Saturday night’s alright – as the Witches regain their mojo
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Ipswich Witches 65 Redcar Bears 25
Ipswich ‘Sackers’ Witches regained their mojo with a Saturday night extravaganza of a performance against Redcar Bears at Foxhall Stadium.
Fast out of the starts, daring passing all over the track, the healthy crowd who turned out to support their Witches heroes were royally entertained as the smiles returned to a team who at last looked like the classy outfit assembled at the start of the season.
Led by charismatic duo Gino Manzares and Nico Covatti, the Witches were all over the poor Bears.
While Covatti has been sensational so far all season, Manzares – a shoulder injury not helping – hasn’t got going this campaign . . . until now.
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This was Manzares at his best. When the amiable American wasn’t gating to the front, he was probing and prodding his way through the field, passing at will and racing with a mature head and a comfortable style.
Covatti was ever the showman, the all-action Argentinian revelling in the excellent track conditions Bob Ellis and his track team had created – his last-gasp win on the line over Lasse Bjerre in heat five a highlight.
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The Foxhall faithful lapped it up and so they should have done.
Up until Saturday night, Foxhall has been anything but a fortress for the Witches. Indeed only five days ago Chris Louis’ side were sitting bottom of the Premier League!
But this was more like it and a great team effort.
Great Britain World Cup star Danny King who, after guiding the Witches to a narrow two-point win at Redcar on Thursday night, made sure the quick-fire double was never in doubt, as he raced to an effortless 12-point maximum.
Rohan Tungate was solid throughout, although he still admits he isn’t 100% the rider who ended last season, while that just left the Witches reserves to come to the party – and they didn’t disappoint.
James Sarjeant, a guest for Stefan Nielsen, who was enjoying world U-21 success in Italy and has now qualified for the world U-21 final, did well, and the skipper Ritchie Hawkins was another who did all his talking on the track.
Looking for a star Witches man was like looking for books in a library, the team at last resembling the one tipped by many at the start of the campaign to finish top of the pile come October.
That is still a long way off but with another young talent, Cameron Heeps, sitting in the wings, desperate to come back to the fold after his wrist injury heals, Thursday nights this summer could well spell plenty of excitement on the Heath.
On Saturday night however, it was all about getting the job done against a Redcar side struggling somewhat so far this campaign.
Yes, the Witches will face stiffer opposition but you can only beat what is in front of you and his was the Bear’s heaviest defeat of the season, as well as the Witches biggest.
Manzares got his great night off to a flyer, passing Bjerre on lap three of heat one, and although Sarjeant fell while in second place in the next, the Witches had a lead they were not to lose.
Heat three was a corker – Covatti and Manzares (the American going off a 15-metre handicap after touching the tapes), racing from third and fourth to first and second in thrilling fashion.
Hawkins passed Morley and Covatti won an exciting race to the line with the Bjerre in heat five as the action came thick and fast.
It was all Ipswich and when Matej Kus won heat seven, it was to be the last time a Bears’ rider saw the chequered flag again all night.
Manzares almost passed Kus on the line in heat 10, while King completed the easiest four-ride maximum he’ll ever get in heat 13, in a race that saw Tungate muscle his way past an unimpressed Ben Morley – one of the better Bears riders on the night.
The night started as it began, with Manzares forcing his way to the front to win heat 15 – Covatti just missing out on an 18-point maximum.
It was all brilliant stuff on a terrific night for the Witches and their fans.
Witches: D King 12, G Manzares 13+3, N Covatti 16, R/R, R Tungate 10+1, J Sarjeant 4+2, R Hawkins 10+4