Eastbourne ‘IT First’ Eagles have a place in the National League Knockout Cup Final firmly within their grasp.
A resounding 42-28 first leg semi-final victory at the Central Park home of near neighbours, the Kent Kings on Monday evening, is the perfect platform, writes Kevin Ling.
Given recent history, with travelling success something of a rarity for the Sussex side in their latter Elite League days, this result was again one to savour.
However, the mood was tempered and the meeting marred in no small way following the nasty ankle injury sustained by Eastbourne captain David Mason in heat ten of the contest.
At the time, the Eagles led 32-21 on the night and looked to be well on course for their second win at the venue in season 2015.
It was then that fate took an unfortunate turn as Mason slammed into the third bend air fence as he gave chase to Richard Andrews and home hero Ben Morley. It quickly became apparent that the Eastbourne skipper was in considerable discomfort.
He remained lying on the track for more than half an hour before being ferried from the circuit to the rich applause of supporters of both sides, the prevalent hope being that the suspected injuries weren’t nearly as bad as initially feared.
With that the time was well past 8 o clock and with the Kent club’s 8.30 p.m. curfew looming large, as the action resumed.
The teams were only able to complete heat ten and a further two races before the match had to be curtailed with the Eagles holding a 14-point lead heading into their home fixture scheduled for Saturday, August 1.
Earlier on, it was the Eagles who made the best possible start with back to back 5-1s in both heats one and two to take a 10-2 lead.
Hot Kiwi prospect Bradley Wilson-Dean sped to the first of his three wins in race one and he was backed with every turn of the wheel by partner Richard Andrews.
Heat two was far more cut and dried as Georgie Wood and Kelsey Dugard nipped sharply from the start to extend the visitors lead to 8-points. Kent responded with a 4-2 in the third as Danny Ayres edged clear of Mason.
Wilson-Dean was an all the way winner of race five, the New Zealander taking the verdict from Baseby for the 3-2.Morley was an all the way winner of heat six but, Owen and Wood forced a share of the spoils as they comfortably accounted for Jamie Couzins.
The seventh race was also shared as Shanes powered to a second win at the expense of Mason and Dugard but the Eagles hit the 5-1 trail again in the eighth as Andrews, combined with Wood for maximum points.
It all looked to be going so well for the Sussex side, but Mason’s misfortune certainly soured the moment. The difference stretched once again as Wilson-Dean administered Shanes first defeat, Andrews outgunning Basford for the 4-2, the advantage shifted to an imposing 14-points, 39-25.
Baseby provided the final word for the Kings in heat 12 as he fended off the challenge of Wood. However Dugard provided most of the action as he powered around Verge on the run in to the line to bank the night’s fifth 3-3 and an overall 42-28 lead.
Scorers:Kings : James Shanes 8(3), Danny Ayres 6(3), Aaron Baseby 6(4), Ben Morley 5(3), Danno Verge 2(3), Jamie Cousins 1(4) Ben Basford 0(4).
Eagles : Richard Andrews 9+1(5), Bradley Wilson-Dean 9(3), Georgie Wood 8+2(5), Kelsey Dugard 7+4(5), Marc Owen 5+1(3), David Mason 5+1(3), Rider Replacement for Matt Bates.