Rossiter admits Poole were 'better side on the night'
Elite League Semi-final play-off 2nd leg
Poole Pirates 55
Swindon Robins 38
Poole won 97-90 on aggregate
A PLAY-OFF worthy of the final saw reigning champions Swindon edged out in a tremendously exciting semi by a resurgent Poole.
In the other semi, Birmingham gained a one-sided victory over Wolverhampton, but the Robins and the Pirates slugged it out throughout two absorbing and entertaining legs and the seven-point margin of overall victory belies the fact that the outcome was decided only after the 29th of the 30 races.
Robins boss Alun Rossiter appeared devastated by the cruel reverse after Swindon had enjoyed another marvellous year, finishing runners-up in the core season.
But fair play to Poole who have bounced back from an indifferent first half of the campaign, and the loss of their world champion Chris Holder through injury.
Having scraped into the play-offs only in their final league match, they made the most of that opportunity reversing a ten point Swindon lead to take the overall match 97-90.
When it mattered, Poole’s big two of Darcy Ward and former double world champ Greg Hancock totally outshone Swindon’s top duo of Hans Anderson and Troy Batchelor.
Whether Andersen was hampered by the hand injury he picked up in the European Championships in Poland on Sunday only he will know, but both the captain and Batchelor were below their best.
There were nonetheless some spectacular speedway rides from the Swindon side, principally from young Nick Morris – what a prospect he is – and the hair-raising efforts of Peter Kildemand.
Swindon failed to get the start they wanted by losing two of the first three heats by 5-1, with Kildemand hitting the deck in Heat 3.
Morris was positively heroic to gain his points in Heats 5 and 8, but it was looking grim for the visitors when a third consecutive Hancock victory in Heat 9 saw Poole level the overall tie.
Then two fine back-to-back heats from the Swindon boys gave the meeting a new twist.
Kildemand, charged with the double-points tactical ride in Heat 10, rushed from third to first, positively sweeping Ward aside.
Andersen then proved the easy winner of Heat 11 with the irrepressible Morris almost reeling in ‘Magic’ Janowski on the line.
Even though the frantic Kildemand could not quite get past Hancock in Heat 12, Swindon still held a three-point lead with three races remaining, but successive 5-1s in Heats 13 and 14 gave Poole their place in the final.
Andersen and Batchelor did not represent the Robins in the ‘dead’ rubber but no one seemed to have told Kildemand the meeting was over as he rode three outrageously brave circuits to split Ward and Hancock.
Robins boss Rossiter admitted: “We were beaten by the better side, it’s as simple as that. They were the better side on the night and over two legs - not over the season, but when it really matters most.
“Of course, I’m gutted, but no more gutted than Poole were last year when we beat them in the final and I wish both them and Birmingham all the best for the final.
“I’m sure it will be a tremendous battle.
“The play-offs can work for you or they can work against you. I’m proud of my boys for the work they’ve done this season, finishing second in the league, but we’ve just dipped out at the end and credit to Poole.”
POOLE: Darcy Ward 13+1, Greg Hancock 13, Josh Grajczonek 12+1, Maciej Janowski 8, Tomas H Jonasson 5+3, Micky Dyer 2, Rohan Tungate R/R.
SWINDON: Peter Kildemand 9+1, Nick Morris 8+1, Hans Andersen 6, Troy Batchelor 5+1, Kyle Howarth 5, Eddie Kennett 4, Lewis Kerr 1.