Plymouth’s hopes of reaching the National League KO Cup final were ended when they lost 40-25 at Eastbourne last night in the second leg of the semi-final, which was abandoned because of rain after 11 heats.
The result stands because the minimum of 10 heats had been completed and the Devils lose 79-75 on aggregate.
Plymouth were defending an 11-point advantage after winning 50-39 in their home leg at the St Boniface Arena on Friday evening.
It took Eastbourne nine heats on their home track before they wiped out the deficit by taking a 33-20 lead on the night with a 5-1 from Josh Bailey and Tom Brennan over Steve Boxall and Alex Spooner, who was guesting for unfit reserve Saul Bulley.
Adam Roynon top scored for Plymouth with seven points from three rides while Boxall, who was nursing a knee injury, had six points from three rides and Henry Atkins had six (paid seven) from four outings.
Adter Friday night’s first-leg victory, Devils’ team manager Laurence Rogers said: “The lads put on a great team effort and kept going when Eastbourne came back at them.”
The Devils continued their impressive home form against the KO Cup holders, who are also through to the League play-offs.
At one stage in the first leg the opposition were 16-14 ahead but the home side clawed away at that and regained the lead in heat seven at 22- 20.
The next race saw former Devil Matt Bates crash out on the back straight with the Devonian excluded. In the rerun lone Eagle Tom Brennan tried a hard inside move on the pits bend to pass race leader Richie Andrews, bringing down the home rider to gain an exclusion.
This left the Devils duo of Devonians Richie Andrews and Henry Atkins to gain an unopposed 5-0 to put their side 27-20 up.
The Eagles kept it close up to heat 12 with five points separating the sides at 38-33 before the Devils hit three successive 4-2 heat wins to secure their 11-point advantage.
Plymouth No.1 Adam Roynon won his first four rides before Jake Knight split him and Steve Boxall in heat 15 with Boxall shrugging off a leg injury to score 11.
Sixteen-year-old Henry Atkins included two heat wins in his nine paid 11 return whilst skipper Benji Compton added eight valuable points.
The aggregate winners after last night’s deciding leg will meet Belle Vue or Mildenhall in the final.
Eastbourne went into last night’s fixture without their star rider Jake Knight, who has been banned for two home matches following his non-appearance at the National League Riders’ Championship last weekend.
Knight missed the Leicester showpiece citing a lack of a serviceable engine following a meeting at Belle Vue the previous evening.
The Eagles drafted in Ben Morley to guest against Plymouth, but no guest will be possible in the play-off clash with Kent next week as Knight will no longer be No.1 in the Eagles’ averages.
Next up for Plymouth will be the National Trophy final against Mildenhall with the first leg at the St Boniface Arena on Friday and the decider at Mildenhall next Sunday afternoon.
The Fen Tigers have been hit by the news that heat-leader Danny Halsey looks set to miss the remainder of the season – after a routine visit to hospital.
Halsey said: “I was only in hospital for keyhole surgery to fix a bit of cartilage rubbing on my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), but when they went inside my knee the ACL was completely ruptured and my medial ligament had a tear.
“So they’ve had to cut a piece of my hamstring away to use as my new ACL and repair what they can to my medial ligament.
“I am afraid that now looks like it for this season. I am totally gutted with some big meetings for Mildenhall still to come.”