Somerset Rebels beaten by flying Swindon Robins outfit

Somerset Rebels rider Richard Lawson in action during the defeat to Swindon Robins

Somerset Rebels rider Richard Lawson in action during the defeat to Swindon Robins - Credit: Archant

With the previous evenings encounter at the Abbey Stadium falling victim to the weather, the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels entertained the table topping Swindon Robins at the Oaktree Arena on Friday evening, writes Dave Thompson.

The visitors were seeking their twelfth win on the trot, having already racked up a club record number of undefeated matches, whilst a win for the Rebels would help them maintain their push for a play-off spot.

The Robins tracked a full septet, with James Sarjeant deputising for the injured Zach Wajtknecht, but the Rebels were reduced to a six man outfit, with Todd Kurtz in for broken wrist victim, Jake Allen, and Rider Replacement being used for Cameron Heeps, who was racing for his SGB Championship side Ipswich against Edinburgh, a meeting, which was, like the previous evenings match up at Swindon, ironically, postponed due to bad weather.

Although the Rebels know the Oaktree Arena circuit like the back of their hand, the visitors also track some riders, who are more than familiar with the place. Nick Morris and Somerset asset Bradley Wilson-Dean spent a season at the club, whilst club legend, and arguably the best rider in the world over the last couple of years, Jason Doyle, had the Oaktree Arena as his home for three seasons, and in 2013, became the first league title winning captain in the clubs history. Combine this with riders who are known to have a liking for the track, and the task of ending the Robins’ run looked a difficult one, and so it proved.

Jason Doyle and Tobiasz Musielak, one of Swindon’s most recent signings, dominated the opening race. Doyle flashed from the tapes, with Josh Grajczonek and Todd Kurtz in his wake, until Musielak, who had made a tardy start, made a stunning inside pass on the two Rebels at the second turn, to join his partner at the head of affairs. There was little gap inside the Rebels duo, and Musielak went grass tracking to make the pass, with all but the back wheel over the line. Once they had disposed of the home pair, Doyle and Musielak streaked away to a bloodless maximum advantage.

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The Rebels hit back immediately, as Lewis Kerr made a lightning start to lead every inch of the way, with the visiting pairing of Adam Ellis and James Sarjeant dropped in behind. Todd Kurtz swept inside Sarjeant at the final turn of the lap, to grab third place, and from that point on the race settled to give the home side a 4-2 heat win.

Patrick Hougaard looked to have given the Rebels another heat winner in Heat 3, as he led up to the turn, but his tenure at the front was short lived, as David Bellego just managed to sneak over the top, as they ran through the second turn, to steal away the lead. Charles Wright had caught a big lift at the line and had to come from behind Bradley Wilson-Dean down the back straight. Wilson-Dean wasn’t done, and came back with a pass of his own, getting up Wright’s inner down the home straight, before the pair contested a very tight bend, with contact between them, as Wright fought back on the outside and regained the third place spot on the next turn, to give the Rebels a shared heat.

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As the tapes rose on Heat 4, the Rebels looked as though a narrow lead would come their way, with Lewis Kerr and Richard Lawson bolting from the gate to lead up, but on the second turn, Lawson locked up badly, as Kerr inadvertently blocked his outside run off the first bend, causing him to drop to the back of the field. Kerr roared away at the front, with Lawson trying everything he knew to rescue an advantage, but in the end, James Sarjeant answered all his questions, just holding off a storming Lawson run at the flag, for another shared heat.

The Wiltshire side quickly extended their lead over the next two heats, taking advantages in both races. In Heat 5, they gated on a maximum advantage, with Jason Doyle leading at the turn. Patrick Hougaard came with a power-packed run down the back straight, to take the wide line around the final turns of the lap, relegating Tobiasz Musielak to third place in the process. He gave chase to Doyle, but the Grand Prix star had too much in the tank, and despite Hougaard’s persistence, won handily and untroubled from the Dane. Charles Wright was slowly away, and despite never giving up the chase, could get nowhere near making a challenge on Musielak’s third place.

The Robins went 6-points up at the completion of Heat 6, with the fast starting Adam Ellis taking the win. Ellis and partner Nick Morris had broken together on a maximum advantage, with Ellis taking over the lead on the back straight. Morris lost another place as Rebels skipper, Josh Grajczonek, carved underneath him on the final curves of the lap. Grajczonek set off after Ellis, but the young French born Englishman rode a superb race to hold him off, despite catching a huge lift on the back straight of Lap 3, with Grajczonek up his inner. Ellis conjured up something of a miracle, not only to get his machine under control, when a fall looked the likely outcome, but also to maintain his lead in the process. Lewis Kerr could never get into the race and slowed on the last lap before retiring on the final bend.

Three shared heats followed, with the visitors supplying two of the winners. Bradley Wilson-Dean was quickly into his stride, but his early pace was frustrated, as the race was called back, with the Rebels Todd Kurtz warned for moving before the start. In the re-run it was Richard Lawson who made the best gate, jetting from the inside to lead all the way. David Bellego and Wilson-Dean gave chase, but Lawson romped home to win virtually unchallenged. Todd Kurtz never got in the hunt, making no impression on the visitors at any point.

Heat 8 took two attempts to start, as James Sarjeant was pulled back and warned for jumping the start. In the re-start, Tobiasz Musielak showed what a shrewd signing he has proved to be for the Swindon management, as he blazed off the outside gate, cutting across the whole field to lead at the turn, with Todd Kurtz and Charles Wright giving chase. However Musielak had too much speed for the Rebels twosome, and despite a spirited chase from Wright after the second lap, he produced a smooth armchair ride to take a comfortable win. With Sarjeant not getting in the chase at the rear, the points went equally to both sides.

In the initial stages of Heat 9, Adam Ellis and Patrick Hougaard disputed the early running, but it was Charles Wright who took up the chase on early leader Ellis. The pair battled it out for all four laps, with Wright all over the young Robin. On the second lap, Wright looked to have made a telling move coming off the final turn, but Ellis cleverly squeezed him out to hold onto his lead. Undeterred, Wright charged around the closing bends of the race, narrowing the gap with every turn of his wheels, until the pair flashed across the line separated by mere millimetres, with the result in doubt, until referee Dave Robinson announced that Ellis had just held off Wright’s last gasp effort. Hougaard was easily accounting for Nick Morris when the latter retired late on in the race.

The Rebels gated rapidly in Heat 10, with Lewis Kerr leading up alongside Josh Grajczonek, with Kerr taking up the running in the first turn, Grajczonek appeared to run wide as he got involved in a tight battle with David Bellego and Bradley Wilson-Dean on the second turn, causing him to drop to the rear. He quickly got back on terms, shooting past both Robins down the back straight. Bellego hit back straight away and powered around Grajczonek outside off the final turn of the lap, only to see Grajczonek repay the compliment with a neat inside run as they hit the first turn of Lap 2. Grajczonek joined Kerr at the front and rode a superb team race to hold off the charging Bellego and protect Kerr’s lead. The resulting 5-1 putting the Rebels back within striking distance of the Swindon outfit.

The respite was short lived, as the pairing of Doyle and Musielak once again paid dividends. The pair shot from the gate, with Doyle taking the lead, but it wasn’t long before Musielak powered his way to the front with a strong run down the wide outside. After the initial stages, the home pair of Richard Lawson and Todd Kurtz were left floundering in the wake of the visitors strongest pairing. As he had done in Heat 8, Musielak looked effortless in front, sitting comfortably on the dirt line and pulling away as he ticked off the laps to the final flag.

The Rebels stubbornly refused to yield, sharing the next heat to stay in the hunt. At the start of Heat 12, the Rebels appeared to have given themselves a chance to immediately pull back the points lost in the previous heat, with Charles Wright and Lewis Kerr blasting off the line to lead up, only to be called back, and having Wright warned for moving at the start. In the re-run, the inevitable happened, as Adam Ellis broke in front of the Rebels pair. Wright was quick to move to his accustomed very wide line and came with a wet sail off the second bend to sweep into the lead as they ran to the next turn. As Wright pulled away, Kerr looked to have third place all sewn up, until the third lap, where he appeared to start to lose pace, imperceptibly at first, but much more markedly towards the end of the lap, where Bradley Wilson-Dean rapidly closed him down, until he sailed by Kerr on the back straight of the final circuit. Kerr immediately slowed, limping round to the final turn, where he retired. He later reported that he was having problems with losing power in the late stages of his final few rides.

The Robins finally broke the dogged Rebels in Heat 13, and it was that man Doyle who charged off the gate to make every yard a winning one. Nick Morris, who had been having a poor night by his standards, was again slowly away and found himself at the rear on the opening turn. Unlike his previous races, he managed to find some speed and coming off the early bends of the next lap he spectacularly carved by both Josh Grajczonek and Richard Lawson, to fall in behind Doyle. Grajczonek gave chase, but could never get back on terms. It was a hammer blow for the Rebels, who now found themselves 10-points down with only two race left to run.

With the home side’s resistance now cracked, Swindon went on to close out meeting with two final advantages. Heat 14 saw them take a 2-4 win, but not before David Bellego had produced a very unnecessarily hard move to defeat Patrick Hougaard. Adam Ellis led the first running of the race, only to be pulled back and warned for early movement. In the re-start, Hougaard came charging down the wide line on the back straight, to steam past Bellego and Ellis, who had made the early running. Bellego fought back, and on the third lap, he was up the inside of Hougaard. But the Dane looked to have the better speed on the outside, and it appeared he could easily power back around the outside of the third bend, until Bellego appeared to run him straight on, not turning left until well into the turn. Hougaard’s only two options were to crash or knock the throttle off, and understandably he chose the latter. Considering Swindon’s 10-point lead, and the fact that they would have shared the heat, it was a totally needless move, which at best could be described, as one observer put it, robust, at worst pointless, unnecessary, and dangerous.

Bellego was quickly back on track for the final heat, partnering Tobiasz Musielak in the nominated heat. Garry May gave Patrick Hougaard a quick return, alongside Charles Wright. The Robins pair rocketed from the line to lead up, with Wright and Hougaard close up. Off the second turn, Wright challenged between the Robins pair, only for Musielak to chop off his run. Wright never gave up the chase and produced a spectacular late run, just inches from the air fence, but in the final reckoning he couldn’t get back on terms, and the Robins posted a fourth ‘Full House’ to take the meeting 37-53.

The major difference between the two sides on the night was the speed out of the gate. On the occasions the Rebels did gate, they showed they were well capable of taking points from the visitors, but it was something there wasn’t enough of on the evening. The Robins’ score chart showed Jason Doyle (11+1), Tobiasz Musielak (11+2), David Bellego (12pts), and Adam Ellis (11pts) as their main contributors, with Musielak, despite not top scoring, being extremely impressive on the night. For the Rebels’ it had been a difficult night, with points hard to come by, in spite of putting up a determined battle. Lewis Kerr top scored on the night (9+2), but it was Charles Wright’s on the edge, spectacular racing, which earned him the ‘Somerset Rider of the Night’ award for the second time in as many matches. His trophy was awarded by Rob Hopkins, whose company, Weston Recovery Services, are one of the Rebels long time supporters.

Even though not having one of his better nights, ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels captain, Josh Grajczonek, scored his 1,400th point for the club in last night’s meeting, ending the match on the 1,404 point mark and sitting in 5th place in the club’s all-time list of point’s scorers. Josh is now just 18 points behind the late Emil Kramer (who is 4th in the all-time list) and 61 points behind 3rd-placed Jason Doyle. In addition, Josh’s heat 10 win was his 300th for the club, putting him 3rd on the Somerset all-time list behind Jason Doyle (361) and Magnus Zetterström (398).

The Rebels next outings see them on the road, with visits to Belle Vue (Monday 21st August), and Rye House (Wednesday 23rd August), before returning to the Oaktree Arena for the return match with Rye House next Friday (25th August). The Rye House meetings, in particular, will be important in the push for the play-offs, as the Hoddesdon club have now taken over the fifth spot in the table after the Rebels defeat by Swindon.

Meeting statistics

Somerset Rebels - 37

1. Josh Grajczonek - R, 2, 3, 1 = 6

2. Cameron Heeps – Rider Replacement

3. Charles Wright - 1’, 0, 2, 2, 3, 1 = 9+1

4. Patrick Hougaard - 2, 2, 1’, 2, 0 = 7+1

5. Richard Lawson - 0, 3, 1, 0 = 4

6. Todd Kurtz (G) - 1, 1, 0, 0 = 2

7. Lewis Kerr - 3, 3, R, 1’, 2’, R, 0 = 9+2

8. Craig Nethercott - DNR

Swindon Robins = 53

1. Jason Doyle - 3, 3, 2’, 3 = 11+1

2. Tobiasz Musielak - 2’, 1, 3, 3, 2’ = 11+2

3. Bradley Wilson-Dean - 0, 1’, 0, 1’ = 2+2

4. David Bellego - 3, 2, 1, 3, 3 = 12

5. Nick Morris - 2, 1, 0, 2’ = 5+1

6. Adam Ellis - 2, 3, 3, 2, 1 = 11

7. James Sarjeant (G) - 0, 1’, 0 = 1+1

SCB Referee: Dave Robinson

Heat Details

Heat 01: Doyle, Musielak, Kurtz, Grajczonek (Ret) (1-5) (1-5) 56.50

Heat 02: Kerr, Ellis, Kurtz, Sarjeant (4-2) (5-7) 57.12

Heat 03: Bellego, Hougaard, Wright, Wilson-Dean (3-3) (8-10) 57.34

Heat 04: Kerr, Morris, Sarjeant, Lawson (3-3) (11-13) 58.00

Heat 05: Doyle, Hougaard, Musielak, Wright (2-4) (13-17) 56.81

Heat 06: Ellis, Grajczonek, Morris, Kerr (2-4) (15-21) 58.14

Heat 07: (Re-Run) Lawson, Bellego, Wilson-Dean, Kurtz (Warned) (3-3) (18-24) 57.84

Heat 08: (Re-Run) Musielak, Wright, Kerr, Sarjeant (Warned) (3-3) (21-27) 57.75

Heat 09: Ellis. Wright, Hougaard, Morris (Ret) (3-3) (24-30) 57.94

Heat 10: Grajczonek, Kerr, Bellego, Wilson-Dean (5-1) (29-31) 58.75

Heat 11: Musielak, Doyle, Lawson, Kurtz (1-5) (30-36)

Heat 12: (Re-Run) Wright (Warned), Ellis, Wilson-Dean, Kerr (Ret) (3-3) (33-39) 57.91

Heat 13: Doyle, Morris, Grajczonek, Lawson (1-5) (34-44) 58.91

Heat 14: (Re-Run) Bellego, Hougaard, Ellis (Warned), Kerr (2-4) (36-48) 58.47

Heat 15: Bellego, Musielak, Wright, Hougaard (Ret) (1-5) (37-53) 59.07

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