Oct 10 2011 By Fraser Wilson
Alan Dick, James Grieves
SENSATIONAL Glasgow Tigers finally got their claws on the Premier League title in an afternoon of high drama at Ashfield.
The runaway leaders were crowned champions for the first time in 17 years after winning an energy-sapping double header against Scunthorpe and Somerset in front of their own fans.
It was a comfortable start to the day as Scunthorpe were smashed 66-27 in the opening meeting.
But the all-important second meeting against Somerset Rebels was to prove a whole lot more painful before the champagne finally flowed.
An horrific heat five smash saw Aussie ace Richard Sweetman thrown 20ft OVER the safety fence and onto the concrete terracing in one of the worst incidents the Possil arena has ever witnessed.
Miraculously Sweetman walked away from the smash and, 15 minutes later, won the re-run on his replacement bike!
It was exactly the type of resilience which has taken the Tigers to the top of the tree and, although the pain finally caught up with the Aussie and he had to pull out of his final race, his bravery never went unnoticed by the adoring support.
Not so lucky was flying Pole Michal Rajkowski who was whisked off to hospital after another horror crash, this time in heat 10, when he smashed into the fence coming out of the second bend after clipping team mate Joe Screen.
Rajkowski was kept in hospital overnight suffering internal bleeding although he appears to have avoided any broken bones.
Nobody says speedway is easy though and the celebrations which erupted upon the end of the meeting, which was won 62-28, were fitting for a side which has gone a full season unbeaten at home and proved time and again they are the best, by far, in the Premier League.
With team manager Stewart Dickson in bed suffering a severe virus, it was left to promoter Alan Dick to guide the side home.
And, clearly delighted at the end, Dick beamed: "Marvellous. To have two such big wins to conclude it was the perfect scenario.
"Early in both meetings we built up good leads and took the pressure off to some extent.
"It has taken a superhuman effort from all our guys to get here, they are a great bunch of guys and I'm so proud of them."
No more so than Sweetman whose miraculous efforts stunned everyone in the Ashfield crowd.
"My initial thoughts after seeing the crash were that would be Richard done for the season," said Dick.
"It looked serious but it just shows the resilience of the guy that he got up and walked away from something as horrific as that. It was one of the worst crashes I have ever seen and I don't ever want to see anything like that again.
"For him to get up and win the re-run is nothing short of miraculous. Astonishing.
"Unfortunately Michal wasn't so lucky and we feel for him. We don't know the extent of his injuries yet but it put a wee bit of a dampner on things."
In terms of racing it was fitting that captain Joe Screen was left to win the title-clinching heat 10 when he raced clear of Henning Bager and Cory Gathercole to finish first despite lacking a team mate after Rajkowski's smash.
Screen milked the celebrations before announcing it was his final race of the season. Captain Fantastic is parking his bike for the rest of the campaign to allow a nagging elbow injury to clear up but gritted his teeth for one last time on Sunday to ensure the title was won.
He never had it all his own way though and was forced into second place by Aaron Summers in the opening heat, Rajkowski coming in third for a 3-3 result.
Tigers romped ahead after heat two when the marvellous Theo Pijper led from the front and brought home David Bellego in second. Rebels' Alex Davies missed the gate after astonishingly falling on his way round and was retired from the rest of the meeting suffering concussion.
Two more 5-1s from Nick Morris and Sweetman and then James Grieves and Pijper suddenly had Glasgow leading 18-6 after just four heats and seemingly on easy street.
But then came Sweetman's horrific crash on the first bend of the fifth heat. As he raced around the outside, the Australian was clipped by Summers with both riders and their bikes thrown into the air. The Glasgow man was launched clean over the perimeter fence with his bike following to the horror of all inside the stadium.
But after a dusting down from the medics, both Sweetman and Summers took their places at the gate for re-run on their replacement bikes. Sweetman stormed home in first while Summers never left the gate.
It was to be the launchpad for Glasgow to romp towards the title as Screen, Grieves, Rajkowski and Morris won the next four heats taking the lead to 41-13 after eight races.
"It was horrible for Michal Rajkowski to crash in the heat where we could have won the league and the good news is that he appears not to have broken anything, and I want to dedicate our title to him, Josh Grajczonek and Christian Henry, who are unable to be with us today because of iniury."
Joe Screen 11 Michal Rajkowski 8+3 Nick Morris 10+1 Richard Sweetman 8+3 James Grieves 9+1 David Bellego 8+2 Theo Pijper 12+2
David Howe 13 Ben Wilson 0 Thomas Jorgensen 6 Richard Hall 2 Carl Wilkinson 1 Michael Palm Toft 2 Steve Worrall 3
Joe Screen 10+1 Michal Rajkowski 5+1 Nick Morris 9+1 Richard Sweetman 6+1 James Grieves 10 David Bellego 10+2 Theo Pijper 12+2
Aaron Summers (G) 5 Christian Hefenbrock R/R Henning Bager (G) 7+1 Cory Gathercole 3+1 James Wright 9 Alex Davies 0 James Holder 4