Sheffield Tigers 37 Belle Vue 53
Sheffield lost their season opening ‘War of the Roses’ clash with Belle Vue but put in a spirited performance in front of a good Owlerton crowd, eventually going down by 16 points.
The Tigers were not outclassed by their Elite League opponents and never looked like they would be embarrassed by the Aces, which was predicted in some quarters.
In the end, it was the class of the Manchester club’s top end riders that saw them grab the victory after a very even opening few heats.
The first four heats were drawn, with both team’s registering two wins apiece, before Belle Vue edged into the lead after heat five.
It was a lead that the away side never really looked like relinquishing, despite the best efforts of the Sheffield septet.
They slipped eight points down by heat 10, but a first heat advantage, courtesy of Hugh Skidmore and Pepe Franc, meant that the Owlerton men were just six points down going into the interval.
The Aces, however, had enough in the tank to stretch the lead back to eight soon after and their Australian duo of Rory Schlein and Adam Shields made sure of the win in heat 13 with a 4-2.
For the Tigers, Hugh Skidmore shone with two excellent race wins and an impressive paid 11 points haul, while Joe Haines showed glimpses of what he can do as he registered 7 points, including a confidence-building victory in heat two and a titanic tussle with Aussie world cup star Schlein in heat 10 which he just failed to win. Pepe Franc improved as the meeting progressed, ending on five points.
Emiliano Sanchez started brightly but tailed off to finish his night on four plus a bonus. Ricky Wells and Richard Hall both battled valiantly for little reward, but did show some positive signs for the forthcoming season.
New boy Klaus Jakobsen finished on two, paid four.
New Tigers co-boss Nigel Hinchcliffe was pleased with how his side performed despite the defeat; “We did really well for the first 10 or 11 heats and then they just pulled away at the end.
“They showed their class late on in the meeting but I’m really proud with how the team battled tonight.”
Sheffield: Skidmore 10:1 , Haines 7, Wells 5:1, Franc 5, Sanchez 4:1, Hall 4, Jakobsen 2:2
Belle Vue: Shields 13, Schlein 12:2, Gjedde 8, Hougaard 7:1, Grajczonek 6, Lambert (G) 4, Eklof 2:1