Hungry Tigers edge first leg of Play-Offs

Sheffield Tigers 53 Newcastle 43

TIGERS have given themselves a great chance of winning the Premier League Play-offs after a hard fought clash with Newcastle at Owlerton last night.

It was a solid all-round team effort from Eric Boocock's men and the margin of victory could have been bigger – but credit the Tyneside outfit and their team boss George English, they pulled off some fine tactical moves at just the right time.

This result leaves the tie on a knife-edge with a place in the promotion and relegation race-off against Elite League bottom club Ipswich also on the line.

Tigers skipper Ricky Ashworth had one of his best nights of the season, scoring 14-points and also breaking the Owlerton track record in the process. Richard Hall chipped in with 11+1, but there were some vital contributions all down the line.

Sheffield got off to a bright start with Ashworth's record breaking victory in heat 1 and his partner Hugh Skidmore passed Derek Sneddon on the last lap for a 5-1.

This was immediately followed by two more home maximums until Mark Lemon stopped the rot for the visitors when winning a shared heat 4.

With the Diamonds 12 points, behind they responded by nominating Larsen for a tactical ride in heat 5 and he linked up with Dakota North for an 8-1, which momentarily reduced the deficit to 19-14.

The Tigers replied with an Ashworth and Skidmore 4-2 in race 6 and a shared heat 7 produced one of the highlights of the night. Josh Auty went from third to first only to be re-passed by Rene Bach and Tigers guest Adam Roynon tracked Sneddon for four laps before eventually beating him on the line.

Hall and Roynon then both came from behind to register a 4-2 in race 9 and Ashworth showed great speed to pass Bach in heat 10, with Skidmore following them home for another Sheffield 4-2 advantage.

There was more passing in heat 11 as Auty out-manoeuvred Larsen, but the Tigers had to settle for a share of the points with North edging out Roynon for third place.

Hall and Simon Lambert then shot from the tapes for a 5-1 in heat 12 which put the Tigers 45-30 ahead, but Larsen inflicted the first defeat of the night on Ashworth in a drawn heat 13 to keep the margin at 15 points.

Bach's tactical ride in the penultimate race had the desired effect as he came from behind to register six-points ahead of Hall and, with North third, the ensuing 7-2 got the Diamonds back into the tie.

Ashworth held off a determined challenge by Bach in the final race of the evening while Larsen finished third.

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