A final heat thriller seals points for Eagles

Cameron Woodward
Cameron Woodward

Joonas Kylmakorpi and Cameron Woodward produced a determined last gasp effort to snatch all three Elite League points for the Eagles at Arlington stadium on Saturday night.

It had earlier seemed plain sailing for the home team as they held a comfortable looking 12-point (27-15) lead at the mid way stage.

Inspired by a paid 18-point overall haul from Scott Nicholls and a 6-point tactical ride success from the former Eagles number one in heat eight, the Manchester outfit hit back with a vengeance.

A 6-3 in that race, a 4-2 in the ninth and back to back 5-1s in ten and eleven turning things around in impressive style - the Aces now held a 1-point, 35-34 lead heading into the final four races of the match.

The signs had started to appear bleak, with Nicholls in such good form and unbeaten up to that point, he paired up well with Matej Zagar for maximum points in the tenth and when the Slovenian repeated the dose alongside Richie Worrall over Woodward and Kylmakorpi in the very next race, it seemed that the Eagles were staring down the barrel of a home defeat.

Timo Lahti and Lewis Blackbird – who along with Danny Halsey again impressed from the reserve berth – took back the initiative for the Sussex side, teaming up for a 5-1 of their own in heat 12, the scores moving to 39-36 in Eastbourne’s favour.

Even so, with the prospect of Nicholls and Zagar, the pair having only been headed home by opponents in only one of eight outings up to that point, out together in two of the final three races, anxious glances were still darting about the home terraces as to what fate may yet hold in store.

In the event, it was skipper Woodward who would prove the talisman and provide just what the Eagles required in heat thirteen.

A sharp start from the tapes saw him eclipse both Zagar and Nicholls in that race, safeguarding the home 3-point advantage and sending the hosts into the penultimate heat holding a 42-39 lead.

Hopes that Eastbourne might wrap up the match in that moment proved unfounded as Worrall continued his improved form, the Team GB candidate leading both Michelsen and Blackbird to the chequered flag to set up a last heat decider with the scores now standing at 45-42 still in favour of the Sussex side.

Once again it was Nicholls and Zagar who would line up for the Aces while Woodward and Kylmakorpi, who had fallen to a 5-1 reverse five races earlier, were preferred for the Eagles.

Maximum points to the Aces duo could still have snatched the match spoils for the visitors while a similar outcome for the hosts would yet see the Eagles continue their as yet perfect run of Elite League three-pointers around their own circuit.

As the tapes flashed up, to the delight of the home fans it was the latter scenario that would soon be played out.

Kylmakorpi blazed away to win with Woodward riding shotgun, ahead of the chasing Nicholls.

50-43 proving the final outcome of another absorbing and highly entertaining encounter and most importantly three more points for the Sussex side to aid their quest for honours.

Eagles: Joonas Kylmakorpi 10(5), Lewis Blackbird 9+2(5), Timo Lahti 8(4), Mikkel Michelsen 7+3(4), Cameron Woodward 7+2(5), Bjarne Pedersen 4+1(4), Danny Halsey 5+1(3). – 50

Aces: Scott Nicholls 17+1(6), Matej Zager 11+1(6), Richie Worrall 8+1(5), Stefan Nielsen 4(5), Ben Reade 2(4), Michael Palm Toft 1(4), Rider Replacement for Craig Cook. - 43