SPEEDWAY: SOUTH Essex’s Vortex Hammers produced a gritty performance in their opening match of the season against last year's champions Poole.

The challenge match – in front of a big crowd – was a see-saw clash with the scores perfectly poised on 36-36 with just three heats to go.

And whilst a Pirates 5-1 in heat 13 proved to be their undoing, the Vortex Hammers were still in with a chance of snatching what would have been a deserved draw going into the final race. But the home team grabbed a 4-2 with Darcy Ward heading home Mikkel Bech to give the win to the Pirates by 48-42.

The latter was the star of the show for the Vortex Hammers and showed why team bosses at Purfleet were delighted to have signed him in the winter.

The other major plusses were the 7+2 return from four rides from Adam Ellis at reserve and the 7+1 scored by Richard Lawson at No.2 Both Davey Watt and Peter Karlsson were hobbled by engine failures in the second half of the meeting, which cost the Hammers points. In addition Ben Morley did all that could have been expected of him.

And Lewis Bridger’s four point tally didn’t do justice to his efforts. Under the new heat formula, the number five position away from home is going to prove tough for any rider.

Now the Vortex Hammers can look forward to tomorrow's (Friday's) first Elite League home meeting against the Swindon Robins.

Scorers:- Poole: Przemyslaw Pawlicki 12, Darcy Ward 9, Maciej Janowski 8+2, Josh Grajczonek 8, Kyle Newman 5, Lee Smart 4 and Vaclav Milik 2.

Vortex Lakeside Hammers: Mikkel Bech 11+1, Adam Ellis 7+2, Richard Lawson 7+1, Peter Karlsson 6, Davey Watt 5, Lewis Bridger 4 and Ben Morley 2+2.