Short-handed Eastbourne Eagles came within a whisker of becoming the first team to beat Elite League table toppers, the Poole Pirates in a rain curtailed fixture at Arlington stadium on Saturday night.
The match was halted following heat twelve, the point at which a result is allowed to stand, with the Dorset side having opened up what proved to be a 37-35 winning margin.
With heavy rain taking a hold and increasingly difficult conditions starting to prevail there was very little option for referee Dan Holt to abandon the remaining three races. A decision that was reached with the mutual agreement of both team manager’s, but it was to prove a wholly disappointing conclusion for the Sussex side who had led for much of the match.
A 5-1 race win to the visitors from the unbeaten Darcy Ward and former Eagle Ricky Kling in heat eleven having sparked the turnaround.
Indeed that same pair had made it a winning opening for the Pirates with maximum points from the first race but the Eagles levelled the score with a similar strike from reserve duo Timo Lahti and Dennis Gizatullin in the second.
A further 5-1 from Lewis Bridger and Lahti in heat four propelled the Sussex side into the lead, one that they were destined to hold until the 11th as Ward masterminded the Poole counter attack by clamping Bridger on the inside. That allowed partner Kling the opportunity to roar around the outside and join him at the front.
The Eagles would certainly rue missed opportunities however, a fall suffered by Cameron Woodward in the fifth, one prompted by mechanical gremlins gifted Kling a point, and the Pirates a 4-2.
Then Lukas Dryml, who again suffered ‘just one of those nights’ also took a tumble in race six.
The Czech Republican, having just battled through into second place to join his partner in a likely looking 5-1 position, one that would have put the Eagles comfortably ahead.
Both sides were missing key personnel, Joonas Kylmakorpi and Simon Gustafsson for Eastbourne and Pirates Adrian Miedzinski were contesting a World Grand Prix Qualifier in Austria, while Poole’s Sam Masters was furthering his cause on the World under 21 stage in Terenzano, Italy.
However, with the Pirates dynamic duo of Darcy Ward and Chris Holder, an expertly crafted 23-points between them, well and truly in attendance, it could be argued that the hosts were the greater hit by absenteeism and to those ends could be commended for containing a team at the top of their game and who have now gone fourteen matches, in all competitions, without defeat for as long as they did.
Eagles Team Manager Trevor Geer said, “I thought if anyone could beat Poole the way they are going at the moment, it would be us here this evening.
“And barring a few moments of misfortune for Cam (Woodward) and Lukas (Dryml) in heats five and six we could have been far better placed when the rain finally beat us.”
“We might have been behind by then but had the match continued, I still believe we could have got some sort of a result with Lewis (Bridger), having just beaten Chris Holder, and Timo (Lahti) still to come out.”