Eastbourne ‘IT First’ Eagles secured the first of what they hope will be three National League competition titles in jubilant scenes at Arlington stadium on Sunday afternoon.
They finished what they had effectively started at Rye House the previous evening, writes Kevin Ling.
Their 59-31 second leg victory over the Raiders combining nicely with their 7-point (48-41) first leg success to wrest for Eagles the National Trophy by an aggregate 107-72 margin.
Given that they entered their home rubber holding the lead there must have been very few doubters that the Eagles would ultimately claim the silverware but they were made to sweat in the early stages as the Raiders crafted an early 2-point advantage after only three races.
In the event, however, another authoritative Eastbourne Arlington display was destined to win the day.
Between them the Sussex septet harvested no fewer than thirteen of the fifteen race winners on offer.
Once again Bradley Wilson-Dean led the charge claiming four of those on his way to a 14-point tally, his only defeat coming at the hands of Kyle Hughes in heat 13.
Indeed there were a profusion of notable performances among the Eagles ranks.
Ben Hopwood and Richard Andrews were each paid for 12-points, the latter remaining unbeaten by an opponent in an impressive reserve performance.
Skipper Marc Owen reeled off three wins to make up for a disappointing opening ride, Georgie Wood shared in no fewer than three 5-1s en-route to an 8-point (paid 10) tally and Daniel Spiller also snatched a race win in his final outing to round off a paid 8-point display.
By contrast, the Raiders offered very little resistance after going ahead courtesy of a third heat 5-1 from the two Lukes Priest and Chessell, top scorer Hughes providing their second of only two race wins with that success over Wilson-Dean.
The match commenced on a double note of drama with heat one witnessing not one but two alarming four-man first bend pile ups, the second of which saw the ambulance take to the track with Wood looking in some discomfort.
Gladly, all four riders were able to take their place in the third restart of the race, the Eagles claiming the 4-2 with Wilson-Dean seeing off Raiders guest, National League Riders Champion, Ben Morley.
Andrews began his unbeaten spree in the second, though visiting reserve duo Danyon Hume and George Hunter packed the minor places ahead of Kelsey Dugard to split the points and then came that maximum advantage to the Raiders with Spiller and Owen bringing up the rear, a result that momentarily saw the lead turn in favour of the visitors.
Andrews and Hopwood combined to immediately counter this with a 5-1 of their own over the chasing Hughes.
Owen marked his return to form with a victory over Morley for a 4-2 in the sixth and when Wilson-Dean and Wood teamed up for a further 5-1, again at Hughes expense in heat seven, suddenly the Eagles were holding a comfortable 22-14 lead on the afternoon, a 15-point (70-55) aggregate advantage and already they looked to be on course to claim the National Trophy.
Dugard was again eclipsed in race seven as he trailed Chessell and Priest but neither Raiders rider could prove a match for the pacey Hopwood and so the scores moved to 25-17.
Whether the visitors still harboured hopes of forcing their way back into the contest can only be supposed but a trio of successive 5-1s to the Sussex side finally settled the issue, and effectively the destiny of the silverware with five heats still to run.
Hopwood piled on the misery for the visitors in the next as he provided a third defeat for Morley in heat eleven and then a further 5-1, Eastbourne’s sixth of proceedings courtesy of Owen and Andrews over Priest, only served to distance them further from their opponents, the scores now extending to 48-24.
Hughes provided the travelling supporters with a moment to cheer as he saw off the challenge of both Wilson-Dean and Hopwood in thirteen to temporarily stem the flow.
It was the Eagles who finished the stronger, Spiller and Dugard easing to a 4-2 over Chessell in the penultimate race and then Wilson-Dean and Hopwood did likewise, the flying Kiwi gaining a measure of revenge by blazing past Hughes on the run down the back straight to set the seal on a night of triumph for the Sussex men.
Having been presented with the trophy, the Eagles celebrated with their supporters who were urged to take to the centre green to be nearer the proceedings, the first trophy in some six seasons for the Arlington outfit but with two further Finals set to follow, they will surely be hoping it won’t be their last.
Eagles: Bradley Wilson-Dean 14(5), Richard Andrews 10+2(4), Ben Hopwood 10+2(5), Marc Owen 9(4), Georgie Wood 8+2(4), Daniel Spiller 7+1(4), Kelsey Dugard 1(4).
Raiders: Kyle Hughes 8(5), Luke Chessell 6+1(4), Luke Priest 6+1(5), Ben Morley (Guest for Rob Branford) 6(4), George Hunter 2+1(4), Danyon Hume 2(4), Alfie Bowtell 1+1(4).