Jedburgh rider Greg Blair helps get Berwick Bullets off to winning start
Jedburgh’s Greg Blair helped his speedway team, Berwick Bullets, get their season – and, indeed, career, them being a new outfit – off to a winning start at the weekend and he’s hoping for further success this week.
Berwick’s Shielfield Park hosted the first league speedway meeting in the UK since October 2019 on Saturday night following the coronavirus pandemic wiping out the sport’s entire 2020 calendar, and it was a happy return to action for the Northumbrians.
Their Speedway Great Britain National Development League side, the newly-formed Bullets, welcomed Edinburgh’s Armadale Stellar Devils from Edinburgh for the resumption of league racing after a year and a half off, albeit behind closed doors, and beat them by 50 points to 40.
Shielfield Park’s top team, Berwick Bandits, are set to follow in the second-tier Bullets’ tyre-tracks later this month once the sport’s Championship starts, and the academy side there are ready to get going in the Northern Development League too.
Leon Flint shot from the heat one tapes well from Nathan Greaves, with Bullets number two Ryan McDonald taking a good third well over Sheldon Davies to put Berwick 4-2 ahead, but heat two had to be halted after Gregor Millar hit the gas too hard and looped over, resulting in his exclusion and a trip to the medical room.
Mason Watson made the perfect gate in the re-run to win the second well ahead of Armadale’s George Rothery for a second 4-2, doubling the Bullets’ lead to 8-4, and Blair and Ben Rathbone doubled that with a solid 5-1 in heat three, moving the score on to 13-5.
Rothery spun off on the third bend of the fourth heat, stopping the heat and taking an exclusion, and the second Armadale reserve needed medical treatment but got back to his feet to walk off the track, and in the re-run, Kyle Bickley took three points untroubled over former Newcastle Diamond Danny Phillips in another 4-2, with the first round of heats ending at 17-7 before the track grade.
Blair had to fight hard in heat five, but Greaves managed to get past the Bullet and sneak the win to share the race 3-3, and in the sixth Flint and Phillips were out in opposition and Phillips led well from the gate, with Flint losing ground through the race, to give the Devils a 2-4 advantage to narrow the gap to 22-14.
The best race of the night thus far came in the seventh, with Bickley out in front for the win ahead of Wooley, but the chase for third went to the last yard of racing, taken just by Kieran Douglas over Lewis Millar in the 4-2 to restore the Bullets’ ten-point lead and make it 26-16.
Despite his earlier fall, Rothery chased McDonald well in the eighth, but the Bullet held on for 4-2, extending Berwick’s lead to 12 points.
Wooley took a shock lead in heat ten, but Flint forced his way round to take the win and another three points to tie the heat 3-3 and take the score to 36-24.
Greaves was looking to be nailed on for a win in heat 11 ahead of Bullets Bickley and Douglas, but he took a hard fall on the first bend of the last lap, gifting the Bullets boys a 5-1 and extending their side’s lead to 41-25, but heat 12 went 1-5 to Armadale after Blair fell on lap three, gifting the maximum to the Devils, meaning that with three races to go, the match was still not safe for the hosts.
Flint took up the heat 13 lead off bend two ahead of Greaves, though, and that 4-2 was enough to give the win to the Bullets with two races to run.
Team manager Gary Flint said: “It was great to see the guys back on the track in official league racing again after something like 19 months, and our side looked so slick and ready for victory, almost like they’d never had the break in the first place.
“Leon was right back to form, as was Kyle, while Mason Watson has shown what he can do, winning heat two well.
“This was a great way to start to start the season and sets us up nicely for our trip to Armadale on Friday night.
“The lads are confident of taking a decent result up there too.”
Blair, a tyre technician at Duns-based Redpath Tyres, added: “I was happy to get my first race with the Bullets and to get a win under my belt was good.”
The Bullets take on the capital side again this Friday, May 7, at 7.30pm and, though taking place behind closed doors, it will be live-streamed. For details, go to https://www.armadaledevils.co.uk/
Individual rider scores:
Berwick Bullets: 50
Leon Flint (c) 3 2 3 3 = 11
Ryan McDonald 1 0 3 0 = 4
Greg Blair 3 2 3 F 0 = 8
Ben Rathbone 2* 1* 0 F = 3+2
Kyle Bickley 3 3 3 1 2 = 12
Kieran Douglas (res) 1 1 2* 1 = 6+1
Mason Watson (res) 3 1 1 1 = 6
Armadale Stellar Devils: 40
Nathan Greaves 2 3 F 2 3 = 10
Sheldon Davies 0 0 0 1 = 1
Tom Wooley 1 2 2 3 1 = 9
Lewis Millar 0 0 1* 1 = 2+1
Danny Phillips 2 3 2 0 = 7
George Rothery (res) 2 Fx 1 2 1* 1* 3 = 11+2
Gregor Millar(res) Fx N N N = 0 withdrawn injured