The Peterborough ‘T Balfe Construction’ Panthers defied their underdog status to pick up their first piece of silverware in 10 years on Sunday (August 6).
Already without the in-form Jack Holder due to commitments in Poland and the injured Bradley Wilson-Dean, the patched-up Panthers produced a superb performance to take SGB Championship Fours victory in a meeting which featured all 10 of the league’s teams.
Lining up against Sheffield, Redcar and Ipswich in the 12-heat final, the Panthers stormed to an emphatic success in front of a bumper East of England Arena crowd.
Team captain Ulrich Ostergaard and the impressive Chris Harris reeled off a hat-trick of heat wins a piece as the Panthers piled up 28 points in total to win the meeting.
They sealed victory with just two races to spare as Paul Starke triumphed in Heat 10, ahead of Ipswich captain Danny King. Late call up Simon Lambert also delivered a fine contribution with five points as the hosts starred around their home circuit.
Redcar finished in a creditable second place on 18 points, 10 behind the victorious Panthers, while Sheffield took third on 16. Ipswich, a team that many would have predicted as favourites to win, brought up the rear with just 10 points, having advanced to the final after dominating the second semi-final. Redcar took second place in the group to also advance to the showpiece final.
In the first semi-final, Peterborough followed Sheffield through but then took centre stage with a brilliant performance to secure a first trophy as a team in 10 years.
The last honour for the Panthers came in 2007 when lifting the Elite Shield after an unforgettable Elite League title win in 2006.
The ‘home’ side made steady progress at the semi-final stage, with the first success of the afternoon arriving in heat two when Harris stormed to victory in a time of 58.6 seconds – a new SGB Championship-level track record.
He also managed a win in heat six as Panthers went level with Sheffield at the top of the group standings, before hitting the front in the meeting courtesy of a winning ride by Ostergaard in heat number eight – their penultimate outing.
Panthers then went into the closing heat of their semi as one of four teams still chasing an all-important spot in the final and a third place from Starke ensured they secured second place behind the Tigers as Workington, Edinburgh and Scunthorpe missed out.
Any pre-tournament inklings that they may not win were soon quashed as the Panthers quickly emerged as title contenders in the final. Harris provided the perfect start in the opening race before Ostergaard produced a superb ride to win heat three ahead of Redcar’s Ben Barker.
A sizzling streak of four wins in five races then turned a fiercely competitive event into one-way traffic.
First up was Harris, producing another fine ride in heat six. He charged from last to first, before Ostergaard delivered a masterful ride of his own in heat eight, finding his way past Ipswich skipper Danny King and Redcar rider Jason Garrity.
Harris then completed his maximum in heat number nine with another supreme charge that put the Panthers on the brink of glory.
That left Starke only needing to finish in front of Redcar man Jonas B Andersen to seal victory. He did just that, taking the wide line to glory while Andersen toiled at the back.
With the win already in the bag, the Panthers refused to ease off. Ostergaard emerged victorious from another terrfic tussle with Garrity in heat 11 to ensure he finished the final with maximum points, before Lambert’s second place in the final race of the afternoon showed strength in depth for the ‘home’ side, culminating in a fantastic afternoon for the team that many had seemingly written off.
SGB Championship Fours result
Semi Final 1…
Sheffield Tigers 16 (Josh Grajczonek 5, Kyle Howarth 4, Tod Kurtz 4, Josh Bates 3)
Peterborough Panthers 14 (Chris Harris 6, Ulrich Ostergaard 5, Paul Starke 2, Simon Lambert 1)
Workington Comets 11 (Thomas Jorgensen 5, Mason Campton 4, Ty Proctor 1, Craig Cook 1)
Scunthorpe Scorpions 10 (Jake Allen 5, Lewis Kerr 3, Josh Auty 2, Michael Palm Toft 0, Ryan Douglas 0)
Edinburgh Monarchs 9 (Erik Riss 5, Ricky Wells 2, Theo Pijper 1, Josh Pickering 1, Max Clegg 0)
Semi Final 2…
Ipswich Witches 18 (Rory Schlein 6, Justin Sedgmen 5, Cameron Heeps 4, Danny King 3)
Redcar Bears 13 (Charles Wright 5, Ben Barker 3, Jonas B Andersen 3, Jason Garrity 1, Ellis Perks 1)
Newcastle Diamonds 12 (Steve Worrall 6, Stuart Robson 3, Ludvig Lindgren 3, Ashley Morris 0)
Glasgow Tigers 9 (Richard Lawson 3, Aaron Summers 3, Nike Lunna 3, Dan Bewley 0)
Berwick Bandits 8 (Kevin Doolan 5, David Howe 2, Jye Etheridge 1, Dany Gappmaier 0, Luke Ruddick 0)
SGB Championship Fours Final…
Peterborough Panthers 28 (Chris Harris 9, Ulrich Ostergaard 9, Simon Lambert 5, Paul Starke 5)
Redcar Bears 18 (Charles Wright 7, Jason Garrity 6, Ben Barker 3, Jonas B Andersen 2)
Sheffield Tigers 16 (Kyle Howarth 6, Josh Grajczonek 5, Todd Kurtz 3, Josh Bates 2)
Ipswich Witches 10 (Danny King 6, Rory Schlein 2, Cameron Heeps 1, Justin Sedgmen 1)