Swindon produced a sensational comeback from ten points down to snatch a 46-44 win in a thriller at Leicester on Monday.
It was shades of 2017 for the CFS Filtration Robins, who had performed similar heroics at the same venue last July to fight back from a deficit of 11 – and once again it was a 5-1 in Heat 15 which sealed victory.
Tobiasz Musielak and Troy Batchelor were the heroes as they got the better of Danish duo Hans Andersen and Kenneth Bjerre to protect the Robins’ 100 per cent Premiership record at the start of the season.
Such drama appeared unlikely when the Lions dominated the early stages, providing each of the first six heat winners to romp into a 23-13 lead.
Robins skipper Nick Morris was forced onto his second bike after a first-bend tangle in Heat 1, and having gone six points down they were baffled when being prevented from replacing the absent David Bellego with a tactical substitute ride for Batchelor in Heat 5.
Batchelor would then have also taken a rider-replacement outing later in the meeting, and the Robins completed the meeting under protest as a result.
As things turned out, Batchelor and Adam Ellis got them back into the meeting with a fine 5-1 over Andersen in Heat 7, and they were then able to use the tactical substitute in Heat 9 – whereupon Morris and Musielak raced clear of home skipper Danny King.
Musielak’s retirement from third place in Heat 11 allowed the hosts to go four points up, but Swindon’s fighting spirit was exemplified by Zach Watjknecht’s chase and pass of Todd Kurtz for a point in Heat 12, Kurtz falling on the last bend.
Heat 13 was frantic with the Lions gating on a 5-1 only for Musielak to beautifully switch between Andersen and Bjerre to hit the front, whilst Morris then charged into second place before almost coming to grief and having to settle for third.
Leicester edged a 4-2 from a competitive Heat 14 with Ellis just unable to get on terms with Krystian Pieszczek, leaving the home side two points to the good.
But that was overturned in the best possible way in Heat 15 thanks to Musielak and Batchelor, with the Pole storming away and Batchelor riding the perfect defensive race to hold off Andersen and seal the Robins’ triumph.
Boss Alun Rossiter said: “All of the boys dug in deep. It was a tough meeting because Leicester started off really well, and we knew we were up against it.
“It’s a fantastic start to the season – it’s early days yet and a bit of a reversal compared to last year, but I’d rather get points on the board early than fighting around come the end of August.
“Troy has been fantastic at the start of this year, very mature and focused, and I’m really happy with him.
“I’m happy with everyone and I feel a bit sorry for Mitchell (Davey) because he’s on the pace, he’s not being whipped, but it’s so critical out of the starts and I think we’ve got to help him in some way.”
On the protest, he added: “The ruling contradicts itself badly, but the bottom line is that if you’re six points down, you can put whoever you want in.
“Then they tried telling me that I couldn’t then use Troy for an R/R later on, but that’s not how it works.
“He’s entitled to another ride because he’s the one above David Bellego, and then this was a tactical sub because Leicester were six points up, and I could put whoever I want in.
“Troy is able to do a tactical substitute ride and he’s also eligible to do David Bellego’s ride.
The rulebook is badly written so I think they’re going to go away and have a look at it.”
Robins now have just over a week off before they head to King’s Lynn next Wednesday (May 2).
LEICESTER 44: Hans Andersen 10, Kyle Newman 7, Krystian Pieszczek 7, Kenneth Bjerre 6+2, Todd Kurtz 6+1, Danny King 6, James Sarjeant 2
SWINDON 46: Troy Batchelor 15+2, Tobiasz Musielak 12, Nick Morris 8+2, Adam Ellis 7, Zach Wajtknecht 4+1, Mitchell Davey 0, David Bellego r/r.