GLASGOW TIGERS Premier League defence got off to a losing start as they lost the battle of the big cats with Leicester Lions at Ashfield.
After a thrilling nip and tuck meeting the visitors came out on top by just two points 46-44.
There were never more than four points separating the sides throughout the afternoon's racing but the Lions prevailed despite Glasgow's captain Joe Screen notching a superb 15 point maximum including a last bend swoop in the final heat to pass Leicester’s No.1 Magnus Karlsson.
However, there just wasn’t enough support from the rest of the Tigers team on the day with Josh Grajczonek and Jayden O'Malley enduring a torrid afternoon.
Screen outpaced Karlsson in the opening race but Glasgow’s Mason Campton and Simon Lambert of the visitors had a good battle for third with the home rider claiming the position.
The Lions tied things up in the second with a comfortable win for Simon Nielsen over Jade Mudgway but Robert Ksiezak was passed by Jan Graversen for a Leicester 4-2.
Former Tiger Kauko Nieminen won the next ahead of Tigers’ James Grieves but O’Malley was disqualified after a last gasp attempt to pass Jari Makinen ended with the Leicester rider sprawled on the track.
Josh Grajczonek won heat four but with Ksiezak again in last place the race was shared 3-3.
Karlsson won from Grieves in heat five and Lambert finally got past O’Malley on lap three to ease the Lions four points clear but Screen and Campton immediately levelled the scores with a 5-1 in heat six.
Nieminen led the next from Grajczonek before the Tiger spun and fell heavily, with the inevitable disqualification coming swiftly after.
Nieminen made no mistake in the rerun, winning comfortably from Mudgway with Makinen third. Campton won heat eight but Lambert came from the back once more, passing Ksiezak on the third lap to claim second but with Nielsen fourth the scores were tied at 24 apiece.
Graversen fell on the first lap of heat nine as team mate Lasse Bjerre wobbled alarmingly but it was Graversen who was disqualified.
In the restart, O’Malley was the filling in a sandwich as Bjerre and Grieves both went for the same piece of track and the young Aussie clattered into the first bend safety fence at a fair rate of knots.
While he may have wanted to continue, his bike was certainly in no fit state to carry on so Mudgway replaced him in the second restart.
Bjerre was by this point the target of the crowd’s disapproval as he continued to footer around at the tapes and ignored the starting marshal but once the race had begun he produced a superb pass of Grieves off the last bend to snatch the heat win by the width of a tyre.
Screen won heat 10 at a canter from Nieminen with Campton’s third place again leveling the scores but disaster for the Tigers followed as Karlsson and Lambert banged in a 5-1 over Grajczonek and Mudgway in the 11th race.
Nieminen then continued his impressive afternoon with another straightforward win in the next with Grieves and Ksiezak sharing the race.
Screen won heat 13 but Bjerre and Karlsson kept Grajczonek at the back then Makinen popped up and easily won heat 14 although Mudgway and Ksiezak filled the minor places to set up a last heat decider.
It was a straightforward requirement for Glasgow - the Lions led 43-41 so Glasgow needed a 5-1 to win the match.
Karlsson led from the tapes with Screen right behind him and for almost four laps Karlsson repelled every attempt Screen made to pass.
The Glasgow skipper used all his track knowledge however to wind it on around the outside on the final bends to claim a full maximum but it was to no avail as Nieminen finished third ahead of Grieves to clinch victory for Leicester.
Glasgow 44 - Joe Screen 15, James Grieves 8, Mason Campton 7+1, Jade Mudgway 7+1, Josh Grajczonek 4, Robert Ksiezak 3+2, Jayden O’malley 0
Leicester 46 - Kauko Nieminen 12+1, Magnus Karlsson 11+1, Lasse Bjerre 8, Simon Lambert 5+1, Jari Makinen 5, Simon Nielsen 4+1, Jan Graversen 1