Under-strength Sheffield crashed out of the Knockout Cup after producing their worst performance of the season at Ipswich last night.
Despite holding a 12-point lead from Thursday’s home leg, a hugely disappointing 55-35 defeat saw them lose 94-86 on aggregate.
While the Owlerton outfit again felt the absence of top injured duo Josh Grajczonek and Kyle Howarth, their remaining riders were unable to step up to the plate as required against an Ipswich side who looked more hungry for the win from the off.
A solid start was always going to be of great importance, yet the Tigers couldn’t have dreamt of much worse as they conceded four heat advantages in the opening races.
Guest No.1 Scott Nicholls and Danish favourite Lasse Bjerre battled their way through for second in the opening few exchanges to restrict further damage, but their overall lead was already reduced to just two points.
They had fortune on their side in the fifth though and bagged their first, and only, 5-1 of the night.
With Cameron Heeps excluded for crashing in the initial run, guest Mason Campton suffered bike problems as the lone host in the re-run as Nicholls and Todd Kurtz slid round for maximum points.
But the Witches hit back in the seventh when ex-Sheffield men Nathan Greaves and Ty Proctor struck a 5-1 of their own after the latter held off Bjerre after a fascinating battle, constantly exchanging positions.
While Sheffield were able to steady the ship slightly with three shared heats in the space of four races, and the scores level again on aggregate, Heats 12 and 13 proved to be killer blows for Simon Stead’s men.
Bjerre crashed out of the twelfth after chasing Cameron Heeps and Greaves hard, and reserve Jan Graversen was clamped down in the re-run as the hosts edged clear.
Heat 13 saw Nicholls demolish the starting tapes against his old club and with a 15 metre handicap punishment, he was never able to trouble the home pairing.
That left the Tigers needing back-to-back 5-1s to take the tie to Golden Heats and while Josh Bates stormed to victory in the penultimate race, Greaves eventually got the better of Graversen to snatch second place for Ipswich and book a place in the final for the Witches with a race to spare.
IPSWICH 55: Nathan Greaves 13+2, Danny King 12+2, Cameron Heeps 12, Ty Proctor 11+1, Mason Campton 5+1, Connor Mountain 2, Justin Sedgmen R/R.
SHEFFIELD 35: Scott Nicholls 13, Josh Bates 9, Jan Graversen 6, Lasse Bjerre 4+1, Todd Kurtz 3+2, Georgie Wood 0, Kyle Howarth R/R.
Ipswich win 94-86 on aggregate.