Panthers cruise to 22-point victory over frustrated Eagles

Lewis Bridger
Lewis Bridger

Eastbourne Eagles’ bid to claim their third successive victory on their travels was met with disappointment on Monday night as Peterborough Panthers demonstrated their home dominance to eventually run out commanding 58-36 victors.

On a night when they could only muster a single race win throughout the fifteen heats, there were precious few moments for the travelling Eagles fans to smile about.

That sole success came in heat eleven as Joonas Kylmakorpi took the chequered flag sporting the black and white helmet denoting a tactical ride. With Lukas Dryml following in third place, this at least rewarded the visitors with a 7-2, one of only two advantages they were to enjoy. The other came some four races earlier as Simon Gustafsson was also nominated to take the tactical.

For the Panthers, Linus Sundstrom and Kenneth Bjerre both rode unbeaten by an opponent, the former recording a 15-point maximum while Krzysztof Buczkowski also went close, a singular defeat by Kylmakorpi in that eleventh race proving his only reverse as the home side racked up their biggest win of the season so far.

Indeed the Panthers began at a canter, Bjerre and Oliver Allen enjoying a runaway 5-1 in the first race, Dryml trailing in their wake while Kylmakorpi only made it to the back straight before pulling up with mechanical problems.

Heat two witnessed an equally impressive effort from Pole Norbert Kosciuch, who overhauled the fast starting Denis Gizatullin on the run in to the second lap.

With 9-3 now the score in favour of the home side, Sundstrom withstood Woodward’s early challenge down the first lap back straight to take heat three, but Eastbourne at least secured a share of the spoils as the skipper held second place while Simon Gustafsson outpaced Panthers hot property Michael Jepsen Jensen for the odd point to set the scores at 12-6 to the host side.

Buczkowski and Kosciuch looked set to exert further home supremacy in race four as they raced clear of Lewis Bridger and Lahti from the off. The second lap saw Bridger suffer a fall on the final turn however to necessitate a race stoppage and a disqualification for the Eagle.

The rerun was to offer better fortunes for the visitors and although Buczkowski blazed away for a second time, Lahti, having got the better of a first bend tussle with Kosciuch, at least managed to split the Polish duo, the resultant 4-2 putting further daylight between the sides, the scores moving to 16-8.

Bridger was to hit the shale for a second time in heat six, the final bend of lap one on this occasion, but just as they had in the first running, Bjerre and Allen gated ahead of Gizatullin in the restart, taking Peterborough’s second maximum of the night so far, one that stretched the home advantage to 12-points, 24-12. Bridger was soon to withdraw from the remainder of the meeting suffering a hand injury.

Gustafsson was nominated to take the tactical ride in heat seven but just as had been the case in race three, it was Woodward who appeared the faster of the two Eagles to provide Eastbourne’s first heat advantage of the night, a 4-3 and one that narrowed the gap slightly to 11-points, the progressive scores moving to 27-16.

In heat eight, Dryml appeared set to bring Eagles race win drought to an end as he led for three and a half laps but Kosciuch lined him up down the final back straight and blasted past to make it eight in succession for the Panthers. .

Jepsen Jensen was destined to put his first points on the board in race nine as he got the better of an early duel with Lahti. With Sundstrom away and gone for his third win and Gizatullin looking unlikely to feature at the rear of the field, the resultant 5-1, Panthers third, saw them extend their advantage to an imposing 15-points, 35-20.

At last the Eastbourne fans had something to shout about as Kylmakorpi secured their first heat winner of the evening in heat eleven and better than that, it came with him taking the Sussex sides second tactical ride of proceedings. The Finn ended Buczkowski’s winning streak, and a run of ten successive race wins for the Panthers, and with Dryml following on in third place ahead of Lawson, the 7-2 brought them back to within 10-points of their hosts, the scores with four heats remaining standing at 40-30 and even then, a match point could still have been in their grasp.

That scenario appeared less likely following the next race however as Kosciuch claimed his third victory and Peterborough’s eleventh from the twelve heats so far run. With Jepsen Jensen tracking him with every turn of the wheel ahead of Gustafsson, the 5-1 saw the Panthers back in the ascendency, the scores now moving to 45-31 in favour of the home side and with just three races remaining a full haul of three Elite League points to the Panthers was looking ever more probable.

The Panthers scorched to maximum 5-1s in the final three races to ensure a n eventual 22-point margin, gifting Peterborough a deserved victory but rounding off a wholly disappointing night for the Eagles.

Scorers :

Panthers : Linus Sundstrom 15(4), Kenneth Bjerre 13+2(5), Krzysztof Buczkowski 11(4), Norbert Kosciuch 10(4), Oliver Allen 4+2(4), Michael Jepsen Jensen 4+2(4), Richard Lawson 1(4). – 58

Eagles : Joonas Kylmakorpi 10(5), Cameron Woodward 8(5), Simon Gustafsson 5+3(4), Lukas Dryml 5+1(4), Denis Gizatullin 4+1(5), Timo Lahti 4+1(5), Lewis Bridger 0(2). – 36