Witches suffer big defeat but team boss Hawkins says he has seen nothing to worry him despite the result

Rory Schlein leads at Foxhall, but he and his team-mates had a torrid night at Sheffield

Rory Schlein leads at Foxhall, but he and his team-mates had a torrid night at Sheffield - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Sheffield Tigers 57 Ipswich Witches 33

Ipswich Witches were brought crashing back to earth after a decent start to their season with a thumping defeat at Sheffield tonight.

The Suffolk side may have put the Tigers to the sword at Foxhall Heath on opening night, and seen off Berwick in the KO Cup over two legs. But the Tigers got their revenge in no uncertain terms.

With skipper Danny King also taking a heavy fall in heat 11, the Suffolk side were always up against it as team boss Ritchie Hawkins admitted.

“We always knew it was going to be tough,” he said.

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“But we got off to a good start, then it just fell away.

“Danny King has had a torrid night, with a big crash and Rory Schlein too hasn’t had a good night. You aren’t going to do much when your top two riders scored just eight between them.

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“But there are positives.

“Our two reserves got better and better as the meeting went on. Cameron Heeps was good value and in some ways this might be a bit of a kick up the backside for all of us. There has been plenty of hype around our team and although I know the riders don’t see it that way, it will keep us sharp.

“Now we concentrate on Peterborough and quite honestly I’ve seen nothing tonight to worry me about the team in general. It was a bad result, but there were plenty of positives.”

King took advantage of home No.1 Josh Grajzonek’s mistake in heat one as the Witches opened with a heat advantage, while the Witches reserves shared heat two. Nico Covatti, a former Sheffield rider, got a sharp start in the next as Cameron Heeps closed in on the Tigers but to no avail. It had been a good start by the Witches but they were caught out in the next as Rory Schlein was left chasing the Tigers’ pairing after both made a great start.

It was a blow to the Suffolk side who fell more points behind despite King chasing Todd Kurtz all the way. The Witches fell further behind after heat six and their promising start was fading.

Heeps almost came a cropper in heat eight but wound it on to re-pass Jack Parkinson-Blackburn as the Witches stopped the rot of heat deficits. But with almost half the meeting gone they were six points behind and hadn’t won a race since heat three – things didn’t improve.

Mark Riss was guesting for Sheffield, in place of Rob Branford who was riding for Rye House.

The Edinburgh man was proving a sensational choice and when he won heat eight ahead of partner Kurtz, the Witches were in trouble at 29-19 down. Schlein donned the black and white tactical ride helmet in heat nine to try and get the Witches back in the meeting.

But it went horribly wrong as Lasse Bjerre led with Schlein and Kurtz swapping places, before the Tigers man got the nod on the line. The Suffolk side were now starring down the barrel – 14 points down and they couldn’t find a heat winner for love nor money after producing two in the first three heats.

Heeps passed Riss on the run-in during a thrlling finale to heat 10.

King crashed in heat 11 but was back on his feet and took his place in heat 13.

However, only Covatti was showing any true form, and the Witches will now dust themselves down and look forward to a better performance against Peterborough at Foxhall Heath on Saturday night.


Sheffield: J Grajczonek 11+1, R/R, L Bjerre 10, T Kurtz 8+3, K Howarth 12, M Riss 14+1, J Parkinson-Blackburn 2+1

Ipswich: D King 3, J Sarjeant 4, N Covatti 11, C Heeps 4, R Schlein 5, D Hume 3+1, C Mountain 3+1

1 Sarjeant, Riss, King, Grajczonek 61.8 2-4

2 Riss, Hume, Mountain, Parkinson 62.1 5-7

3 Covatti, Bjerre, Kurtz, Heeps 61.9 8-10

4 Howarth, Parkinson, Schlein, Mountain 62.9 13-11

5 Kurtz, King, Bjerre, Sarjeant 61.9 17-13

6 Grajczonek, Schlein, Riss, Hume 62.1 21-15

7 Howarth, Covatti, Heeps, Parkinson 63,1 24-18

8 Riss, Kurtz, Mountain, Sarjeant 62.7 29-19

9 Bjerre, Kurtz, Schlein*, Hume 62.6 34-20

10 Grajczonek, Covatti, Heeps, Riss 62.4 37-23

11 Howarth, Riss, Sarjeant, King (f/x) 63.3 42-24

12 Bjerre, Covatti, Hume, Parkinson 63.1 45-27

13 Howarth, Grajczonek, Schlein, King (r) 63.4 50-28

14 Riss, Heeps, Mountain, Kurtz 64.1 53-31

15 Grajczonek, Covatti, Bjerre, Heeps 62.5 57-33

*tac ride points count double

Sheffield 3 pts. Ipswich 0 pts.

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