Saturday, May 10, 2014
The ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels had started their defence of the Premier League Knock Out Cup, with a spirited performance that had seen them keep the score line to a manageable 6-points until the matched turned in the Workington Comets favour, with a Brady Kurtz fall when leading Heat 10, writes Dave Thompson.
After Heat 11, the Rebels suffered four straight 4-2 deficits, to end the match with a disappointing 14-point deficit, a score line which did not reflect the effort put in by the defending champions.
Move forwards almost a week, and the level of the undertaking in front of the Rebels against a strong looking Workington side, who have been tipped to finish in a challenging position in the league, was plain for all to see. However before the meeting Rebels team boss Garry May was confident that his riders were up to the task, especially reflecting on the complete demolition of a useful Ipswich outfit the previous week. In short the 60+-point wins over Ipswich and Rye House, on the previous two weeks, would likely have to be repeated if his charges were to progress to the Quarter-Finals of the KO Cup.
Both teams were without their full line ups. As the Rebels ran with a guest, in the shape of Stuart Robson, in place of the absent Nick Morris, who was on Elite League duty and the visitors ran Rider Replacement for Ricky Wells and a guest for Ashley Morris, both also EL bound. The facility for Wells gave the Comets the opportunity to track the flying Josh Grajczonek in 6 races, something that considerable increased their chances of success.
The Rebels would have to be on their game right from the start, and after a first race shared heat, they never looked back, riding with such desire and effort that they had totally wiped out the deficit by Heat 5.
Former Rebel Josh Grajczonek has been on absolute top form of late, posting high scores wherever he has ridden, including 10-points for the Rebels, whilst guesting against Rye House two weeks previously. He showed he had lost none of his knowledge of the fastest lines around the Oak Tree Arena circuit, when he made a lightning start in Heat 1, leading all the way. Mason Campton was next away, but the Rebels duo of Stuart Robson and Todd Kurtz were soon on his case, with Robson making an unsuccessful challenge on the third turn, before going on to make the move stick in the same place a lap later. Kurtz took another lap to run down his fellow Australian, before making a smooth inside pass on the second turn of the final lap. As the Rebels packed the places, Campton slowed and retired before the flag.
Heat 2 signalled the start proper of the Rebels fight back to defend their KO Cup crown, hammering home five unanswered heat advantages, including four maximums before the visitors stopped the flow of points.
Heat two took three attempts to get under way, with the original running being pulled back after a Chris Mills flyer at the tapes. The re-run was also stopped courtesy of Chris Mills, with Todd Kurtz leading the way from the tapes. Paul Starke was beaten to the drop by Mills, but he hit the dirt line, and was flying around the wide line, with Mills pushing him further and further out, but the Comets man pushed it too hard, and in the end could not make the turn, and put it down as he headed for the fence at speed. Starke knocked it off and just avoided collecting Mills on the way through. With Mills excluded, the visitors were left with guest Lewis Rose to contest the third start. Todd Kurtz made the gate again, and as he lead up, Starke was again in third, but by the back straight he had stormed into second place, and that was the race over, with the Rebels pair pulling away to finish well clear.
Brady Kurtz has been sensational since his arrival at the Rebels Highbridge HQ, demonstrating that he can win races from any position. On this occasion he did it the easy way, blazing from the tapes to lead up Heat 3 from the off. As Kurtz led the way Pontus Aspgren cleverly came over the top of Kyle Howarth, clamping the Lancashire based rider to the kerb in the opening turn. Howarth came back at the Swede two turns later, but he was beaten off, leaving the Rebels to post an easy ‘Full House’. Mason Campton never got in the race, and crawled around the last lap, just making it to the flag.
Ollie Allen’s performance against Ipswich last week was littered with blinding starts, and he carried on the good work here, with what can only be described as a ‘jet propelled’ exit from the tapes. As the Norfolk man led from the start, Paul Starke was competing with Lewis Rose for second. Starke asserted his dominance around the opening turns to take second spot on the back straight. Rene Bach recovered from a slow getaway, and was soon in third place, chasing the fast disappearing Rebels duo. Try as he might Bach had no answer to the two home riders, as they pulled clear to take a third maximum advantage on the trot. Rose eventually retired as he trailed around at the back.
Heat 5 saw the Rebels trap on another 5-1, with Brady Kurtz and Pontus Aspgren again blasting off the line, leading up none other than Josh Grajczonek. Grajczonek charged down the back straight, challenging Aspgren all the way, before taking the outside route on the final bend of the lap to grab second. By this time Kurtz was in the wind, and despite closing the gap over the last two laps, Grajczonek had no answer to the young Rebels ace, as the home side levelled the aggregate score, completely wiping out their deficit in just five short heats.
The resulting 4-2 was just a quick respite in the run of full houses for the Rebels, for in the very next heat they were back in ‘maximum’ power setting, but not before the Comets had tried to spoil the party, as they broke quickly to put themselves on a 5-1. Rene Bach was quickest away, with Chris Mills just holding second. Charles Wright headed for the high line, coming with a wet sail to career to the front off the second turn. At the same time Stuart Robson accounted for Mills of the same bend, flying off in pursuit of Bach down the back straight. He caught the Dane on the next curve, going up his inside, but could not make the move stick. Undeterred, he kept up the pressure, making a forceful move to grab second spot on the opening turns of the next lap. Once in second place, and with Wright gone for all money, he soon put distance between himself and Bach to give the Rebels the overall lead in the tie.
It had been a fabulous run of scoring, which had seen the Rebels come from an almost impossible position, to a point where they were now right back in the tie and with their destiny now back firmly in their own hands, but all runs eventually come to an end. The Comets stemmed the flow in Heat 7, as they took their first heat advantage of the night.
Todd Kurtz made a quick start to lead up, with Ollie Allen taking up the running before the turn, but on the wide outside Josh Grajczonek was barrelling around the widest line, and squeezed through a narrow gap on Allen’s outside to lead from the second bend. Todd Kurtz had dropped to the back, but was pressing Kyle Howarth hard as they ran into the second turn. Howarth beat off the move, but couldn’t fully shake Kurtz from his tail. Kurtz kept up the pressure, and was again in a challenging position by the third lap, but again couldn’t find a clear route around the Comets man, even after Howarth had taken a lift off the final bend of the lap.
The breathing space the Comets earned with that advantage was only short lived, as the Rebels were right back on the gas from Heat 8. A level break saw three riders contest the opening turns, with Mason Campton taking up the running around the outside of the first turn. Charles Wright cut back up the inside of the next to just shade the lead, but Campton came back, and the pair engaged in a short battle of swapping positions, before Campton pulled clear after the opening lap.
The race looked to have settled into a share of the points, but Wright had other ideas, and headed for the dirt on the third lap. With Campton well clear, no one would have been surprised if the heat result had remained tied, but Wright set out on a long run home, gradually reeling in the young Aussie with every turn of the wheel. All of a sudden the crowd realised that the win was on, and to the rising cheers Wright was on Campton as they reached the second turn of the final lap. Making a superb cut back he charged up the inside of the Kurri Kurri 22-year-old to lead down the back straight, before moving Campton wide in the final turns. The pressure put on by Wright in that final lap, also forced Campton into a mistake around the last turn, giving Paul Starke a chance of second, but he was held off by the Antipodeans’ run to the flag.
Heat 9 saw the Rebels post their fifth maximum advantage on the night, as they kept the heat on the Comets. Brady Kurtz moved at the start, and as he brought his machine to a halt, Graham Reeve released the tapes, and Kurtz was last away. It was Chris Mills who led from the tapes, but before the back straight Pontus Aspgren had charged up his inside to lead. Kurtz was soon on the move, and accounted for Rene Bach before the second bend, and by turn three he was upsides Mills, and through on his inside as they entered the final turn. Bach was next to pass Mills, setting off in pursuit of Kurtz. He closed down the Rebels youngster, but Brady always had matters in hand, beating off the challenge over the final two laps.
Heat 10 was shared, courtesy of Kyle Howarth’s battling opening bend to lead after a close fight with the other three riders. As the field headed down the back straight, Rene Bach’s machine gave up the ghost, grinding to a halt with a clutch problem. With Howarth pulling away, and Bach on the centre Green, the Rebels pairing of Stuart Robson, and Charles Wright settled for the shared heat.
For the second time of their three encounters, Ollie Allen came up against Josh Grajczonek in Heat 11, with the score 1-0 in Grajczonek’s favour. This time the result was to go the way of the Rebels skipper, who executed a superb move to demote Grajczonek to second place. The Comets number one charged off the tapes to lead up, with Allen on his outside. Allen flew around the wide line, before making a sweet cut back to lead into the back straight inside Grajczonek. Todd Kurtz was quickly away, just behind the front two, but before long he had Mason Campton putting him under the cosh. The pair battled it out over the first couple of laps, swapping places time and time again, before Kurtz got the upper hand, with a couple of strong moves, to cement third place. Meanwhile Allen was charging along at the front to take the win over the speedy Grajczonek.
Heat 12 saw the Rebels add another 4-2 to their tally, but not before Chris Mills got an absolute flyer from the tapes. His time at the head of affairs was a brief one, with Paul Starke heading into the dirt, and blazing around the outside to show the way to the rest of the field. Brady Kurtz battle with Kyle Howarth resulted in the Comets man taking third with a forceful move on the third turn, relegating Kurtz to last place. Howarth was soon in front of his partner, and it wasn’t long before Kurtz was in third, with an inside move on the third bend of Lap 2. Howarth chased Starke hard, but could never make any headway into the Worcester based riders lead, and the resulting 4-2 gave the Rebels a 26-point lead.
With three heats to go the Comets could still force a replay, by taking maximum advantages in all three races, but before that could happen they had to get past the Rebels. Not an easy task in the form they were showing. As the tapes rose in Heat 13, the Comets hopes were raised as Josh Grajczonek bolted from the line to lead up. With the heat win score between Grajczonek and Ollie Allen tied at one a piece, this race proved to be the decider, not just for their personal battles, but for the tie overall. With Grajczonek leading the way, Allen took what is fast becoming his favourite line around the opening turns. He headed for the wide outside, and came with a searing run that blasted him to the front. Once there he eased away from Grajczonek, to take a comfortable win at the flag. Stuart Robson was not far away in the opening turns, challenging for second onto the back straight. Grajczonek held off Robson’s efforts, but the Rebels stand in Number One, renewed his pressure late in the race, but was comfortably held off.
With the Rebels now 14-points to the good on aggregate, there was no way back for the visitors, and the home side were now certain of progression to the next stage of the KO Cup. They pulled further clear in Heat 14, with Todd Kurtz and Pontus Aspgren posting another 5-1 to count. Kurtz made the best of a level break, leading before the turn, with Aspgren in second place. Kyle Howarth put in a strong challenge for second, and it wasn’t long before he and Pontus Aspgren were engaged in a hot battle for the spot. They swapped and re-swapped places over the next lap and a half, before Aspgren took the advantage off the final bend of the second lap, going on to easily follow Kurtz home.
The Nominated heat featured Brady Kurtz and Pontus Aspgren for the Rebels, with Josh Grajczonek and Kyle Howarth representing the visitors. As the tapes rose, all but Kurtz broke level, with Josh Grajczonek taking the lead around the wide line. Aspgren challenged for second up the inside of the second turn, but Howarth had his measure, and the Comets looked booked for a maximum advantage. Aspgren was having none of it, and wound on the throttle, hitting the dirt line to close down Howarth. By the second bend on the penultimate lap, Aspgren was on him, with the smooth Swede making second place his off the last two bends of the lap. Kurtz was in the race, until a mistake on the first lap put an end to his points scoring chances. The 2-4 advantage brought the scores to 60-30, giving the ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels a 16-poimt aggregate win.
Garry May’s faith in his rider’s ability to pull back the deficit and take the overall win had well and truly been vindicated. They had ridden with belief, effort, determination, and no little amount of ability, to completely blow away their rivals. Many had believed that they had an impossible task, but they had proved anything is possible if you have the will. The level of their performance and dominance can be measured by the fact that they only ran two last places all night. It was also a performance that put the previous two weeks results into some sort of perspective, as they racked up a 60-point score for the third week running, not only that, but they had done it against a side that was considered by many to be one of the league’s leading lights in 2014.
On the night, the Rebels would have been a match for just about anyone you could care to put in front of them, and they had proved it in spades. Every member of the side contributed greatly to the win, but it was Ollie Allen who top scored for the home side with 11-points, a performance that earned him the ‘Rider of the Night’ award, as well as sharing a win bonus with the rest of the septet from joint promoter, Bill Hancock.
Next week sees League action return to the Oak Tree Arena, with the visit of the Redcar Bears.
Somerset Rebels - 60 (98)
1. Stuart Robson (G) - 2, 2*, 1*, 1 = 6+2
2. Charles Wright - 1*, 3, 3, 2 = 9+1
3. Brady Kurtz - 3, 3, 2*, 1, 0 = 9+1
4. Pontus Aspgren - 2*, 1, 3, 2*, 2 = 10+2
5. Oliver Allen - 3, 2, 3, 3 = 11
6. Todd Kurtz - 3, 0, 1, 3 = 7
7. Paul Starke - 2*, 2*, 1, 3 = 8+2
Workington Comets - 30 (82)
1. Josh Grajczonek - 3, 2, 3, 2, 2, 3 = 15
2. Mason Campton - R, 0, 0, 2, 0 = 2
3. Kyle Howarth - 1, 1, 3, 2, 1, 1 = 9
4. Ricky Wells - Rider Replacement
5. Rene Bach - 1, 1, 1, R, 0 = 3
6. Chris Mills - Flx, 0, 0, 0 = 0
7. Lewis Rose (G) - 1, R, 0, 0 = 1
SCB Referee: Graham Reeve
Heat 01: Grajczonek, Robson, Wright, Campton (Ret) (3-3) (3-3) (Agg 41-55) 57.25
Heat 02: (Re run x 2) Todd Kurtz, Starke, Rose, Mills (flx) (5-1) 8-4 (Agg 46-56) 58.75
Heat 03: Brady Kurtz, Aspgren, Howarth, Campton (5-1) 13-5 (Agg 51-57) 57.47
Heat 04: Allen, Starke, Bach, Rose (Ret) (5-1) 18-6 (Agg 56-58) 57.85
Heat 05: Brady Kurtz, Grajczonek, Aspgren, Campton (4-2) 22-8 (Agg 60-60) 57.35
Heat 06: Wright, Robson, Bach, Mills (5-1) 27-9 (Agg 65-61) 58.15
Heat 07: Grajczonek, Allen, Howarth, Todd Kurtz (2-4) 29-13 (Agg 67-65) 57.59
Heat 08: Wright, Campton, Starke, Rose (4-2) 33-15 (Agg 71-67) 58.19
Heat 09: Aspgren, Brady Kurtz, Bach, Mills (5-1) 38-16 (Agg 76-68) 58.46
Heat 10: Howarth, Robson, Wright, Bach (Ret) (3-3) 41-19 (Agg 79-71) 58.04
Heat 11: Allen, Grajczonek, Todd Kurtz, Campton (4-2) 45-21 (Agg 83-73) 57.41
Heat 12: Starke, Howarth, Brady Kurtz, Mills (4-2) 49-23 (Agg 87-75) 58.28
Heat 13: Allen, Grajczonek, Robson, Bach (4-2) 53-25 (Agg 91-77) 58.25
Heat 14: Todd Kurtz, Aspgren, Howarth, Rose (5-1) 58-26 (Agg 96-78) 58.81
Heat 15: Grajczonek, Aspgren, Howarth, Brady Kurtz (2-4) 60-30 (Agg 98-82) 58.29