Glasgow 34, Sheffield Tigers 31: Tigers make play-off final on aggregate - but it comes at a cost

Josh Grajczonek before his heavy heat five crash. Pic: Taylor Lanning
Josh Grajczonek before his heavy heat five crash. Pic: Taylor Lanning
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Sheffield battled through to the Championship Play-Off final - but at a major cost after losing both Josh Grajczonek and Josh Bates after heavy crashes.

Tigers roared through to tomorrow’s showdown with Ipswich at Owlerton after a remarkable backs-to-the-wall performance at Glasgow last night.

Despite losing both Bates and Grajczonek after Heats 3 and 5 third bend falls, the Tigers held on to wrap up their place in the final after Heat 11.

Referee Jim McGregor abandoned the meeting after Heat 12 was stopped following a crash for Lasse Bjerre. Tigers lost by just three points on the night 34-31 - and won 90-65 on aggregate.

Boss Simon Stead admitted: “It was a very tough night for us. We don’t really have a sense of victory after the injuries.

“Now we just have to sweat on the fitness of both Joshs and Lasse after all three had heavy crashes. We only have 48 hours until the final so it’s a really hard night for the club.”

In truth it was over as a contest very early in proceedings. Richard Lawson won the opener but just one race later and the Steel City Tigers were well and truly in control of their destiny. Glasgow’s James Sarjeant charged into the lead and Alfie Bowtell steamed under Jan Graversen going into the third turn.

Graversen came down and Bowtell excluded by referee Jim McGregor. In the re-run, this time it was Sarjeant who came down on turn one after Graversen had over-locked. To the dismay of the home fans, Sarjeant was also KO’d by ref McGregor.

That left two two Sheffield reserves to cruise round for a 5-0 and left the visitors five-points up on the night.

Then more drama unfolded as Bates spectacularly rodeoed off his machine in Heat 3 and after a long delay was ruled out of the meeting with a neck injury.

Glasgow scored a 5-1 in the re-run but a storming Heat 4 win by Kyle Howarth in front of Aaron Summers kept Sheffield in the driving seat.

However, more horror was to follow. As the home pair of Richie Worrall and James Sarjeant went clear, this time Grajczonek came down on the icy third bend in an almost carbon copy crash like Bates two races earlier.

After a further 20-minute delay, Tigers team boss Simon Stead had to call a swift team talk to discuss with the remaining five riders how to cope with missing the Josh duo.

But remarkably, Tigers showed terrific spirit to stay just three points adrift after Heat 11 and hitting the magic 90-point mark.

However there was a further nightmare to follow as Lasse Bjerre crashed into the second bend fence while leading Heat 12. Home guest reserve Bowtell had nowhere to go but plough into the Dane.

Thankfully Bjerre got up on his feet and as it turned 10pmreferee McGregor called a halt to proceedings with Tigers in the final - but at some cost.