COVENTRY Storm went down to a 49-41 defeat at home to Eastbourne in a bruising opening to the National League season.
The Storm finished the meeting as a five man team as both Ryan Terry-Daley and captain Martin Knuckey had to be withdrawn.
Terry-Daley has been suffering from sickness of late and was unable to continue after two rides, whilst Knuckey was involved in a back-straight pile-up with Eagles guest Ellis Perks in Heat 11.
Although both riders were able to walk away and the referee ruled nobody at fault, Knuckey was ruled out with facial injuries and will be grateful for a two-and-a-half week break before the Storm’s next match.
The most remarkable fact about the meeting was that it went ahead in dry track conditions with regular watering required in an attempt to keep dust levels down – despite the major rainfall of Sunday night into Monday morning.
Eastbourne were well worth their win, the story of the day being of the Eagles’ superior gating, doubtless helped by the majority of their riders having two matches already under their belts from Good Friday.
And although there were never more than two points between the sides across the first nine races, the visitors were left to rue numerous occasions where falls for their reserves cost them heat advantages.
Storm boss Laurence Rogers said: “In the end Eastbourne were worthy winners, we both had some bad luck, but it’s very early days.
“They were much sharper, but our boys have only been on track once so far, and it did affect us. One plus for us was our two reserves, they improved with every race and they were chasing the big boys.
“Ryan has a chest infection, he could hardly hold onto the bike, and then Martin had a lot of blood coming from his nose and his cheekbone was swollen, so we’ll check on them. He was very unlucky, because I thought he was taken off.”