Tempers neared boiling point as the Eastbourne Eagles made a strong start to this year’s KO Cup campaign in front of big Arlington crowd.

Eagles triumphed 57-32 against Birmingham Brummies in the first round, first leg tie.

It gives them real hope of making progress in the competition, although joint team boss Will Pottinger warned against complacency. “You never know what may happen,” he said.

Birmingham felt hard done by as they saw lively reserve Paco Castagna fall when leading heat two after, what they claimed, hitting a bump.

Things went from bad to worse when Ashley Morris fell in the next race on the first corner. He stood up, gesticulated to the referee to halt the race.

When Morris failed to clear the track, the red stop lights did come on, along with Morris’s disqualification light.

And they were left fuming when Morris was again in the wars in heat 14. He twice fell while battling with Eagles’ reserve Georgie Wood for position on th first corner. On the second occasion, Morris was excluded from the re-run leaving Wood and Lewi Kerr to cruise to a 5-0 – James Shanes was excluded in the first running of the race.

There was also plenty of tough racing to match the controversy with Eastbourne’s Richard Lawson taking everyone’s breath away with an incredible outside pass of Zach Wajknecht during which his right arm was brushing along the air fence.

Lawson told the Argus: “It was very close. Zach was off gate three and lifted a little bit into the first bend. I could not get across until his front wheel had gone down – and it went down pretty late.

“There wasn’t much room left but I squeezed through. My arm kissed something coming out of turn two but I stayed on.”

Lawson has yet to be beaten by an opponent at Arlington in his first three matches as an Eagle. Lewi Kerr also scored a paid maximum and Wood had his best meeting so far at this level for Eastbourne with nine points.

Eastbourne: Richard Lawson 14+1, Lewi Kerr 13+2, Edward Kennett 9, Georgie Wood 9+1, Tom Brennan 6, Alfie Bowtell 4+1, Ben Morley 2+1.

Birmingham: James Shanes 8+1, Kyle Newman 7, Zach Wajknecht 6+2, Paco Castagna 5, Ulrich Ostergaard 4, Ashley Morris 2, Tobias Thomsen 0.

Report: Paul Watson