an opponent.

The action got underway the way many Kent home matches do with a stylish tapes to flag win for Ben Morley, however the Berwick duo of Connor Coles and 2022 Royal Jamie Halder we hard on his heels for the minor placings to share the spoils.

The drama started in the opening staging of Heat 2, Berwick guest reserve Chris Watts, came down on the opening turn in a collision with his teammate Jason Garrad, and was disqualified. The second staging of the race saw Royals reserve Connor King make a flying start and lead the race holding on despite the pressure that he was coming under from Jason Garrad.

On the last bend of the last lap, Garrad made a dive up the inside, collecting the unsuspecting King which sent him flying into the fence. An eerie hush descended around The Old Gun Site and Connor was clearly in some discomfort as the medics attended to the stricken racer. King was taken off the track in the ambulance and made his own way to hospital for further checks.

Speaking a few hours after the meeting Kent manager Jamie Willis gave the following update on Connor’s condition. “Connor is okay considering the horrible crash. Obviously, he is battered and bruised and will take a few days to start to feel normal again. Providing nothing else comes to light after the adrenaline wears off, he’ll be back in the side for our trip to Leicester”.

With Kent three points ahead after the first five heats, there was a fantastic race in the sixth heat, Berwick captain Greg Blair made the start but was passed by Ben Morley down the backstraight on the opening lap, where he roared off for the victory.

Kent second string Rhys Naylor then set after Blair hounding him for the duration of the race and finally got inside Blair on the run to the line to give the hosts a maximum heat advantage to move them seven points in front in the match.

Two shared heats were followed by another two maximums in heats nine and ten, the first came through captain Tom Woolley and new signing Jack Kingston after Greg Blair was disqualified for a first corner incident. The tenth race saw the dynamic duo Morley and Naylor claim their second 5-1 of the meeting.

Naylor made the start, Morley after rearing at the start worked his way from third to first by the end of the first lap, this put The Royals fifteen up in the match and only five behind on the hunt for the aggregate bonus point.

A run of three shared heats kept the scores level, with heat wins for Berwick number one Connor Coles, followed by Jack Kingston taking his first win for The Royals in the twelfth.

Ben Morley made it four wins out of four in a re-run thirteenth heat, after home rider Nathan Ablitt found himself squeezed out of position on the opening lap and took a trip into the third bend air fence.

There was an eventful heat 14 which proved pivotal in the overall destination of the aggregate bonus point. The first staging saw Bullets racer Danny Phillips fall whilst chasing home skipper Tom Woolley, with Chris Watts and Sam Woolley laying their bikes down to avoid him. The second staging Chris Watts took a tumble leaving the Woolley brothers remaining in a third attempt to stage the race.

That attempt wasn’t without incident as Sam Woolley took a tumble as his steel shoe came loose but was able to get up and remount. That 5-0 made the aggregate score level, with just the final Heat 15 to go.

There was yet more drama in the last race as at the end of the first lap as Kent heat leader Ablitt made a move under Berwick heat leader Connor Coles coming off the fourth turn which resulted in the visitor coming down. The referee decided Ablitt was at fault. The re-run saw Ben complete his maximum, but the scores stayed level with The Royals 20 points ahead of The Bullets.

This set-in motion the NDL’s first superheat for the bonus point. That superheat was won by The Royals as the duo of Ben Morley and Nathan Ablitt gated and held on for the 7-2 (4, 3 2, 0 scoring used in superheats) heat win to give The Royals the bonus point.

Manager Jamie Willis said “Si & I are delighted with the win and it’s a weight off our shoulders. The boys showed what they are really made of and I’m very proud of them. There is an excellent team spirit in our camp, and this is just the start”.

Speaking about getting the bonus point Jamie admitted it wasn’t on the plan from the start of the meeting. “In all honesty the Superheat was at the back of our minds. All we wanted to do was win the meeting and add two points to our tally.

“After the back-to-back 5-1’s in heats 9&10 it started to come into play and there was a real chance we could pull it off. Once we had won the match with several heats to go, we had a team meeting where we were all in agreement that we would throw everything into getting the aggregate bonus point”.

Next up for The Royals is a visit to Leicester to take on the reigning National Development League Champions the Leicester Lion Cubs.

Images courtesy of Amanda Morrison