Wolverhampton Wolves edge to victory in thrilling opener
Champions Wolverhampton survived a nerve-shredding night to beat last season's whipping boys Leicester 45-44 in their Monmore Green curtain raiser.
It all went down to a last-heat decider on a night when the lead changed hands four times as visiting number one Kim Nilsson blasted to four wins from five.
But Wolves eventually took advantage of some kind fortune in heats nine and 10 to get ahead and while Lions roared to another 5-1, big-hitters Freddie Lindgren and Sam Masters saved the day.
The hosts got off to a rocky start as Nilsson took the opener with blistering pace and Danny Ayres appeared to benefit from a rolling start en route to a heat two maximum for the visitors.
Lions number four Erik Riss was disqualified for running across the centre green but reserve Josh Bates filed in behind Jacob Thorssell in a second 3-3 with Adam Skornicki last by a distance.
The fourth heat was also shared with Masters cutting up the inside of Danny King to soar away but Ayres shackled Nathan Greaves at the back.
The flying Nilsson got the better of Thorssell after a nip-and-tuck start to heat five, while Skornicki got on the score board at the second attempt by holding off Josh Auty.
Lindgren led from the front but Kyle Howarth was eventually reined in by King in a titanic tussle for second before controversy struck again. Kacper Gomolski jumped but was not brought back and he backed up Riss for a second Lions 5-1 in heat seven.
Six down at the second grading break, Howarth roared away with the next race and although Greaves was nowhere near a point, the tide soon turned.
King was put back 15 metres on a spare bike following a mechanical problem and could not claw his way back as Thorssell and Skornicki eased ahead of Bates.
Incredibly, the next five-point haul was a gift too as Gomolski locked up before Riss fell within the opening lap for Lindgren and Howarth to glide to a 5-0.
However, Nilsson reduced to one point Leicester's arrears with his third victory of the night and Wolves were behind again when Gomolski hit the front and Bates survived locking up near the start to see off Skornicki and Greaves. It was down to Lindgren and Masters to produce the team ride of the night to leave King and the previously-unbeaten Nilsson trailing in their wake in heat 13.
Lions seemed set to bite back again in the penultimate race but while Riss jetted away, Clegg and then Thorssell battled back from sluggish starts to pass Ayres.
With the match in the balance, Nilsson rediscovered his gating touch but Lindgren and Masters pinned King and the British champion fell before completing a lap to give a relieved Wolves side three precious points.
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