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Speedway: Ward shows class to claim Blue Riband title
THERE was a sense of a changing of the guard moment here last night.
As Pirates bid the fondest of farewells to one club legend, another continued to steal the limelight.
Craig Boyce was cheered to the rafters as he took one last lap of the circuit he graced with such success.
Boyce, Pirates’ all-time record scorer, is heading home to Sydney for good after 25 years living in the UK.
But the great man need not worry, Pirates’ links with those Down Under remain well and truly alive in Dorset.
In Chris Holder, so cruelly struck down by injury this year, the club has a world champion and supreme servant.
And on centre stage in this 30th staging of the Poole Blue Riband stood another wizard of Oz, Darcy Ward.
Nobody contributed more than the inspirational, sensational Ward as Pirates claimed the Elite League title.
On his day, he is quite simply unbeatable. At 21 years old, he has already had many of those, and he had another in front of a delighted home faithful last night.
In an interview with the Daily Echo this week, Boyce placed Holder right at the summit of the speedway world in his rich praise of the 2012 Grand Prix king.
But his description of Ward as “the most talented rider the world has ever seen” was the most eye-catching of assessments.
It was quite a statement but coming from a man who has ridden alongside the likes of Tony Rickardsson, it also carried plenty of weight.
While far bigger tests than the Poole Blue Riband will eventually decide Ward’s standing in the sport, recent evidence makes it increasingly difficult to argue with Boyce’s verdict.
Exciting, imperious and thoroughly dominant when at his best, Ward looks destined to one day rule the speedway world, and that day could come soon if he continues to progress at the current rate.
In the return of Pirates’ popular individual meeting, Ward provided the most spectacular moment with a trademark outside blast to better the highly impressive Bjarne Pedersen in heat 10.
And that was the only race where Ward was defeated, by team-mate Greg Hancock, as he comfortably claimed the overall title with a near-perfect tally of 14 points.
With Boyce, Holder and Ward together, it was certainly a night for Poole heroes past and present. And ex-captain Pedersen wasn’t just there to make up the numbers.
He rolled back the years to serve a reminder of his class as he started and finished his evening with victories in an 11-point haul.
And completing an excellent effort from Pirates favourites on a night when the club’s current crop paraded the Elite League trophy in front of their jubilant faithful, Greg Hancock provided a fitting finale by fending off Hans Andersen to take the third spot on the podium.
While Ward joined the Poole Blue Riband roll of honour alongside esteemed company such as Malcolm Simmons, Rickardsson and Boyce, the likes of Nick Morris and Peter Kildemand also emerged with credit as they provided some of the most entertaining moments for a decent crowd at Wimborne Road.
- See today's Daily Echo for full heat details, star rider and pictures.
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