Lawson stars as Pirates secure passage to Championship Jubilee League final with win over Oxford

RICHARD Lawson led the way as Pirates secured passage into the final of the Championship Jubilee League with a 48-42 win over Oxford Cheetahs.

Lawson took home four race victories as the hosts withstood heavy pressure from an Oxford side that led throughout the contest.

Before the racing got underway, there were hearts-in-mouths when Paul Starke went flying during the pre-race parade, seeing his bike embedded into the air fence.

Luckily Starke walked away from the incident unscathed, but the same could not be said for his bike.

With a new vehicle in place for the first heat, Starke capitalised upon Cheetahs winning the toss, navigating a closely fought first lap to storm into an early 5-1 lead, with teammate and fellow former Pirate Scott Nicholls following closely behind in second.

Pirates number one Steve Worrall earned a solitary point for the hosts.

Oxford continued their strong start in the second race, with Dillon Ruml and Cameron Heeps taking first and third respectively to extend Cheetahs’ lead to six, with Zach Cook unable to battle back for first, settling for second.

Despite a strong pursuit in heat three from Ben Cook, Pirates were unable to overcome Aaron Summers, who powered into the lead early on and held it for the entirety of the race.

Skipper Danny King secured third, meaning the spoils were shared and Oxford’s lead remained at six.

Heat four finished in a second successive draw, with Lawson winning at a canter after Nathan Ablitt slipped at the first bend, allowing Cheetahs Heeps and Troy Batchelor to take second and third respectively.

Cheetahs maintained their control of the meeting with a 4-2 win in heat five. Captain King was unable to surpass seven-time British champion Nicholls, finishing second, whilst Starke kept Ben Cook in check at the back.

Both sides made changes ahead of the sixth race of the evening, with Pirates swapping Drew Kemp out for Lawson in a tactical switch. Oxford themselves made a reserve switch, with Heeps coming out for Ruml.

The introduction of Lawson worked a treat for the hosts, as the Whitehaven-born racer stormed into an early lead. Worrall was as comfortable as his teammate in second, allowing the Pirates to claw back four points, leaving the scores at 20-16 in favour of the Cheetahs.

Lawson again led the charge in race seven, combining with reserve Zach Cook to level scores with a maximum heat win.

Cheetahs restored their lead with a relatively comfortable 4-2 victory in heat eight. Starke produced his second race win of the evening, with reserve switch Zach Cook sandwiched in second by another Oxford racer, Ruml.

Race nine initially stopped after Heeps fell heading out of the first turn, with all four riders allowed back for the re-run.

During that re-run, King pushed Batchelor all the way, threatening to snatch the win throughout. However, Oxford’s number five held on for his first race win of the evening, leaving King and Ben Cook to take second and third respectively.

The away side stretched their lead further in heat 10, with Summers taking his second race win of the outing to make it 32-28.

Worrall battled to maintain second, whilst Kemp remained pointless at the back, despite swapping bikes in attempt for a resurgence in form.

Heat 11 was restarted twice, first for an unsatisfactory start and then again when Starke suffered a second collision with the air fence.

All four riders returned for the re-run, with Nicholls eventually taking the win ahead of Lawson and Zach Cook.

King picked up his first race victory in heat 12, whilst Nathan Ablitt again drew a blank, allowing Oxford to split the scores 3-3.

Pirates showed signs of life in heat 13, with Lawson picking up a fourth race win. Worrall grabbed a point to halve the deficit, leaving the meeting in the balance at 40-38 with two races remaining.

Brothers Ben Cook and Zack Cook were in sync for heat 14, combining well to head off the challenge of Summers with some strong defensive riding. The maximum heat victory edged Pirates into the lead for the first time with one race remaining.

King and Lawson returned for the final race to ensure victory, with the Pirates skipper taking first ahead of his number five, who secured second for a 5-1 win.

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