Berwick Bandits' race at Plymouth Gladiators is overshadowed by rider's failed drugs and alcohol test

Rory Schlein suffered last heat heartache in Plymouth on Tuesday. Picture: Keith HamblinRory Schlein suffered last heat heartache in Plymouth on Tuesday. Picture: Keith Hamblin
Rory Schlein suffered last heat heartache in Plymouth on Tuesday. Picture: Keith Hamblin
Berwick’s last-heat heartache in Devon on Tuesday was overshadowed by news that Bandits’ Steve Boxall was one of two riders to return a non-negative result from a pre-meeting drug and alcohol test.

The 36-year-old, who joined Berwick in July, was one of four chosen for random pre-meeting testing.

He was, along with a home rider who also produced a non-negative result, withdrawn from the meeting. They have had their registrations suspended while the samples undergo laboratory tests.

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All of which cast a shadow over the battle to avoid the Cab Direct Championship wooden spoon which went right down to the wire, Bandits losing 44-45.

Berwick went into heat 15 a point up and with Jye Etheridge and Rory Schlein, who had dropped just one point apiece up to then. Crucially those points came against the duo lining up against them, Kyle Howarth and guest Joe Thompson.

Passing was almost impossible on an incredibly slick track and the writing was on the wall after the home pair gated. Schlein forced his way into second and used all his skill to slow Thompson down and bring Etheridge into the mix. But by this time the only grip came from the blue groove which Thompson stuck slavishly to.

Berwick were also left to rue the trigger finger of the referee in heat 13. With both sides only able to use reserves to replace the missing riders, Plymouth’s high-scoring reserves James Pearson and Ben Trigger were all-but ridden out and skipper Howarth was the Gladiators’ sole participant.

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Schlein gated crisply, but behind him Howarth cut across the front of Hans Andersen, the Dane ending up in the air fence but, crucially, still had hold of the handlebars and kept his engine running. He was back on his machine and under power when the referee put the red lights on.

Insult was added when the Berwick rider’s exclusion light came on leaving Schlein to beat Howarth in the resulting match race, but Berwick’s lead became one rather than two points.

They had done well to bounce back as the visiting reserves struggled to put points on the board.

They banged in 5-1s in heats two and four to open up an eight-point gap but visiting team manager Scott Courtney acted immediately to partner heat three winner Etheridge and Schlein, and was rewarded as they left Thompson and fellow guest Justin Sedgmen trailing.

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Jacob Hook kept Trigger at the back in six with Andersen looking much more potent after some set-up changes.

Leon Flint came to the party in seven, as Etheridge again looked smooth, the 5-1 levelling the scores. An advantage which Plymouth answered in kind through the teenage pairing of Pearson and Thompson.

Andersen rode an aggressive first bend to share the spoils in nine.

Howarth forced his way past Flint in 10, but Etheridge was untroubled out front. Hook grabbed a vital third place in 11, and with Schlein again strolling to the flag, the scores were all-square again.

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Etheridge finally tasted defeat when he was beaten by Thompson in 12, Hook getting the better of Trigger to share the spoils.

Flint gated sweetly in 14 only for Jason Garrad to collide with Pearson. Flint was able to repeat his tapes to flag run and set up the heart-breaking last heat decider.

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