Cup kings, the Eastbourne Forman IT Eagles made a strong start to their defence of the National League KO Cup tonight at Arlington Stadium.

They beat the Isle of Wight Warriors in the first leg of the first round tie 60-30 with the second leg on the Island on Thursday next week. 

EASTBOURNE 60: Tom Brennan 13+1, Danny Ayres 12, Jason Edwards 9+2, Georgie Wood 8+2, Kelsey Dugard 8+1, Charley Powell 6+3, Charlie Brooks 4+1.
ISLE OF WIGHT 30: Josh Bailey 9, Ben Hopwood 9, Chris Widman 3+1, Scott Campos 3, Adam Portwood 3, Jamie Sealey 2+1, Danno Verge 1.

Eastbourne put one foot in the next round of the KO Cup with a 60-30 win over the Isle of Wight tonight (April 21) in the first leg of their first round tie.

The visitors clung on to the Forman IT Eagles’s coat tails over the opening races and were only four points down after seven races.

Second leg

Prospects of a big Eastbourne lead to take to the second leg on Thursday on the Island looked remote but then the Eagles put the hammer down.

Kelsey Dugard and Jason Edwards fired in a 5-1 in heat 8 to steady the nerves in the home camp and Dugard, in his next ride, combined with guest Danny Ayres for another 5-1 in heat ten and Eastbourne were away, leading 37-23.

Four maximum 5-1 heat wins in the last four races sealed there Isle of Wight’s fate and the Eagles are now hot favourites to move into the quarter final where they will face Coventry.

First win

Six Eastbourne riders won races and Charley Powell was paid for two wins.

Home fans’ delight was heightened when 16-year-old reserve Charlie Brooks scored his first win in Eagles’ colours in heat 14 when a sharp gate took him clear of the field. Powell rode “shotgun” in second place but Brooks was a confident winner.

Eastbourne team manager Connor Dugard said the 30-point margin of victory was double what he had hoped for.

He said: “I am really happy for Charlie Brooks getting his first win. He was on the pace all night and was there or there abouts.

“Once he got out of the gate he was quick and Charley Powell was there to look after him.”

Reserve switch?

Some supporters thought Dugard could have dropped Brooks from the race he won and replaced him with the other reserve, Jason Brooks, who was in the points all night.

Dugard explained why he didn’t make the reserve switch.

He said he had read a few comments on social media that he should have taken Brooks out on other occasions this season.

“I don’t agree with that. Just taking out a rider who is struggling a little bit, you are not gaining anything. 

“You are knocking their confidence even more. They don’t get the track time; now he has shown everyone what he can do.

“We have seen what Charlie can do. It is a question of getting him out of the gate.”

Dugard said the goal was to win the second leg but felt the lead was big enough to ensure overall victory on aggregate.

“I am not counting my chickens yet, but I think it is enough,” he said.

Here's Kevin Ling's verdict on the proceedings.

Eastbourne ‘Forman IT’ Eagles took a giant stride towards qualification of the Knockout Cup quarter final following 1 60-30 victory over the Isle of Wight Warriors at Arlington stadium on Saturday evening.

A second successive 30-point victory around their home circuit ensured that the Eagles will travel to the Warriors Smallbrook stadium on Thursday in confident mood.

A quarter final date with the Coventry Bees awaits the team who emerge on top over the two legs.

The Saturday night showdown very much proved a match of two halves, however.

On conclusion of the first seven races heading towards the half-way stage, the Sussex side held only a narrow 4-point advantage, 23-19

An eighth heat 5-1, recorded by Kelsey Dugard and emerging talent Jason Edwards kick started the Eastbourne onslaught, the Eagles romping to maximum successes in no fewer than five of the final seven races, the final four of which seeing them unbeaten to eclipse their opponents.

Both teams employed guest replacements, Danny Ayres proving a popular choice for absent skipper Mark Baseby whilst Josh Bailey, an Eagle himself for the latter part of 2017, filled the visitor’s number one berth vacated by Ben Morley who was riding for his senior league club Lakeside, at Ipswich.

These two, both of whom ride for Mildenhall, went head to head in the very first race.

It was Ayres who came out on top on that occasion, leading home Bailey in a rerun heat one to secure the first of four race victories.

Edwards took the honours in heat two from Adam Portwood, however a coming together with Jamie Sealey, left Charlie Brooks to play catch up, the young Eagle just missing out on a point on the finish line.

Tom Brennan and Charley Powell combined for a 5-1 in the third, extending the home lead to six-points, 12-6 however back to back wins for first Ben Hopwood, then Bailey in four and five kept the visitors within sight of their hosts.

Hopwood, a member of Eastbourne’s 2015 triple winning side posted a gate to flag victory over Edwards and Georgie Wood in heat five to keep the difference at 6-points.

Bailey then followed suit blasting past Brennan down the back straight first time round to keep the Warriors flag flying.

Ayres looked to be heading for a second win in heat six but a loss of control saw him turn it round on the final turn.

The race was duly awarded to Hopwood, ahead of Dugard and with Sealey handed the third place point, this drew the Isle of Wight to within 4-points of the Eagles 23-19.

With reports of rain supposedly heading in the direction of the stadium, concerns started to abound that a possible curtailment might prevent the Eagles amassing a meaningful lead.

Dugard and Edwards 5-1 success in heat eight would effectively see Eagles turn a corner.

With that, the difference doubling to 28-20, Brennan scorched past Hopwood in the ninth and with Powell following on, the pair secured the 4-2 that saw the margin extend to double figures, 32-22 for the first time.

The Sussex outfit continued to build from that point, Ayres and Dugard pairing up for the teams third 5-1 in race ten, one that saw further daylight between the sides, the score moving to 37-23.

Bailey continued to battle for the Warriors and his victory over Wood in the eleventh served to halt the home progress momentarily, however Brooks third place point ensured that the race remained shared.

Scott Campos was disqualified for exceeding the two-minute time allowance in race twelve and Brennan and Edwards duly recorded maximum points to see Eastbourne go 18-points (45-27) to the good.

Bailey suffered a fall and subsequent exclusion in heat thirteen while giving chase to Ayres and Wood and with the result duly awarded as a 5-1, this propelled the Eagles further towards a likely quarter final date, the difference now residing at 22-points, 50-28.

Brooks drew one of the biggest cheers of the night, nipping sharply from the start to win at a canter from team mate Powell, the third successive maximum further piling the pressure on the Warriors, the scores now standing at a mammoth 55-29 in favour of home side.

With Ayres and Brennan combining in the last to hammer home yet another 5-1, Eagles fourth on the bounce thus increasing the margin to a closing 30-points, 60-30 and surely putting the Sussex men in control of the tie.     


Eagles: Tom Brennan 13+1(5), Danny Ayres (Guest for Mark Baseby) 12(5), Jason Edwards 9+2(4). Georgie Wood 8+2(4), Kelsey Dugard 8+1(4), Charley Powell 6+3(4) Charlie Brooks 4+1(4). – 60

Warriors: Ben Hopwood 9(5), Josh Bailey (Guest for Ben Morley) 9(5) Chris Widman 3+1(4), Scott Campos 3(3), Adam Portwood 3(5), Jamie Sealey 2+1(4), Danno Verge 1(4). – 30

That completes our coverage of the first leg.

We will bring you news in the week of the second leg at Smallbrook and next Saturday's home match in the National League against the Belle Vue Colts.