WSRA Oxford Cheetahs, powered by SD Timmo Car Sales, completed a very fruitful Northern Tour with an exciting 46-44 victory at Berwick last night (Saturday), which takes them to the top of the National League table.
The meeting all boiled down to Heat 15, with Chargers two points in arrears, with Jordan Jenkins and Henry Atkins both entering the race having scored 10 points apiece, and they faced previously unbeaten Berwick Bullet Connor Coles and another ten-pointer in Greg Blair.
Bullets had the choice of gate positions, but it was Jenkins who made the fastest getaway from the inside, while Henry Atkins burst through on the first bend. Berwick skipper Blair fell off on the first bend without any contact from any other rider. As he started to get to his feet, he took a noticeable glance across at the other three riders as they entered the third turn, saw Chargers on a 5-1, and stayed down. The race was stopped, and Blair then got to his feet, to the wrath of the travelling Oxford support, although there was little the referee could do except exclude the offending rider – which he did.
With Blair out, Jenkins and Atkins faced Coles in the re-run. Jenkins again made the best gate, while Atkins burst around Coles on the back straight. Jenkins was ready for Atkins’ move and the Oxford pair then team-rode to a 5-1 to clinch victory. The excitement seemed to affect the start marshal, since the race went on for five laps. It was declared after four laps and didn’t make any difference to the result – as Chargers won the meeting with the only 5-1 scored by either team all night.
The dramatic final race was only the final part of an enthralling night of National League speedway.
Cheetahs were hit by the withdrawal of Kelsey Dugard after two rides with a reoccurrence of an arm injury. Dugard had fended off Mason Watson to win Heat 2, but looked uncomfortable in Heat 4, where he picked up a third after Watson took a last-lap fall and Bullets squandered a possible 5-1.
The only time either team led by more than two points was going into Heat 13, after Bullets took a 4-2 in Heat 12 to move 38-34 ahead. Jenkins and Ryan Kinsley held an early 5-1 in Heat 13, with Blair flew around Kinsley on the second lap to grab second place.
There was some thrilling racing on display during the evening – especially in the closing half of the meeting. 16-year-old Jody Scott – on his first-ever visit to Shielfield Park – grabbed third place on the line from Ben Rathbone in Heat 10, after a surge around the outside on the final bend.
Watson passed Sam Woods in similar fashion in Heat 12. Woods again guested for Chargers for the injured Luke Killeen as an unattached rider and got stuck and picked up vital points after the withdrawal of Dugard. Woods finished a fine second in Heat 8, fending off Rathbone.
Jenkins (12+1) did not have it all his way on this occasion, and he was picked off by Blair, who produced a stunning outside pass in Heat 11. But Jenkins showed his class by defeating Blair in Heat 13 and then joining Atkins for a 5-1 in the final race. Atkins (13) lost out twice to Coles… but defeated him in the race that really mattered in Heat 15.
Kinsley won Heat 6 and was always on the pace and collected eight points, while Dugard scored 4+1 before his withdrawal.
Scott – fresh from winning a round of the British Youth Championship at Edinburgh in afternoon, where he won all five of his races – started slowly, but visibly improved throughout the meeting as he adjusted to the track. After his last bend heroics in Heat 10, he led Heat 14, but was passed at the halfway stage by Watson. Scott finished with a four-point tally.
Jacob Clouting scored 2+1 and his overtake of Rathbone in Heat 1 proved vital come the other end of the evening, while Woods’ efforts yielded him a hard-fought 3+1 from six outings.
It was a team effort by Chargers, and one that tested the side to the limit – far more than the runaway 57-32 victory at Edinburgh on Friday. Chargers also showed they can win at both small, technical tracks such as Armadale and a large full-throttle track such as Shielfield Park.
Bullets may currently be bottom of the table, but on this showing, they are unlikely to stay there. They have an excellent local prosect at reserve in Watson, and Coles and Blair are formidable opponents around their own circuit.
Speaking post-meeting, Oxford skipper Jordan Jenkins said: “This win has completed a great weekend for the team – we’re going to return home with two away wins on successive nights. After we took a big win at Armadale, full credit to Berwick who pushed us all the way tonight.
“Henry and I had a plan for the final race and we made it work on the first bend. The race was then stopped and we had to do it all over again, but again we had it all figured out how we thought we could beat Connor Coles and we did it.
“I didn’t have a perfect night, but I got it right when I needed to.
“In a 46-44 victory, every single point is vital towards the outcome. Unfortunately, Kelsey had to pulled out injured and we wish him well, but Sam Woods then scored some invaluable points for us.
“Jody wasn’t too happy with himself early on, but he then produced a great pass to grab a point on the line – when you win a meeting by two points, those are the moments you look back on, because they’re the difference between winning and not winning. Jody again scored some important points later in the meeting.
Berwick Bullets 44: Danny Phillips 6, Ben Rathbone 2+1, Connor Coles 13, Jamie Halder 2, Greg Blair 10, Josh Embleton 1+1, Mason Watson 10.
WSRA Oxford Chargers, powered by SD Timmo Car Sales 46: Jordan Jenkins 12+1, Jacob Clouting 2+1, Henry Atkins 13, Jody Scott 4, Ryan Kinsley 8, Sam Woods 3+1, Kelsey Dugard 4+1.