Witches boss Hawkins delighted as Ipswich get their season back on track
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Witches 50 Sheffield Tigers 40
Ipswich Witches got their Championship season well and truly back on track with a fine 50-40 win over champions Sheffield Tigers at Foxhall Stadium tonight.
Without a home meeting for five weeks, the Suffolk side took time to warm up. But when they did get going, they took control of the meeting and there was some thrilling action.
This is just what was required from Ritchie Hawkins’ side and there were good performances all round in front of a healthy Foxhall crowd, basking in the sunshine.
Led by an immaculate performance from Rory Schlein, the Witches were behind early on, but piled on the pressure as the meeting went on.
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It left Witches team boss Ritchie Hawkins pleased with his side’s victory.
“I’m delighted with that,” Hawkins said.
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“It was a bit of a stressful night to be honest. We know we can’t afford to lose any home meetings if we are going to reach the play-offs.
“And it is nice to send the opposition home pointless, which we have done.
“In a sense the break has helped us.
“It feels like a fresh start with everyone back fit, although Danny is still not 100%”
And Hawkins praised Schlein’s immaculate maximum.
“Rory is having a brilliant season and is a class act,” Hawkins added.
All the Witches chipped in, with reserve Danyon Hume getting two fine wins, while the returning Nico Covatti thrilled the crowd with a stunning ride in heat nine.
Schlein roared from gate four to take the flag in heat one. His partner James Sarjeant, guesting for the unavailable Michael Hartel, gated well, but fell to the back.
It looked like a 3-3 in the reserves race but James Shanes passed Danyon Hume, as the Tigers took an early lead. Lasse Bjerre went through the tapes in he next but the Witches couldn’t make the most of it as Jan Graversen held off the charging Cameron Heeps.
Danny King was leading heat four and team-mate Hume rode a brave first lap to join him at the front. But on lap three, King packed up as Sheffield were gifted a share of the spoils. However, they were only reprieved for a heat as Heeps and Nico Covatti recorded the Witches first maximum of the night. Schlein was quick away in heat six and for a while the Witches were on another 5-1, before Charles Wright passed Sarjeant on lap two.
Connor Mountain passed Graversen in heat seven as King gated to an easy victory. Humes and Sarjeant flew from the start in the next, but Shanes passed Sarjeant as Hume made it two wins on the bounce.
Covatti produced the ride of the night in heat nine. Stalking Wright for three laps, Covatti shot passed the Tigers man, scraping the fence as the Foxhall crowd erupted. Bjerre went through the tapes again in heat 10 and went off 15 metres. And the Tigers paid this time, Schlein and Sarjeant too good for Graversen. Howarth got the better of King as Shanes produced a fine ride to pass both Witches as Sheffield narrowed the home lead. Schlein and King gained a 4-2 in heat 13 as the home side sealed the points and there was still time for Covatti to win another heat, as Mountain was unlucky when he suffered a blown engine while holding third in heat 14.
Schlein collected his maximum in the final race as the Foxhall fans went home happy.
1 Schlein, Kurtz, Howarth, Sarjeant 57.8 3-3
2 Smith, Mountain, Shanes, Hume 59.6 5-7
3 Graversen, Covatti, Heeps, Shanes (f), Bjerre (ex/t) 59.3 8-10
4 Hume, Shanes, Wright, King (e/f) 58.7 11-13
5 Heeps, Covatti, Howarth, Kurtz 58.1 16-14
6 Schlein, Wright, Sarjeant, Smith 57.1 20-16
7 King, Bjerre, Mountain, Graversen 57.7 24-18
8 Hume, Shanes, Sarjeant, Kurtz 57.7 28-20
9 Covatti, Wright, Heeps, Smith 58.0 32-22
10 Schlein, Sarjeant, Graversen, Bjerre 56.8 37-23
11 Howarth, King, Kurtz, Mountain 58.1 39-27
12 Howarth*, Shanes, Hume, Heeps 58.3 40-32
13 Schlein, Howarth, King, Wright 57.3 44-34
14 Covatti, Bjerre, Shanes, Mountain (ex) no time 47-37
15 Schlein, Wright, Howarth, Covatti 58.0 50-40
Ipswich 3 pts. Sheffield 0 pts.
Ipswich: R Schlein 15, J Sarjeant 4+1, C Heeps 5+1, N Covatti 10+1, D King 6, C Mountain 3, D Hume 7
Sheffield: K Howarth 11+2, T Kurtz 3, J Graversen 4, L Bjerre 4, C Wright 7, J Smith 3, J Shanes 8+2