Brilliant Rockets fight back

Young Shield Semi-FinalRye House Rockets 55 Sheffield 41(Rockets win 93-92 on aggregate)AN incredible fightback saw the Rockets scrape into the semi-finals of the Young Shield on Saturday night.

Young Shield Semi-Final

Rye House Rockets 55 Sheffield 41

(Rockets win 93-92 on aggregate)

AN incredible fightback saw the Rockets scrape into the semi-finals of the Young Shield on Saturday night.

Trailing by 13 points from the first leg, the Silver Ski Rockets won 55-41 to go through by one point on aggregate.

Explosive displays from Chris Neath and Luke Bowen helped edge the Silver Ski Rockets past Sheffield.

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Super skipper Neath rattled off race wins in the first five of his six starts, while Harlow-born flyer Bowen was unbeaten in his first four, as the pair collected 27 of the Rockets' 55 point total.

But if Mr Big Stuff and the Bowen 747 were the highest profile stars, it should swiftly be added that all of the Rockets played their part in an enthralling tie.

Joe Haines marched into double figures and could easily have been joined by the unfortunate Linus Sundstrom, while guest reserves Kyle Hughes and Jay Herne did everything that could be asked of them for a combined paid 14.

It was certainly a tense match, full of twists and turns.

The Rockets totally dominated part one, as they overturned the Tigers' 13-point first leg advantage within the first four heats.

Three 5-1s in the space of that time powered them to a 19-5 advantage, and 4-2s from the next two races lifted them further to 27-9.

The tie seemed sealed when Sundstrom left the tactically nominated Josh Auty and Joel Parsons trailing in heat seven, only for the race to be stopped because of Kyle Hughes' early fall.

The re-run proved a rather different affair as the Sheffield pair maxed out for an 8-1 to bring the score back to 28-17, and give them back the aggregate lead at 68-66.

It was the start of a personal nightmare for Sundstrom, who looked set for a 5-1 with Neath in heat 10, only to allow both visitors past due to bike problems, and was then excluded from the next race for failing to beat the two minute time allowance.

Tactical nomination Ricky Ashworth sparked a 7-2 for Sheffield there, to offset a 5-1 from Bowen and Haines in heat nine, and nudge the Tigers back in front on aggregate again.

At that stage it was 41-31 to Rye on the night and 82-79 to Sheffield on aggregate.

The tie swung back the Rockets' way over the next two heats, however, with successive 5-1s - to the pairings of Haines and Hughes over Parsons and Jerran Hart and then Neath and Sundstrom over Ashworth - elevating the score to 51-33 and taking Rye five points clear again overall.

They looked to have clinched the tie with a race to spare when Bowen and Hughes led Josh Auty and Hart in heat 14, only for yet another twist to occur.

The hard-working Auty fought his way past Hughes for second spot, but far worse was to beset Rye when race leader Bowen fell on the third lap, handing the Tigers an unexpected 4-2 and giving them a last-heat opportunity to steal the tie with a 5-1.

The unbeaten Neath and Bowen were nominated for that final race to face Premier League Riders Champion Ashworth and Auty.

It proved a tense finish, with little to show between all four riders for the duration.

Ashworth led from start to finish, but the Rye pair kept Auty behind them until the very last bend, when Auty snuck through for third place - but with Bowen still just ahead of him as the Rockets breathed a deep sigh of relief.

Full credit to the Tigers for playing their part in an epic match.

They have come through their own recent injury run and with just a little extra support for Ashworth, Auty and well-chosen guest Jerran Hart would have edged through.

Having said that, ask any neutral on Thursday afternoon about the Rockets' chances for the tie as their battle-scarred team headed up to Yorkshire for the first leg, and you would probably have received a rather doubtful answer.

Now, just a few days later, their season is very much alive again as they stand just two matches away from a potential national trophy final.