Sheffield Tigers come up short at Belle Vue in play-off second leg
Sheffield’s Premiership season is over after a 48-42 defeat at Belle Vue in the second leg of their play-off semi-final.
The Aces progress to the Grand Final, where they will face Peterborough, by a 16-point aggregate margin, although the overall outcome is in no way a reflection of the effort put in by the Tru Plant Tigers at the National Speedway Stadium.
The visitors, roared on by a terrific travelling support, gave the Aces numerous nervous moments as they repeatedly took the lead on the night and refused to be shaken off.
Ultimately the ten-point defeat from Monday’s first leg proved too big a mountain to climb, as the Tigers’ Roses rivals officially secured their aggregate victory in the penultimate race.
Sheffield took the lead on no fewer than four occasions throughout a see-saw second leg, including 4-2s in each of Heats 1, 3 and 5 – all of which were immediately cancelled out by the home side.
Jack Holder was superb in winning Heats 1 and 5, getting the better of Richie and Steve Worrall respectively, whilst Josh Pickering produced a brilliant move in Heat 3 to go round the Belle Vue skipper – that after Pickering and Kyle Howarth had both charged inside Charles Wright, who fell on turn three.
Home No.1 Dan Bewley again started with a last place in Heat 1 but this time he was in dominant form thereafter, and his wins in Heats 6 and 7 steadied the ship for the Aces.
They went ahead on the night for the first time in Heat 8 when Jye Etheridge re-passed Troy Batchelor for third place, although Adam Ellis kept Tigers in touch with a fine win in Heat 9 before Pickering and Howarth worked hard to keep Richie Worrall out in the next.
And when Holder and Batchelor combined for the first 5-1 of the night in Heat 11, Sheffield led 34-32 and had cut the aggregate gap back to eight points, meaning they still had hopes of pulling off a dramatic late comeback.
But although guest Connor Mountain took a great win in Heat 12, Howarth was frustrated to be kept at the back by Etheridge and Steve Worrall, and the Aces virtually secured their progression in a dramatic Heat 13.
Holder and Ellis gated for the Tigers but Bewley produced a brilliant ride to go past both at the start of lap two, and Wright then snatched third place from Ellis who lifted violently off the second bend.
That meant it was almost all over, and a 5-1 to Belle Vue in Heat 14 from Wright and Etheridge over Pickering and Mountain officially confirmed the Tigers’ elimination.
Sheffield boss Simon Stead said: “The boys gave it everything, and we’re really disappointed. We were up for it, and we just fell a little bit short.
“I felt at any stage if we could have really put a marker down and got consecutive 5-1s, it would have just started to snowball a bit. As it was, we probably ran out of steam a bit after a long track grade after Heat 11.
“The damage was done on Monday really, though, and in hindsight would we have been better calling it and running it another day, in more ideal track conditions?
“But it is what it is, and we have to take it on the chin. The club has done really well I believe, with a great set of lads, and for our first year in the Premiership there’s plenty to build on.”
BELLE VUE 48: Dan Bewley 15, Richie Worrall 10, Jye Etheridge 9+1, Steve Worrall 7+2, Charles Wright 6, Tom Brennan 1, Brady Kurtz r/r.
SHEFFIELD 42: Jack Holder 13, Josh Pickering 7+1, Adam Ellis 7, Connor Mountain 7, Troy Batchelor 4+1, Kyle Howarth 4+1, Danyon Hume 0.
Belle Vue win 98-82 on aggregate