Mildenhall Fen Tigers 48
Coventry Storm 41
Mildenhall Fen Tigers had to weather the Coventry Storm, coming from behind to begin the defence of their National League title with a victory.
They got off to the worst possible start, with number one Stefan Nielsen crashing out after a dropping a chain while leading the opening race.
With race partner Aaron Baseby harshly excluded, despite remounting in the rerun, the Storm’s first ever league race saw guest Ben Morley and Richard Franklin claim an unlikely 5-0 success.
Reserves Liam Rumsey and Nathan Stoneman hit straight back with a 5-1 for the Fen Tigers, but with Coventry superbly led by new British Under-21 champion Robert Branford and ably supported by skipper James Sarjeant, the home side had to dig deep.
They finally went ahead for the first time in heat nine, at the third time of asking, after battered and bruised youngster Josh Bates and the again excellent veteran Jon Armstong combined for their second maximum of the afternoon.
Mildenhall slowly but surely got themselves further in front with an exciting team effort that saw every rider claim a race win or paid win, with the seven-point victory margin enough to claim all three points on offer, with Nielsen and Dan Halsey claiming excellent wins over the seemingly unstoppable Branford.
Once again Nielsen showed why he has earned the nickname Rubberman after walking away from another horrific-looking spill, this time at the end of the final race after a coming together with Branford as they crossed the finishing line.
Skipper and top scorer Halsey said: “When you look at the points the boys got you can see everyone did their bit today.
“The track was a bit grippy at first, but once we got used to the conditions we were fine.
“To be honest I didn’t realise it was as tight as that early on, but it turned out fine in the end. Coventry are a good team so to get all three points is great.”
Those thoughts were echoed by co-promoter and team manager for the day Chris Louis, who said: “We had to fight hard for that win and made things difficult in the early stages, but the boys worked hard and got there in the end, which is the main thing.”
Mildenhall 48: Nielsen 9, Baseby 5+1, Bates 9+1, Armstrong 8+2, Halsey 10, Rumsey 4, Stoneman 3+2.
Coventry 41: Morley 6, Franklin 3+2, Branford 13, Johnson 4, Sarjeant 9, Fenwick 1, Knuckey 5+1.