Ipswich Witches storm into League Cup final after Foxhall fight
- Credit: Archant
Ipswich Witches stormed into the League Cup final with a comprehensive, but controversial 57-37 (99-85) victory over the Edinburgh Monarchs at Foxhall last night.
Rohan Tungate was in superb form as the hosts won by 16 points on aggregate, earning paid 15, but the Witches were helped tremendously by the exclusion of Monarchs’ star rider and former Ipswich guest, Craig Cook.
The GB rider publicly criticised manager Neil Middleditch’s decision to leave him out of the Speedway World Cup Race-off, at the expense of the Witches’ Ben Barker, recently.
However, he took his frustrations too far after heat one, throwing a punch at Barker in the pits, overshadowing Cameron Heeps’ opening win for the Witches in 57.1 seconds.
Heeps led from the off with Barker in second but after Derek Sneddon had edged in front of the Cornish rider, Ipswich’s number one lost composure as he tried to wrestle back his position.
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Barker tangled with Sneddon on lap three and eventually lost out as Cook, who had been critical of the Ipswich man in the Scottish press, teamed up with his skipper to claim third position.
After the chaos that ensued following the first heat, the second race was a more straightforward affair with Witches’ Adam Ellis leading from the off and team-mate Ritchie Hawkins riding well in second.
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Tungate, who had been in the wars the previous week, showed no ill-effects in heat three, cruising to another 5-1, supported by Morten Risager.
Cook’s omission hit the visitors hard and after heat four, a win for the determined Claus Vissing in a 3-3, it was announced that Edinburgh would have to compete in two races with just one rider.
Tungate was on fire and led from the front again with a pacy ride, the Aussie notching another victory with Risager in second as Mitchell Davey took the place of the excluded Cook.
The Witches looked to be cruising come the start of heat six, 21-9 up, with Edinburgh’s six-point lead having been emphatically wiped out.
The returning Barker got ahead of the tenacious Vissing, on the inside, from the start and stayed there with Heeps in third.
Leigh Lanham then put in a captain’s performance in heat seven, notching up his first win of the night in 58.5 with Theo Pijper and Max Fricke in second and third place respectively.
Heeps then put in the performance of the evening to take heat eight - a feat made all the more impressive as Hawkins’ bike failed him.
Heeps overtook Sneddon on the outside, on the penultimate lap, and then showed great composure to fend off Sneddon and Jozsef Tabaka to deny the visitors a valuable maximum.
Edinburgh used the tactical ride in heat nine, with Vissing wearing the black and white helmet and it was used to decent effect with the Dane’s second place behind the superb Tungate, earning double points.
Pijper and Fricke worked well together in the next heat to claim the Scots’ first maximum and reduce the Witches’ aggregate lead to just two points.
Any optimism the Monarchs may have had soon drifted again with Cook’s absence allowing Adam Ellis in first, and Leigh Lanham behind him to snub out Sneddon in third.
The visitors were not giving up though and had it not been for the imperious Tungate who won yet another race, in heat 12, they would have been celebrating more points for using their second tactical race of the night.
The Witches led by ten going in to heat 13, but importantly by the slender margin of just four points on aggregate.
Barker may be Witches’ star man this season and he raced to victory in heat 13, but the ride from Lanham could not be underestimated.
The skipper fended off the aggressive Visser, who was ploughing a lone furrow following Cook’s stupidity, and protected Barker’s lead, almost overtaking him on the line.
Edinburgh required two 5-1s to take the meeting to a play-off but it was not to be as Ipswich stormed to the final in style with Ellis taking his third race win of the night, followed by Risager.
Tungate wrapped up a five-race maximum in heat 15.