THEY won the battle but they couldn’t win the war.
Redcar Bears battled back from behind to score a nine-point win over Berwick Bandits in the second leg of their Tees Tweed Trophy clash at South Tees Motorsports Park, which would have been good enough to earn all three points had it been a Premier League clash.
But a yawning 20-point deficit from the first leg in March was too great to overcome and they lost 97-86 on aggregate.
The Ecco Finishing Bears have struggled to impose themselves early on in some meetings and this was again the case as, with former South Tees Motorsports Park favourite Matej Kus making a flying start to his first meeting back at his old stomping ground, Berwick flew into a six-point lead.
David Bellego was also into his stride early for the visitors, setting the fastest time of the season at STMP as he won the opening race.
But Jitendra Duffill’s side had their noses in front after eight races and never looked like relinquishing their lead from there on.
The comeback started in heat six when Richard Lawson roared round Steen Jensen after the Dane had seconds earlier nipped past him to spearhead a 4-2 with Hugh Skidmore.
The lead stood at eight points after 11 races and the typically spectacular Carl Wilkinson thought he’d kept it that way after a do or die move on Kus, but the former Czech champion was adjudged to have hung on by the narrowest of margins to secure a 3-2.
But the Bears immediately set about building up their lead again, first with a 5-1 and then a 3-2 in heat 14 – the latter a result of Rafal Konopka first being excluded for falling unaided and then Jensen being red lighted for putting Jan Graversen into the fence.
Graversen needed attention from the medical staff after the fall but bravely dusted himself down and held off a determined Matthew Wethers for his third win of another profitable night.
Graversen has been an exceptional signing for the Bears and is riding far better than his 5.52 average would suggest.
The final race went the way of the Bandits although Wilkinson fought his way past Kus to prevent a 5-1.
All in all it wasn’t a bad night’s work for the Bears but again they had to rely on five of their seven riders for almost all their points.
Luke Crang has found his first season of Premier League racing hard going recently and recorded his second consecutive zero score while Konopka managed just two (paid three).
The Pole has developed an alarming habit of falling while dicing for positions in the last couple of matches, possibly the result of trying too hard. He still looks capable of being a consistent scorer by the time the season is up though.
The Bears now have two tough away matches to tackle this weekend – at Somerset on Friday and Newcastle on Sunday.
BEARS: Carl Wilkinson 12, Jan Graversen 11+1, Richard Lawson 10+1, Aaron Summers 8+1, Hugh Skidmore 6+1, Rafal Konopka 2+1, Luke Crang 0.
BANDITS: Matej Kus 12, Steen Jensen 10+1, Kevin Doolan 9, David Bellego 6+1, Matthew Wethers 2, Liam Carr 1+1, Claus Vissing (riding in Danish final) R/R.
SEE the Evening Gazette and Gazettelive on Saturday for the latest from team manager Jitendra Duffill, a look ahead to Sunday’s derby match and start marshal Barry Simpson’s big night at the Finnish Grand Prix.