Poole Pirates v Ipswich Witches
Poole Pirates staged one of the most remarkable comebacks in play-off history, overturning a 12 point deficit to take a ten-point advantage into Saturday's second leg of their semi-final at Ipswich.
With pre-meeting rain affecting the track, a situation that worsened somewhat in the opening heat, track conditions were far from ideal and it was the Witches who adapted the quickest, despite Poole gating on a 5-1 in the first heat.
But a fall by Nico Covatti saw that opener shared before Witches reserve Jake Allen registered the first of three straight wins for himself and tapes offender Ricky Wells snatching third place to make it a second share, after starting off a 15 metre handicap.
Ipswich took the meeting to the Pirates with back-to-back maximum heat advantages and Niels-Kristian Iversen protected their eight point lead with a pass on Nicolai Klindt with a pass on Nicolai Klindt in heat five. Brady Kurtz made it two from two in heat six but Danny King reeled in Kurtz's partner Covatti to deny Poole a much needed 5-1. Matters became much more dire for the Pirates in heat seven as Richard Lawson and Chris Harris partnered up for their second maximum of the evening whilst Allen's heat eight victory was converted to a 4-2 advantage and a lead of 12 at the halfway stage.
Poole needed to regroup and team manager Neil Middleditch issued a stark peptalk that had it's desired effect.
Klindt and Josh Grajczonek jetted out the start in heat nine to see off King and James Sarjeant, reducing the deficit to eight. Covatti made all the early running in heat 10, frustratingly for Poole though, Kurtz, unbeaten hitherto, was struggling at the back and Harris managed to pick off his 'Somerset' team-mate to claim the win and restore a double figure lead for the Suffolk side.
The Pirates looked a beaten team but excellent rides from Jack Holder and Tomas H Jonasson in heat 11 sparked some hope as they banked a 5-1 and Jonasson found himself out again in the twelfth, to replace Wells, this time with Nicolai Klindt. Both hit the front early on but Chris Harris plugged away behind and picked off Klindt on the third lap. He kept up the chase on Jonasson and drove in hard at the first turn of the final lap, collecting Jonasson in the process, with both riders going down.
Harris was disqualified for the move and the race awarded as a 5-1, whilst a lengthy delay ensued to replace the airfence that took the full force of the impact.
Kurtz and Holder team-rode a third successive maximum that took Poole into the lead for the first time of the meeting, thirteen heats in! Their two point lead was immediately extended to six when Jonasson, still sore from his crash, rode through the paid barrier with skipper Josh Grajczonek, thus matching the Pirates staggering sequence of four straight 5-1s of last season's semi-final home leg.
But they went one better this time around, Kurtz and Holder repeating their heat 13 exploits to close out the meeting with their fifth 5-1 on the bounce, a remarkable turnround of fortunes to put themselves in the driving seat for their eleventh grand final final appearance in eighteen years of play-off history
Brady Kurtz,3,3,0,3,3=12 (5)
Nico Covatti,F,1,2,2=5 (4)
Nicolai Klindt,0,2,3,2'=7+1 (4)
Josh Grajczonek,1,1',2',2'=6+3 (4)
Jack Holder,1,1,3,2',2'=9+2 (5)
Tomas H Jonasson,2,0,2',3,3=10+1 (5)
Ricky Wells,1',0,0,RS=1+1 (3)
Niels-Kristian Iversen,2,3,1,1,0=7 (5)
Cameron Heeps ,1',0,1,0=2+1 (4)
Chris Harris ,2',2',3,X0,1=8+2 (5)
Richard Lawson ,3,3,1,0=7 (4)
Danny King ,2',2,1,0=5+1 (4)
James Sarjeant ,0,0,0,RS=0 (3)
Jake Allen ,3,3,3,1,1=11 (5)
Ht 1: Brady Kurtz, Niels-Kristian Iversen, Cameron Heeps , Nico Covatti, 3-3 3-3 [awd]
Ht 2: Jake Allen , Tomas H Jonasson, Ricky Wells, James Sarjeant , 3-3 6-6 [.]
Ht 3: Richard Lawson , Chris Harris , Josh Grajczonek, Nicolai Klindt, 1-5 7-11 [.]
Ht 4: Jake Allen , Danny King , Jack Holder, Ricky Wells, 1-5 8-16 
Ht 5: Niels-Kristian Iversen, Nicolai Klindt, Josh Grajczonek, Cameron Heeps , 3-3 11-19 
Ht 6: Brady Kurtz, Danny King , Nico Covatti, James Sarjeant , 4-2 15-21 
Ht 7: Richard Lawson , Chris Harris , Jack Holder, Tomas H Jonasson, 1-5 16-26 
Ht 8: Jake Allen , Nico Covatti, Cameron Heeps , Ricky Wells, 2-4 18-30 
Ht 9: Nicolai Klindt, Josh Grajczonek, Danny King , James Sarjeant , 5-1 23-31 
Ht 10: Chris Harris , Nico Covatti, Richard Lawson , Brady Kurtz, 2-4 25-35 
Ht 11: Jack Holder, Tomas H Jonasson, Niels-Kristian Iversen, Cameron Heeps , 5-1 30-36 
Ht 12: Tomas H Jonasson, Nicolai Klindt, Jake Allen , Chris Harris , [exc] 5-1 35-37 
Ht 13: Brady Kurtz, Jack Holder, Niels-Kristian Iversen, Danny King , 5-1 40-38 
Ht 14: Tomas H Jonasson, Josh Grajczonek, Jake Allen , Richard Lawson , 5-1 45-39 
Ht 15: Brady Kurtz, Jack Holder, Chris Harris , Niels-Kristian Iversen, 5-1 50-40 
REFEREE Mrs Christina Turnbull
IPSWICH won toss and chose gates 1&3 | POOLE choose gates 2&4 in heat 15