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Comets retain the Ian Thomas Shield
Photo by Dave Payne
Sun 05 Apr 2015 by Comets Press Office
The Workington Comets retained the Ian Thomas Shield in dramatic fashion after the teams had tied on aggregate over the two legs.
Following the Comets 53-37 success over the Diamonds at Derwent Park on Saturday night an identical score at Brough Park meant that after 30 heats of speedway the aggregate scores were locked together at 90-90, which meant that a run-off was required to determine who would win the shield for 2015.

Workington won the toss for gate positions and elected to put top-scorer Ricky Wells on the inside, while the Diamonds nominated the hitherto unbeaten Lewis Kerr to face him from the outside grid.

As the tapes rose it initially appeared to be Kerr that made the gate but it was Ricky that led into turn one and moved out into the dirt line where he controlled the race from there until the chequered flag, much to the delight of the travelling Comets supporters.

Earlier the match had seen the Diamonds eat into the Comets first leg advantage as the Comets struggled to get to grips with the Brough Park circuit, particularly as the cooling moist air made the inside line increasingly greasy as the match wore on.

Following a ‘sun break' after heat 4 as the setting sun caused a problem with the riders vision on turns three and four Kenneth Hansen changed bikes for his second ride, however as he exited the fourth bend for the first time he lifted and fell (bursting an air fence panel as he did so) and cleared the track.

Then, in heat 8, the Comets pairing of Ricky and Nicki looked set to turn a 3-3 into a Workington 5-1 as Ricky went under Lewis Rose at the end of lap 1 and Nicki followed him through but then locked up mid-corner and fell heavily, with Rose doing very well to miss him. Nicki was excluded but Ricky won the re-run to keep the Comets 8 points down on the night and 8 in front on aggregate.

In heat 11 Kenneth held third place on the back straight of lap one but retired as he was clearly struggling following his earlier crash, while Ricky held on to second place but the Diamonds 4-2 put them 14 in front and left the Comets just 2 points in front on aggregate with four races to go.

The following race saw Nicki bite the dust again when on the apex of turn three and four second placed Rene locked up slightly on the greasy surface and third placed Nicki had to pull a locker to avoid him, falling as he did so and causing the following Lewis Rose to crash into him quite heavily. Thankfully everybody was able to walk away but Nicki was again excluded.

In the re-start the tapes did not rise on the outside but, next time round they did as Rene followed Kerr home to put the score at 44-28 in the Diamonds favour, making the aggregate scores level with three races to go.

With Nicki replacing Kenneth in heat 13 the Diamonds 5-1 put them 20 points ahead on the night and had them thinking that they were going to reclaim the shield that they won in 2013.

However, Rusty and Nicki had other ideas and led from the gate, with Rusty winning in style around the outside while Nicki saw off the opening lap challenge of former Comet Simon Nielsen to keep hold of second place as the tie-saving 5-1 for the Comets meant that the aggregate scores were level once again going into heat 15.

Kerr led the nominated heat from the tapes with Rusty applying pressure on the opening lap and with Ricky holding the crucial third place from Lindgren who tailed off and retired on lap three. But, the shared heat meant that a run-off was required to determine the winners of the Ian Thomas Shield for 2015 and of course that's where Ricky did the business for the Comets!

Afterwards the Comets team manager Tony Jackson said: “To win the Ian Thomas Shield in the way we did was dramatic to say the least.

“Having taken a 16-point lead to Newcastle we saw it gradually reduced heat by heat and with two races to go it looked as if the shield was slipping away from us. However, that maximum heat advantage from Rusty and Nicki in heat 14 kept us in it.

“I know it's a cliché but speedway was the winner over the two matches with the Diamonds this weekend – great entertainment to the very last race, and certainly a couple of meetings that did the memory of Ian Thomas proud. Retaining the shield gives us a nice lift ahead of our official fixtures, which get underway next weekend at Edinburgh and Glasgow; both of which will be tough matches.”

Scorers:

NEWCASTLE DIAMONDS 53
Steve Worrall 12, Christian Henry 4+1, Lewis Kerr 15, Anton Rosen 4+1, Ludvig Lindgren 11+1, Simon Nielsen 3+1, Lewis Rose 4+1.

WORKINGTON COMETS 37
Kenneth Hansen 1+1, Ricky Wells 10+1, Rene Bach 8, Rusty Harrison 7+2, Kyle Howarth 5, Nicki Barrett 6+2, Paul Bowen 0.

Aggregate score: Workington 90 Newcastle 90

Ricky Wells defeated Lewis Kerr in a run-off to give Workington the Ian Thomas Shield for 2015.
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Last Updated :  Mon 06 Apr 2015, 12:13 UK
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Photography
Dave Payne, Adrian Randall