Hawkins happy with ‘good performance’ as Witches cruise into the next round of the Cup

Nico Covatti, in super form the for Witches at Berwick

Nico Covatti, in super form the for Witches at Berwick - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Berwick Bandits 49 Ipswich Witches 41 Aggregate: Bandits 79 Witches 101

Ipswich Witches progressed into the next round of the Championship KO Cup with a thorougly professional display at a damp and drizzly Berwick on Saturday night.

Already 30 points ahead after the first leg at Foxhall on Thursday, the Suffolk side recovered from the shock of British Champion and No.1 Danny King packing up in heat one as the Bandits scored a 5-1 maximum, to cruise through to the next round, with five heats to spare.

Led by Rory Schlein and Nico Covatti, the Witches settled down after King’s heat one misfortunes and the tie was over when Covatti lowered Berwick No.1 Lewis Bridger’s colours for the second time on the night.

And although they did not win on the night, this was a highly satisfying night for the visitors, who now have a week off before travelling to Sheffield on April 13 in a Championship clash.

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It’s been an encouraging start to the season for Ritchie Hawkins’ side and the news that Kyle Newman may be back within a month to six weeks after his shoulder injury won’t require surgery, was a big boost to a team already full of confidence.

“It started off tough but the boys fought hard in the main part of the meeting,” said Hawkins.

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“I think certain riders stepped up when they needed to. It was a good performance.

“I think the top three were vital tonight. It was a lot to ask of the younger riders, it’s a tough place to go for them in tough conditions. Rory (Schlein) was great in his first three races and Nico (Covatti) put in a great performance too. It is a case of job done.”

The boss says the experience will only help the younger riders for when the Witches are next at Berwick in the Championship.

“We are there again at the end of the month and for Connor (Mountain) and Danyon (Hume) as young riders, it’s a tough place to go when you are not there regularly. To get some laps in there and on their performance tonight it will build confidence and it will make us stronger when we go back up there.”

King packed up when in third place on lap two in the opening race as Berwick started with a bang and a maximum score.

It was not the start the Witches wanted but things looked to be in good shape in the reserves race as Danyon Hume and Connor Mountain hit the front.

However, Richard Hall went past Hume on lap one before catching Mountain on the run-in to the line.

Nico Covatti passed Dimitri Berge in the next as the home side made the most of the inside grids early on, before Schlein provided Ipswich with their first race winner, shooting from the tapes to win heat four.

The Witches had settled down after what had been a difficult start, with Schlein and Covatti impressive.

Schlein won heat six after Lewis Bridger went from first to last coming out of turn two, passing Hume on his way to second place. The Witches were six down but well in control overall after that huge 30-point win at Foxhall.

Covatti shot from the start to win the next and Liam Carr continued his good form the Bandits with a win in heat eight.

But the Witches were doing a good job, never letting the home side get away from them and already the finishing line was in sight. Schlein dived inside Berge to win heat nine and Claus Vissing did the same to Hume in another drawn heat – the seventh one in nine.

Covatti’s win in heat 10 meant there was no way back for Berwick and King produced a stormer of a ride to pass Kevin Doolan as Ipswich narrowed to just two points behind. Covatti was really on it, especially from the gate and he won his third race to defeat Berge in heat 12.

The only interest in the meeting now was to see if the Witches could win on the night, having already sealed the tie on aggregate. But when testimonial man Doolan beat King and Schlein in heat 13 and Vissing and Hall gated to the front in heat 14, the Bandits won the clash on the night, if not on aggregate.

The Witches now have a break before their next meeting at Sheffield in the Championship and Hawkins says morale is high in the team.

“The break is not ideal for Sarj (James Sarjeant) and Cam (Cameron Heeps) but all the other boys have meetings and will be putting the laps in. It’s not ideal for them but that is where they are at.

“Morale in the camp is great, everyone has gelled really well, I know that is easy to say but there are a lot of good vibes in the team. We have a busy April after the break, so there is a lot here to build on.”


Berwick: L Bridger 8, L Carr 6+2, D Berge 5, C Vissing 10+2, K Doolan 10+1, R Hall 8, J Parkinson 2+2

Ipswich: D King 10, J Sarjeant 5+1, N Covatti 11, C Heeps 2, R Schlein 9, D Hume 1+1, C Mountain 3+1

Heat details

1 Bridger, Carr, Sarjeant, King (e/f) 68.3 5-1

2 Hall, Mountain, Hume, Parkinson-Blackburn 70.7 8-4

3 Vissing, Covatti, Berge, Heeps 69.0 12-6

4 Schlein, Doolan, Parkinson-Blackburn, Mountain 69.0 15-9

5 Vissing, King, Sarjeant, Berge 68.8 18-12

6 Schlein, Bridger, Carr, Hume 69.9 21-15

7 Covatti, Hall, Doolan, Heeps 68.8 24-18

8 Carr, Sarjeant, Mountain, Parkinson-Blackburn 70.9 27-21

9 Schlein, Berge, Vissing, Hume 68.7 30-24

10 Covatti, Bridger, Heeps, Carr 69.7 32-28

11 King, Doolan, Sarjeant, Hall 68.4 34-32

12 Covatti, Berge, Parkinson-Blackburn, Hume 69.1 37-35

13 Doolan, King, Bridger, Schlein 68.3 41-37

14 Hall, Vissing, Heeps, Mountain 69.8 46-38

15 King, Doolan, Vissing, Covatti 68.4 49-41

Aggregate: Berwick 79 Ipswich 101

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