REDCAR Bears have been dumped out of the Premier League KO Cup at the first hurdle.
The Ecco Finishing Bears had given them more than a fighting chance of progress after the first leg ended 49-41 to the Devils down in Devon, but they were chasing the tie throughout the second leg at South Tees Motorsports Park and went out 92-88 on aggregate.
They received a pre-meeting boost when No 1 Richard Lawson was able to take his place in the team when parent club Lakeside’s Elite League clash at Swindon was rained off.
But even the unexpected addition of their inspirational winter signing wasn’t able to get them a victory of nine points or more which would have seen them through.
Manager Jitendra Duffill was left bemoaning a number of refereeing decisions which he felt had gone against the Bears.
He pointed to the gate positions being at odds to what the rule book states after Todd Kurtz was put off a 15 metre handicap for touching the tapes at the start of heat five; inisisted that Ben Barker should have been excluded for bringing down Rafal Konopka and questioned why Rasmus Jensen was allowed to get away with a flying start in heat 10 while Lawson was adjudged to have set off too early in heat 13 when he didn’t appear to have done anything differently.
The ref may have called the Barker/Konopka incident correctly but Duffill was certainly spot on with his other two concerns.
But in any case when at the end of the night you couldn’t help wondering whether the team could do with strengthening if they are to achieve their aims this season.
Luke Crang ended the night without a point to his name and you can’t help but wonder whether when the next averages come out and Konopka’s CMA is much lower than his current assessed figure of 7.00, the management could do worse than redeclare and bring in second string since they’d have a few points to play with.
The night started well enough with a 5-1 from Lawson and Hugh Skidmore but although Konopka battled past Kalle Katajisto in heat three, the Devils cut the gap to two points.
Konopka’s disputed exclusion in heat five allowed the visitors to level it up at 15-15 although Carl Wilkinson lost his steel shoe trying to pass Ben Barker and you felt he’d have completed the job had he kept it on.
With eight races gone the lead was up to 27-21 and the aggregate advantage was within grasp.
But Jensen’s lightning gate in heat 10 spearheaded a damaging 5-1 with Katajisto over Lawson and Skidmore, neither of whom had been beaten by an opponent at the time.
And it got worse, with the Devils levelling it up at 36-36, leaving the Bears three races to turn it around.
The comeback looked like it could be on when Lawson fought his way past Barker to partner Aaron Summers to a 5-1 next time out.
But as the rain began to fall, Konopka hit the deck while third in the penultimate race. Jan Graversen got the better of a previously unbeaten Jensen but that left the Bears needing a 5-1 in the last heat to force a replay.
In the event Barker led from start to finish and though the Bears won on the night, their cup dream was ended.
BEARS: Aaron Summers 10+2, Jan Graversen 10+1, Hugh Skidmore 10, Richard Lawson 8+3, Carl Wilkinson 7, Rafal Konopka 2, Luke Crang 0.
DEVILS: Rasmus Jensen 11, Todd Kurtz 10+2, Ben Barker 10, Kalle Katajisto 6+1, Sam Simota 3+1, James Sarjeant 3+1, R/R for Kyle Newman.