Berwick Bandits achieve first away win since 2019 at Oxford

Oxford Cheetahs 40 Berwick Bandits 50A hand injury suffered by Jye Etheridge was the only disappointment on a night when the FTS Bandits, powered by Keenwood Karpets, graduated with honours, writes George Dodds.

By Keith Hamblin
Thursday, 14th July 2022, 10:37 am
Out in front ... Berwick's young Danish star Jonas Knudsen. Picture by Les Aubrey.
Out in front ... Berwick's young Danish star Jonas Knudsen. Picture by Les Aubrey.

On their first visit to the university city in over two decades five riders received firsts ending a Berwick away day drought stretching back to April 2019.

Skipper Chris Harris proved yet again that he has a PhD in track craft and seemed set to a paid-maximum until old sparring partner Scott Nicholls lowered his colours in heat 15, his 13+1 haul matched by the teams “fresher” Jonas Knudsen.

Etheridge faces another spell on the sidelines after suffering a hand injury and possible broken index finger in an awkward looking heat 10 fall.

To cover his absence Belle Vue have moved to book Knudsen as a guest and the Dane will make his Premiership debut at Ipswich tonight (Thursday).

Aaron Summers top-scored for the Cheetahs against his former club, one of only three Oxford race winners on a night when they were consistently second best.

Bandits’ took the chequered flag in the first seven heats as they looked more at home on a track heavily watered to counter the blistering daytime temperatures.

Harris set the ball rolling, partnering Theo Pijper to a heat one 5-1 and even when Etheridge was excluded for touching the tapes in heat three it allowed Knudsen, an impressive victor in the reserves’ race, to double up with another lightening start before Flint became the fourth visitor to race off into the distance.

Harris produced the pass of the night to deny Summers and when Nicholls fell trying to pass Flint the resulting 5-1 with Knudsen forced Oxford to use their tactical substitution in heat seven.

It backfired as Etheridge and Ricky Wells kept Nicholls and the ineffective Troy Batchelor at bay.

Oxford staged a mini revival and finally found a race winner in heat eight as Ruml and Adam Roynon made the gate even though Pijper again showed good speed to split the pairing.

Summers got the better of Flint in nine as Oxford clawed two more points back and they took advantage of the rerun following Etheridge’s fall to take a 5-1 after Wells had led the original running.

But Berwick had no intention of letting another lead slip as Harris team-rode Pijper home for an emphatic 5-1 and then Nathan Stoneman held Roynon at bay with Knudsen winning at a canter to all but seal victory.

Which was mathematically achieved when Harris again kept Nicholls and Batchelor behind him in 13 even though Summers stormed to victory in the penultimate heat, roaring through the middle of Wells and Knudsen down the back straight.

Harris seemed on course for a paid maximum as he reached the first bend of heat 15 clear of Nicholls only for referee Graeme Hunter to call the race back even though it was the Cheetah who had moved early.

In the rerun Nicholls got the drop and fended off everything the Berwick skipper threw at him, although there was only half a bike length in it as the two raced off the last bend to the line.