Ayr set up Knights showdown

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The Independent Online

Ayr Scottish Eagles pulled off arguably their most important win of the season at Bracknell on Sunday to clinch the last available place in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup.

Ayr Scottish Eagles pulled off arguably their most important win of the season at Bracknell on Sunday to clinch the last available place in the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup.

Defeat would have left Bracknell needing to win the last group game - in which a third of the Sekonda Superleague fixtures also count towards the Challenge Cup - at home to Nottingham tomorrow to pip Ayr to the post.

Ayr conjured up the 3-2 victory they needed at Bracknell Bees, with Mark Montanari and Jonathan Weaver giving the visitors a 2-0 lead by the halfway point before Blake Knox pulled one back on the powerplay late in the second period.

Dino Bauba quickly restored the two-goal cushion and, although Bracknell added a second through Dan Ceman, Ayr held on for the win to set up a two-legged date with London Knights as well as reducing Steelers' lead at the top of the Superleague to 19 points.

Belfast assured themselves of top spot in the Challenge Cup table and a two-legged encounter with Sheffield after their 5-3 win at Cardiff, with Colin Ward scoring the Irish team's first hat-trick of the season.

Ward scored after 12 seconds and then doubled Cardiff's lead six minutes later, with Jeff Hoad adding a third. A brace from Steve Moria and Vezio Sacratini's equalising marker set up a tense third period before Ward completed his hat-trick and Shane Johnson netted the fifth.

Manchester Storm secured a 5-3 victory over bottom-placed Nottingham at the MEN Arena.

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