Sadly I was unable to join Kent Royals this weekend, but a big thank you to Glenn Collins, their press officer for allowing us to share this update in his words and thank you to Oddshots/Tillypics Speedway for the use of their photos.
It was The Royals who reigned supreme at The Old Gun Site as the Kent Royals and Belle Vue Colts beat the rain to stage a fantastic advert for National Development League Speedway. In a match that was close throughout the first eleven heats it was a quartet of late maximums which saw Kent win by eighteen points 54-36. The Royals were led by scores of 13+1 from heat leaders Ben Morley and Nathan Ablitt, but all seven riders contributed, in some instances not reflecting by the scoring but was noted by manager Jamie Willis who commented post-match “as a team we’ve spoken about minimizing our mistakes and capitialising on the opposition’s. Something which we did to near perfection today.”
It was an all-round team performance from Kent, as they produced nine heat wins and critically only three last places, two of which were the visitors only heat wins that they could manage. The meeting started with Royals number one Ben Morley making a fast start to win over a very lively Matt Marson but with Connor King taking the third place point over the Colts’ number one Sam Hagon it was just the start that the hosts had hoped for. This was backed up superbly in the reserves race when Rhys Naylor produced a magnificent tape to flag victory to double the hosts lead to four points after two heats. However, the visitors showed they wouldn’t go quietly and after home rider Jack Kingston was disqualified for failing to make the two minutes time allowance after coming out without his dirt deflector fitted. The visiting duo of Matt Marson and Jack Smith captialised on this to quash the lead and bring the scores back level with a 1-5 that caused some worried looks across the assembled Royals’ fans faces. The Royals re-established a two-point lead in the fourth race when Nathan Ablitt notched his first race win of the afternoon over Belle Vue’s other Australian live wire James Pearson.
The initial staging saw Colts reserve clip his team mates back wheel and high side in an alarming crash on bend two. Luke Muff was sadly withdrawn from the meeting.
Race of the day was certainly the sixth race, Royals Ben Morley gated and got away but James Pearson chased hard for all four laps off the last bend made up ground throwing everything at Morley as if The Ashes was on the line and as they went over the finish line there was only the width of a finger nail between the two riders with the Kent racer holding on to take the win, at the back Colts reserve Sam Woods held off Connor King for a share of the points, which maintained the difference between the two sides at two points. The lead was extended back to four points in heat seven, when Nathan Ablitt and Rhys Naylor managed a 4-2 over Marson, and there were problems for Colts skipper Jack Smith who got into trouble on bend one of the third lap and managed to wedge himself between air fence sections between bends 1 and 2 causing the race to be stopped as he couldn’t free himself.
The gap remained at four points until the tenth race when Marson and Smith teamed up with a 2-4 for the visitors, which closed the gap to two points with five heats to go. Sam Hagon won the eleventh race to make the scores 34-32 with four to go. Kent manager Jamie Willis saw an opportunity to gain an advantage by bringing in Rhys Naylor as a reserve switch with Belle Vue one reserve down and the other scoring 1 point from four rides. It was an inspired move as Naylor and team captain Tom Woolley made the start and took off for a maximum 5-1 over Jack Smith who nearly visited the scene of his previous incident, which moved the hosts to six points up, with a vital thirteenth heat to come next. And that Heat 13 saw Ben Morley and Nathan Ablitt taking on Sam Hagon who had won his previous two races and James Pearson who had taken a liking to the Iwade circuit (he would admit after the meeting). As nerves and tension rose Morley and Ablitt remained the calmest men in the The Old Gun Site venue. Morley made one of his trademark gates and Ablitt moved inside Pearson coming off turn two to settle in behind his partner for a second successive 5-1 and the Royals now ten points to the good, and with the score at 44-34 the Royals needing to provide a finisher in the next race to seal the victory.
The penultimate race saw Matt Marson take a tumble on the second lap of the initial staging whilst dueling for the lead with Rhys Naylor, Marson’s disqualification took any nagging doubt of the destination of the league points, but The Royals sealed it with style as Jack Kingston and Naylor, two graduates of Iwade’s long production of riders who came through from a young age and showed they’ve never forgotten how to ride the circuit, to take the third successive maximum 5-1 for Kent and make the score 49-35 going into the final race.
That final race added the finesse onto a great all round team performance when once again Nathan Ablitt and Ben Morley gated superbly, and despite all the pressure from James Pearson, it was a fourth successive 5-1 from the Royals. The final score of 54-36 gives the Royals an 18 point lead in the hunt for the league bonus point when the sides reconvene at the National Speedway Stadium on July 7th.
Speaking after the meeting, Southend speedster Ben Morley said “was an awesome performance from the boys today with a good win over a very strong Belle Vue side. It was close for most of the meeting, but we pulled it out of the bag with four big 5-1’s in the final four races and come out with the vital two league points for the team that we needed.”
Manager Jamie Willis added “What a final four heats we really turned the screw when it mattered!” before adding “All the boys contributed to an excellent result and I’m really proud of all of them.” And looking further ahead to the return clash Willis said “Just like every meeting we will head to Manchester in a couple of weeks aiming to win the meeting but with the eighteen points difference it will add another dynamic to the evening and gives us the chance to pick up an extra point.”
Next up for the Kent Royals is a home match against the Oxford Chargers on Sunday 2nd July. Oxford were the only team to win at The Old Gun Site last season, a result which all but certainly cost The Royals a place in the end of season Play Offs so revenge could well be the appetite for success.
And we had to add this picture as it get so much comment on our commentary. Hopefully catch the team trackside soon.