The Plymouth Devils opened their 2017 campaign in fine style with an impressive 18 point victory over the Isle of Wight Warriors in a National Trophy meeting with a convincing all round team effort. With a good crowd in attendance after a major publicity campaign by the promotion there were some happy faces at The St Boniface Arena!
The Warriors lost Tyler Govier in heat one when he and partner Ben Wilson collided with Govier withdrawn from the meeting with concussion. Then in the following race they were down to five riders when reserve Rikki Mullins crashed.
Whether it was race rustiness or whatever the first few races were full of falls and exclusions with two finishers in the first two races as the home side edged into a 8-2 lead.
Heat 3 saw home man Lee Smart harshly disqualified after a first bend clash with away skipper James Cockle .
The meeting really got going after that with some fast and furious racing as the scoreline was topsy-turvy as the Warriors tried to claw back the` deficit and after a hard fought battle to be behind 22-18. Then the home side clicked into gear with some good heat advantages starting in heat 8 when teenage duo Callum Walker and Henry Atkins combined for a maximum 5-1 race win to put the Devils in command at 27-19.
Heat 9 saw a classic battle between Lee Smart and Warriors guest Rob Shuttleworth with home skipper Richard Andrews in close pursuit as the Devils edged into a 10 point lead. Steve Boxall and Callum Walker added another 4-2 before a titanic battle between Benji Compton and Ben Wilson in heat 11 that saw the lead change hand several times .
Smart added his second heat win of the night holding off Cockle and with Henry Atkins third the lead was now 14 points after 12 heats. Heat 13 looked a potential cracker but a broken plug lead saw Compton only last to the first bend as Boxall strode to his fourth heat win.
Heat 14 was another classic battle as home skipper Andrews chased Chris Widman reeling him in with a superb pass to end his night on a fine win and with Rob Parker third the Devils edged close to a 50 point score at 49-33.
Rider of the Night Steve Boxall completed a faultless 15 point maximum and after a display of wheelies for the crowd was given the bumps by his happy team mates who had secured a 53-35 win .
Boxall was pleased to start the season on maximum form , “ I felt so good on the bike tonight. When I missed the gate in heat one I knew I had the speed to get through and win. To start with a full score was the perfect start to the season and the boys were all on it. We have a good team and the spirit is superb amongst us . We are all helping each other and that has to be good. “
Team Manager Laurence Rogers had a big smile on his face, “ We couldn’t have started better with a win and by a good margain. I know they lost two riders early on but the way we were riding I honestly don’t think with respect it would have made much difference. The lads were up for it and showed that we have the potential to shock a few this year and be up challenging for honours. Steve was a class act , Callum got better as the meeting went on, Smarty was back to his old self, Richie had a superb last ride, Benji gave it his all in his first meeting since last May, Rob was unlucky to be excluded first time out but had two good last rides whilst Henry had an amazing debut with paid 9. “
Co-Promoter Mark Phillips added, “ A good sized crowd, quite a few newcomers as well so hopefully they will all keep coming back. The first few races were problematic with crashes and exclusions but after that there was some good speedway. We know there are a few things we need to work on but on the whole it was a successful opening night for us and we must thank the local media for all their coverage and support.”
Steve Boxall 15, Lee Smart 9, Henry Atkins 7+2, Callum Walker 7+1, Richard Andrews 7+1, Benji Compton 6, Rob Parker 2+1.
ISLE OF WIGHT 35:James Cockle 12, Rob Shuttleworth 8+1, Ben Wilson 8, Chris Widman 4, Jamie Sealey 2, Rikki Mullins 0, Tyler Govier 0