Thursday October 05, 2023
SHEFFIELD won their first ever top-fight league title on a history-making night at Owlerton on Thursday.

The Tru Plant Tigers successfully overturned an 18-point deficit to beat Ipswich 92-88 on aggregate.

The previous biggest margin overturned since the Play-Offs were introduced in 2002 was eight points but the steel city side pulled off one of the sport’s greatest ever comebacks.

A bumper crowd turned out for the occasion and created one of the best atmospheres ever felt at Owlerton - and the Sheffield riders responded in ultimate fashion.

The Tigers claimed the opening five races and managed to move within six on aggregate thanks to four straight heat advantages.

Back-to-back shared races followed before a third 5-1 of the night from Rising Star Jason Edwards and captain Kyle Howarth boosted the Tigers’ belief further with just two points between the sides.

All-action Aussie Josh Pickering was up to his breathtaking antics once again as he produced a sensational ride to pass 2017 World Champion Jason Doyle in Heat Nine.

Guest No.1 Robert Lambert and Howarth then took advantage of having an extra man in the third attempt of Heat Ten following a fall from Ipswich skipper Danny King - with another maximum moving Sheffield ahead in the tie for the very first time.

The visitors then levelled through their first heat advantage of the second leg before the Tigers regained the lead with a 5-1 from Chris Holder and guest reserve Jye Etheridge.

But Ipswich refused to give up and their spearhead duo of Emil Sayfutdinov and Jason Doyle recorded a 5-1 of their own to bring it all square with two heats to go.

The tension could be felt around the stadium but the Tigers put themselves in the driving seat when Pickering and Etheridge combined for a crucial maximum.

That meant a second place in Heat 15 would be enough for the Tigers - and whilst Ipswich temporarily sat on a 5-1 in the early exchanges of the last-heat decider, deadline day signing Holder and Lambert worked their way past Doyle as Owlerton erupted and jubilant scenes unfolded both on the track and on the terraces.

An overjoyed team boss Simon Stead said: “Just unbelievable. The commitment from the team and the will to win all started straight after Tuesday night on the group chat believing we could turn it around.

“I know people might say it’s a Sheffield Select but the lads we’ve brought in have really bought in to the Club and given everything - even more than we could have wished for.

“I’m really pleased that we managed to do it and really pleased that we managed to do it here in front of our home supporters after last year as well.

“I’m absolutely thrilled for everyone connected to the Club; the management team, our sponsors, track staff, officials and volunteers and of course our supporters. They have been absolutely unbelievable all season long but when it mattered most they turned out in huge numbers, made plenty of noise from the off and they shouldn’t underestimate the role they played in helping the boys get it over the line.

“I’m reluctant to single any one rider out as tonight was always going to be about a really solid team performance, and when you look down the scorechart, every single one of them did their bit.

“Both as a rider and a team manager I’ve had some unforgettable memories with this Club, but this one is right up there and will stick with me forever.”

The league now heads into its winter break with the sport’s AGM scheduled for next month.

Further reaction will be available in the coming days.

SHEFFIELD 56: Chris Holder 11, Robert Lambert 9+1, Jye Etheridge 9+1, Chris Harris 9, Josh Pickering 8+2, Kyle Howarth 5+3, Jason Edwards 5+1.

IPSWICH 34: Emil Sayfutdinov 11+1, Jason Doyle 9+1, Danny King 5, Keynan Rew 3+1, Erik Riss 3, Danyon Hume 2+1, Joe Thompson 1.

Sheffield win 92-88 on aggregate and are crowned 2023 Sports Insure Premiership Champions

Photo credit: IAN CHARLES

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