Sheffield Tigers have a mountain to climb in Somerset tonight if they’re to lift the Premier League title after losing the first leg of the Grand Final 46-44.
The bookmakers now make them massive underdogs for the top prize in the second tier following their narrow defeat at Owlerton last night.
After seeing off highly-rated Newcastle and Glasgow sides to reach this stage, they will be disappointed to have missed out on a victory on home shale.
The sides traded blows with some exciting racing at Owlerton early on. Rohan Tungate bravely blasted to the front for the visitors in heat one before Robert Branford held off hard-charging home favourite Nathan Greaves in heat two.
But disaster struck in heat four as Kyle Howarth suffered an engine blow up when second on the final lap to gift Somerset a big 5-1.
After being left on the ropes early on, they hit back through a Howarth win in heat seven with Arthur Sissis snatching third on the line with a determined ride.
But with Somerset top two Tungate and Josh Grajczonek in imperious form, they struggled to make any inroads and always remained at arms length.
Heading into the interval six points behind, the hosts launched a spirited late fightback with Sissis and Howarth winning the final two races in composed fashion to give them a glimmer of hope.
Howarth again led by example as stand-in skipper, battling to 13 points on the night he was named the Tigers’ Rider of the Year.
Experienced ace Stuart Robson also impressed on a guest appearance, whilst Sissis fought hard for his paid seven points in the lower order.
But Ricky Wells struggled in place of Jason Garrity at No.1 whilst Josh Bates and Nathan Greaves were solid yet unspectacular.
The Tigers will be unchanged for the second leg this evening.
*SHEFFIELD 44: Kyle Howarth 13, Stuart Robson 12+1, Arthur Sissis 6+1, Josh Bates 6, Ricky Wells 4+2, Nathan Greaves 3, Simon Stead R/R.
*SOMERSET 46: Josh Grajczonek 12, Rohan Tungate 11, Paul Starke 7, Charles Wright 6, Robert Branford 4+1, James Shanes 3+1, Jake Allen 3.