Friday July 10, 2015
Whether it be at the Oak Tree Arena or the St Boniface Arena, derby matches between 'Cases' Somerset Rebels and the Plymouth Devils are always passionate well contested affairs, but this encounter had the added spice of being the first steps along the path into the next round of the Premier League Knock Out Cup, a competition the Rebels have won twice in their Premier League history.

The Rebels were without the services of Brady Kurtz, who was away on World U21 duty in Lonigo, Italy, but had enlisted the services of former Rebel, Nick Morris. Also missing, after his crash at Redcar on the previous evening was the battered and bruised Charles Wright, with Rider Replacement the only facility available to cover his rides. Plymouth came to the Oak Tree Arena with a full complement of riders, including former Rebels Kyle Newman and Todd Kurtz.

No matter what their respective current form, the Devils are always up for the battle when it comes to meetings between the two teams, and this contest was no different, particularly in the early stages. The opening salvos of the battle for a place in the next round were pretty even, with the three opening heats being shared. Nick Morris popped out of the gate in front, coming across to the kerb in the opening bend to deny Ryan Fisher a run. As Morris consolidated his lead, the battle behind was for third place, with Leigh Lanham holding sway over Morten Risager. Risager tried all he knew, but Lanham appeared to have him covered, until the Dane found a run off the final bend to just sneak by on the line.

The Devils provided their first winner of the night in Heat 2, with Sam Simota flying off the tapes to lead every inch of the way. Paul Starke challenged early but was beaten off. Starke stuck to the task, exploring every line of the Highbridge circuit to find away by, but Simota never wavered, and ran out the winner at the flag. Third place went to new Rebel recruit, Ollie Greenwood, who was making his home debut after his move from Peterborough.

Starke was straight back out in the next race, to take the replacement ride, signalling the start of a busy night for the Hereford born rider. His quick return to the track looked to have only brought a second place, as Todd Kurtz came hard up his inside to lead off bend two. As the race appeared to have settled, Jack Holder charged up the inside of Richie Worrall on the second bend of lap two. He dived in hard, and rode straight into the side of the Rebels man, knocking him to the ground. Astonishingly, and to jeers from the home fans in the crowd, Paul Carrington excluded Worrall. In the restart Starke made no mistake, flying off the line to lead all the way, and pulling clear in the process, to ensure the heat was shared.

The battle in the opening turns of the fourth heat proved to be a very tough, tight affair, from which Josh Grajczonek emerged in front of Devils skipper Kyle Newman. Once released from the fight, Grajczonek pulled clear to win easily, and the Rebels took a 4-2 advantage as Ollie Greenwood battled for all four laps to hold off Sam Simota, after beating him to the drop in the early stages.

The home lead was short lived, as the visitors immediately hit back to level the scores in the very next heat. Ryan Fisher made a flying start to lead from the gate, with Leigh Lanham - in for Charles Wright – taking up the chase. Richie Worrall fell out of the traps and never got in contention. With Fisher gone in the wind, the focus was on the run for second spot; as Lanham and Morten Risager renewed their battle from heat one. This time it was the ‘Silver Fox’ who came out on top, but not before he had demonstrated his ability to hold the Dane at bay. In a post meeting interview, much to amusement of the listening fans, he described himself as, at times, being like a ‘Roadblock’.

The lead swung again in Heat 6, with the Rebels posting their first maximum advantage of the night. Nick Morris and Leigh Lanham broke quickly, but had Kyle Newman for company to the turn. Morris took care of business at the bend, coming over the top of Newman, and stopping his inside run, as Lanham took up the running on the outside. With Morris on his inside the pair set about team riding it to the flag, but in the later stages, Morris switched outside. As Lanham held a slight lead, Morris came under pressure from Newman. The Devils skipper cut back underneath Morris on the third turn, edging into slight lead. Morris battled back on the outside as the pair came close together, and as they came off the final turn he had the better run to the line, and came back to give the Rebels a ‘full house’.

The Devils were not lying down; as they continued to take the fight to the Rebels they cut the lead once again taking Heat 7 by a 4-2 margin. Josh Grajczonek led out of the opening bend, with Todd Kurtz close up. Kurtz got a great run into the third turn, cutting up the inside of Grajczonek, he took up the running, leading all the way to the flag, despite the Rebels captain getting close to trying a pass on several occasions. Jack Holder easily took third place to add to Kurtz win, bringing the deficit back to just 2-points.

Heat 8 saw the Rebels hit back with another maximum advantage, with Leigh Lanham and Paul Starke doing the business for the home side. There appeared to be some movement at the start, but the race continued, with Lanham and Starke hitting the front just before the turn. The pair pulled clear of Morten Risager and Sam Simota, going on to win in a canter.

The Devils were fighting hard to keep the score to a manageable level for the return leg, and the next two heats were shared as they battled to stem the flow now running in the Rebels favour. Heat 9 saw Kyle Newman take the win, after returning to the pits and emerging just in time, after problems with his machine at the start.

As the tapes rose he was quickly into his stride, but had to come from behind a very fast starting Paul Starke on the opening turns. Starke kept up the pressure on Newman, but could never find a way back to the front. On the final lap he threw in a big effort, with a fast run around the wide line on the closing bends he closed the gap, but not enough to get in a telling blow. Meanwhile Richie Worrall comfortably held Roland Benko for third place.

Jack Holder was quickly away in Heat 10, but was soon collared by Nick Morris. Leigh Lanham hit second spot shortly afterwards, passing both Devils in the process, but his grasp on the place was loosened as Todd Kurtz came around his outside in the opening turns of the next lap. For the next two and laps Lanham looked to have third place comfortably wrapped up, but was caught napping as Jack Holder produced a power packed run off the final turns of the lap to just get up on the line, stealing the place away, and win a share of the heat points.

With a points difference a valuable commodity over a two legged affair, and the visitors were frustrating the Rebels efforts to build a winning lead. As they have shown in the past, the Rebels are often at their best in tight situations, and demonstrated that in the following races. Immediately they hammered home two maximum heat wins, extending their lead from a slender 6-points to 14-points, with three heats to go.

Heat 11 opened with Josh Grajczonek hitting the front from the off, but the busy Paul Starke was slowly away. With Grajczonek opening up a winning lead, Starke set about improving his lot. He stormed after the Devils pair, catching Morten Risager off the final turn of the lap. With a full three laps to go, he closed on Ryan Fisher, but it wasn’t until the closing bends that he produced a stunning outside run, and even on the final bend he had ground to make up. Make it up he did, and with the rising cheers of the home fans greeting his efforts, he edged closer and closer with every turn of his wheels, getting up right on the line, much to Fishers obvious annoyance.

Heat 12 saw three changes, with Richie Worrall taking the replacement ride, and both sides making a reserve switch, the devils bringing in Sam Simota, with the ubiquitous Paul Starke in for the home team. Worrall blasted from the tapes to lead up, but once again Starke made a slower start, and had to come from the back. This time he made his telling move all in one go, powering around the wide line on the opening turns, and completing his pass at the end of back straight as the field entered the third turn. From that point on it was easy for the Rebels pair, as they pulled well clear over Jack Holder and Simota.

There were several efforts to start Heat 13, the race eventually getting underway at the third attempt. In the original start, Kyle Newman appeared to move early, and the race was immediately pulled back. In the restart, Ryan Fisher was a bit previous, and touched the tapes in his effort to get away in front. He was excluded for his troubles, but took his place off 15-metres. Josh Grajczonek and Kyle Newman were rapidly off the start in the successful running of the race. Newman got the better run to the bend and was in front as they hit the turn. Grajczonek came back at him off the final turn of the lap, but could not get his nose in front. For the rest of the race the pair were locked in battle, with Newman just coming out on top.

Behind the duo Nick Morris held third place, with Fisher challenging hard, but not looking as though he could make up the ground. Late into the penultimate lap Morris made a tardy exit from the final bend, giving Fisher the chance he was looking for. He quickly closed down the gap, but Morris still had enough to hold him, and with time running out, the American put in a powerful challenge off the final turns of the race, only to fall short at the flag, and the points were shared. With Morris running to the fence, and Fisher closing fast, the pair touched wheels, and came crashing down after the finish, in a horrific looking fall, which took both riders & machines tumbling down the track to the first turn. Fisher was immediately to Morris’s side to check on the stricken Australian, who had been collected by his bike as he smashed into the air fence. Amazingly they were both up, Morris after a delay as he was attended by the medical team, and heading back to the pits under their own steam. Whilst Fisher appeared no worse for wear, Morris suffered a badly gashed elbow, and suspected concussion, which resulted in him taking a trip to hospital.

The Rebels added to their tally in Heat 14, with Richie Worrall coming from behind a fast starting Todd Kurtz on the wide outside of the second bend, and hitting the front entering the back straight. Paul Starke wasn’t far away, and set off in pursuit of Kurtz, throwing in his challenge in the opening curves of the next lap. With Starke pushing him from behind, Kurtz kept up the pressure on Worrall, but could never get back on terms, despite keeping it close to the flag. In the closing stages the race had settled into the final pattern, with Starke comfortably holding third, to give the Rebels the advantage and a 16-point lead with one heat to go.

With Nick Morris unable to take his place in Heat 15, the nominations for the Rebels went to Josh Grajczonek and Richie Worrall, with Kyle Newman and Todd Kurtz coming to post for the Devils. Grajczonek and Kurtz contested the early running, with the Rebels skipper hitting the front on the wide line around the opening turns. Kyle Newman came through from third, to hit the front off turn three, but Grajczonek had the faster line out, and was quickly back at the head of affairs. Richie Worrall came with good run to pass Kurtz at the close of the lap, and then close on Newman. As Worrall pushed for an opening, Kurtz was never far away, and as they headed to the final lap, he took advantage of Worrall’s wide line, by stealing up his inside to grab third place and share the points.

For the Devils, Todd Kurtz and Kyle Newman had been superb, with Newman hitting top spot with 11-points, and Kurtz not far behind. The 'Cases' Somerset Rebels had produced another all round team performance, but the plaudits have to go to the hardworking Paul Starke, whose magnificent 14+3 haul rightly earned him the ‘Rider of the Night’ trophy from meeting sponsors ‘The Grand Pier’ of Weston-Super-Mare. Ollie Greenwood had an encouraging home debut, with 2-points, but he was always on the pace, and there is obviously more to come from the Staffordshire based 22-year-old.

So the 'Cases' Somerset Rebels head for the St Boniface Arena for tonight’s (Saturday) leg, with a 16-point lead. Without doubt the Devils will be a different proposition on their home patch of shale, so Garry May and his team will not be taking their task lightly, and like the Devils were here, they will surely be up for the fight, giving the fans of both teams the mouth watering prospect of another exciting closely contested affair.

Somerset Rebels - 53
1. Nick Morris (G) 3, 2*, 3, 1* = 9+2
2. Leigh Lanham 0, 2, 3, 3, 0 = 8
3. Rider Replacement
4. Richie Worrall Flx, 0, 1*, 3, 3, 0 = 7+1
5. Josh Grajczonek 3, 2, 3, 2, 3 = 13
6. Paul Starke 2, 3, 2*, 2, 2*, 2*, 1 = 14+3
7. Ollie Greenwood 1*, 1, 0 = 2+1

Plymouth Devils – 37
1. Ryan Fisher 2, 3, 1, 0 = 6
2. Morten Risager 1*, 1, 1, 0 = 3+1
3. Jack Holder 1*, 1, 1*, 1 = 4+2
4. Todd Kurtz 2, 3, 2, 2, 1* = 10+1
5. Kyle Newman 2, 1, 3, 3, 2 = 11
6. Roland Benko 0, 0, 0 = 0
7. Sam Simota 3, 0, 0, 0, 0 = 3

SCB Referee - Paul Carrington

Heat Details
Heat 01: Morris, Fisher, Risager, Lanham (3-3) (3-3) 56.97
Heat 02: Simota, Starke, Greenwood, Benko (3-3) (6-6) 57.79
Heat 03: Starke, Kurtz, Holder, Worrall (Flx) (3-3) (9-9) 57.34
Heat 04: Grajczonek, Newman, Greenwood, Simota (4-2) (13-11) 57.97
Heat 05: Fisher, Lanham, Risager, Worrall (2-4) (15-15) 57.44
Heat 06: Lanham, Morris, Newman, Benko (5-1) (20-16) 58.72
Heat 07: Kurtz, Grajczonek, Holder, Greenwood. (2-4) (22-20) 57.47
Heat 08: Lanham, Starke, Risager, Simota (5-1) (27-21) 59.19
Heat 09: Newman, Starke, Worrall, Benko (3-3) (30-24) 58.78
Heat 10: Morris, Kurtz, Holder, Lanham (3-3) (33-27) 58.69
Heat 11: Grajczonek, Starke, Fisher, Risager (5-1) (38-28) 58.69
Heat 12: Worrall, Starke, Holder, Simota (5-1) (43-29) 58.32
Heat 13: Newman, Grajczonek, Morris, Fisher (3-3) (46-32) 58.91
Heat 14: Worrall, Kurtz, Starke, Simota (4-2) (50-34) 59.71
Heat 15: Grajczonek, Newman, Kurtz, Worrall (3-3) (53-37) 58.94

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