Friday October 06, 2017
The first season in the top tier of British Speedway ended with a bang for the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels on Friday evening.

The occasion was the restaging of the second leg of their SGB Premiership KO Cup Semi-Final against the Wolverhampton Wolves, the first having been washed out before a wheel was turned.

Both teams came into the tie missing important members of their respective teams, Wolverhampton missing Freddie Lindgren and Jacob Thorssell, both victims of recent serious injuries, whilst injury also meant the Rebels were denied the presence both Josh Grajczonek and Patrick Hougaard. Grajczonek a victim of a nasty crash in Sheffield’s SGB Championship winning finale, with Hougaard withdrawing relatively late after suffering a shoulder injury whilst practising during the week. Wolverhampton brought in Scott Nicholls to cover Lindgren’s rides and used Rider Replacement for Thorssell. Garry May was thwarted in finding a replacement for Grajczonek as there were no riders available willing to take the booking, forcing him to use the Replacement facility for the Rebels skipper, with Poole’s Edward Kennett answering a very late call to cover for Hougaard.

The Rebels came into the tie with a mountain to climb, after going down 59-31 in the first leg at Monmore Green two weeks earlier, the peak of that mountain seemed even more unattainable when the visitors opened up proceedings with a maximum advantage, after Edward Kennett had come down and was excluded from the original running. Kennett’s fate did not appear to be entirely of his own making, with Scott Nicholls getting out of shape in front of him, before the Rebels Guest hit the deck. In the re-run, the Wolves duo were quickly into their stride, with Cameron Heeps right on their heels, but unable to make an impression. That was the race over for the Rebels sole representative as the visitors raced away to an easy maximum.

Any fears for the home supporters that the Wolves would walk away with this second leg, were quickly dispelled as the Rebels fired back with a salvo of wins in the next three heats, and in fact, never allowed the visitors another heat advantage all night. The value of getting as much track time as possible was ably demonstrated by Jake Allen in Heat 2, as he and Lewis Kerr stormed off the line to lead every yard of the way, and never allowing Mark Riss and Nathan Greaves to get in a blow, as the not only raced to a maximum but did it to such effect that as the flag fell they were in a different county than their pursuers. After a highly successful season in the Rebels 2016 title-winning season, Allen’s early season form in the SGB Premiership had suffered through lack of racing, but after winning a place in Scunthorpe’s SGB Championship side, he’s looked a different rider, and this win signalled the start of a terrific night’s work for the Queenslander.

Heat 3 saw Edward Kennett take a lift from the start, but by the time he hit the first bend, he was at the head of affairs, with Charles Wright getting the better of Rory Schlein, but unable to hold the inside run of Kyle Howarth. Wright was soon pressing Howarth, and the pair engaged in an enthralling battle, which saw them trade second place several times before Wright seemed to have made a decisive cut back on the third turn of the penultimate lap, only to see Howarth charge back under him as they started the final lap, and hold Wright over the final lap to foil second Rebels maximum.

That maximum subsequently arrived with Heat 4, as both Lewis Kerr and Richard Lawson blazed from the gate to lead up, Nathan Greaves and Sam Masters. With former Rebel Masters seemingly struggling from the outset, Lawson hit the front down the back straight, and from that point on the Rebels drew further and further away. Masters gave up the ghost on the second lap, retiring on the final turn, having not even been able to pass his own team mate to give chase.

With the Rebels now 6-points to the good, the tie settled into a period of deadlock, with the next six heats being shared, but the racing was anything but boring, as the Rebels provided the majority of heat winners in this spell of the meeting. Heat 5 opened with a rapid start from Kyle Howarth, as Edward Kennett and Scott Nicholls battled for second place, with Kennett moving Nicholls out very wide in the opener. As Kennett got the upper hand, Charles Wright found himself at the rear as he was squeezed out of the action. Having accounted for Nicholls, Kennett charged after Howarth and was in front before the lap closed. For his part, Wright was now pressing Scott Nicholls and trying every line to find a way by. Nicholls had joined Howarth, and as the pair rode side-by-side, Wright’s task became even more difficult, and try as he might he couldn’t find a way to break through.

Richard Lawson took the replacement ride in Heat 6, and added a second win to his tally, a tally that would see him go through the whole meeting unbeaten by an opponent. As the tapes rose, Lawson flashed away to lead up, and that was that. The Wolves didn’t help their own cause behind him, with Sam Masters getting badly out of shape in the opening turns, and almost skittling his partner in the process. Cameron Heeps never got in a blow, and as Lawson won unchallenged, the points were shared.

Heat 7 saw a superb battle at the back for the minor point between Scott Nicholls and Jake Allen, whilst at the front Richard Lawson was making a quick return to the track another winning one, as he added win number three with another lightning start. With Lawson and Rory Schlein away in front, Jake Allen set about Nicholls, the pair battled it out, with Nicholls just holding on. As they raced to the end of the third lap, Allen was almost on terms, with Nicholls all out to hold him off as Allen cut back underneath him on the third band. Racing down the back straight for the final time, Allen switched his attack to the outside, and at the mid-point of the final two turns he appeared to have just edged in front, but Nicholls had the better run out of the turn, but it was still nip and tuck all the way to the flag, with the pair almost inseparable as they flashed across the line. In the end, it was Nicholls who prevailed, but only just, by the narrowest of margins.

Allen was quickly back on track, replacing the struggling Cameron Heeps in Heat 8. When the tapes went up it was Lewis Kerr and Kyle Howarth who disputed the lead, with Kerr just showing in front at the turn, but as they exited the second bend, Howarth had moved smoothly to the front. Jake Allen had been slowly away, before roaring off the second turn wide, powering down the back straight to demote Nathan Greaves to the rear. As Howarth pulled away at the front, Allen took up the chase, but the Wolves man was long gone, and he could make no further impression.

Edward Kennett, Sam Masters and Charles Wright broke level in Heat 9, with Masters getting the advantage in the opening turn. Wright quickly moved out to the wide line, powering off the second turn and down the wide line, before executing a sweet cut back under Masters in the third turn. Masters came back at Wright and the pair the set to in a thrilling contest, as they passed and repassed each other for the whole race. With Masters leading into the final two turns, Wright came with a storming run around the widest of lines, closing with every turn of his wheels. Unfortunately for the Rebels racer, the flag came just too soon, as he failed to grab back the lead by mere inches. Meanwhile, Kennett had easily secured third place to share the points.

The two main protagonists from Heat 9 were both back on track for the following heat, with Wright exacting revenge for his previous defeat. Masters made the early running, but not for the first time on the night, got himself in trouble on the second turn. Meanwhile, Rory Schlein had moved by Charles Wright to grab second, but as Masters recovered from his second bend faux pas, Wright charged down the back straight and carved between both Wolves riders on the third bend and pulled away from the duo. In the meantime Cameron Heeps, who had been slowly away, worked his way onto the back wheel of Schlein, and as they headed to the second turn for the final time, he looked to go up the inside of the Wolves man, only to have the door slammed firmly in his face, getting chopped off and halting his run in the process.

With five heats left and the Rebels 6-points to the good, it was still mathematically possible for the Rebels to snatch a win, or force a draw and send the tie to ‘Golden Heats’. However, in truth, it would have required a meltdown of massive proportions by Wolverhampton, and a miracle of the magnitude of Moses parting the Red Sea for it to become a reality. But to their credit, the Rebels camp set about the seemingly impossible task with some gusto.

Richard Lawson bolted from the tapes in Heat 11 to lead from the off. At the same time, Jake Allen came around the outside line with a wet sail, and by the middle of the back straight he had taken up the running, with the Wolverhampton pair of Howarth and Nicholls struggling behind. The further they went, the further the home duo pulled away before going on to complete a bloodless maximum advantage, with Allen taking the win. At the rear, Scott Nicholl retired on the final bend of the race, turning into the pits and not taking the flag.

Eager to keep the run going, Lewis Kerr jumped early and hit the tapes in Heat 12. He was immediately replaced by the previous heat winner, Jake Allen. Charles Wright broke quickly, hitting the front before the turn. The remaining three broke level and disputed second place, until Allen took the wide line to power by Mark Riss down the back straight, and then immediately cut back inside Rory Schlein with his trademark move on the third bend. Schlein fought back and regained second place, only to see Allen storm back around his outer, as they negotiated the opening turns of Lap 3. This time there was no recall for Schlein, with his young opponent sealing the deal with the move, and adding a second successive ‘Full House’ to the Rebels tally, putting the home side 14-points to the good at 43-29.

As Jake Allen had shown in his last two races, the Rebels had made good use all night of the wide run off the second bend and down the back straight. They had used it to such good effect that they prompted one watching supporter to comment that they were getting so much speed from the move, they could have beaten anyone from it, even Lewis Hamilton.

With Moses warming up his staff for another stab at the Red Sea, the miracle quickly evaporated as the Wolves held the Rebels to a shared heat in Heat 13. However, one thing they couldn’t stop was Richard Lawson's headlong charge to a paid maximum. The story of the race was tapes up, Lawson hits the front, hangs around for a lap, and then clears off to a very comfortable win. After the opening lap, neither Scott Nicholls nor Sam Masters could make any impression whatsoever on the flying Cumbrian. Lewis Kerr was slowly away and never got in the race.

Heat 14 was also shared, with Rory Schlein getting the better of a tight opening battle. After being moved very wide by Edward Kennett in the initial turns, he cut back under the Hastings born man on the third turn and was never troubled again. Kennett did give chase, but could never find enough to worry Schlein, who raced on to a comfortable win. Jake Allen easily took third place from Nathan Greaves to ensure a share of the points.

The nominated heat saw the Rebels close out their first season in the SGB Premiership with both a heat and a match win. Richard Lawson completed his six ride paid maximum with another lightning start, which saw him lead all the way, despite constant pressure from Kyle Howarth. Meanwhile, Charles Wright got the better of Scott Nicholls on the second lap and set sail after Kyle Howarth for second place, but he was too far in arrears to make any significant impact. For his part, Nicholls once again failed to complete the race as, for a second time in three rides, he pulled off the track at the final turn, without taking the flag.

The ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels had put up a tremendous fight, prompting Garry May to comment that they had all made him very proud of the way they had battled on the evening. He said that they had been awesome, but rued the fact that the first leg had had such an impact on the final outcome. In the end, they had pulled back 16-points from their initial 28-point deficit. The final 12-point aggregate loss needed just a 6-point turn around in fortunes for the Rebels to have taken something from this tie, and with 8 shared heats in the meeting, a little more good fortune could have seen the Rebels pulling off a trip to the Final. But at the end of the day, that honour goes to Wolverhampton, who now go forward to meet Belle Vue in the KO Cup Final.

The Rebels 53-37 win was full of good moments, and Richard Lawson had finished of his first season as a Rebel in the best possible way, with a 17+1 six ride paid maximum, which also won him the 'Somerset Rider of the Night' award, chosen by Mike Baker, represent the Meeting sponsors, a group of avid ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels going under the name of ‘First Bend Fiascot’.

We now look forwards to a winter of speculation on who Garry May will look to, to carry the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels colours in 2018, but whoever they may be, it will be the best team that can be assembled to ensure some great racing, competition, and the future of the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels for years to come.

Somerset Rebels = 53 (84)
1. Josh Grajczonek – Rider Replacement
2. Cameron Heeps - 1, 0, 0 = 1
3. Charles Wright - 1, 0, 2, 3, 3, 1 = 10
4. Edward Kennett (Guest) - F/X, 3, 3, 1*, 2 = 9+1
5. Richard Lawson - 3, 3, 3, 2*, 3, 3 = 17+1
6. Jake Allen - 3, 0, 2, 3, 2*, 1* = 11+2
7. Lewis Kerr - 2*, 2*, 1*, T, 0 = 5+3

Wolverhampton Wolves = 37 (96)
1. Scott Nicholls (Guest) - 3, 1*, 1*, R, 1*, R = 6+3
2. Kyle Howarth - 2*, 2, 2, 3, 1, 2 = 12+1
3. Rory Schlein - 0, 2, 1*, 1, 3 = 7+1
4. Jacob Thorssell – Rider Replacement
5. Sam Masters - R, 2, 3, 2, 2 = 9
6. Mark Riss - 1, 1*, 0, 0 = 2+1
7. Nathan Greaves - 0, 1, 0 = 1
SCB Referee: Dave Watters

Heat Details
Heat 01: (Re-Run) Nicholls, Howarth, Heeps (1-5) (1-5) (32-64) 58.91
Heat 02: Allen, Kerr, Riss, Greaves (5-1) (6-6) (37-65) 57.85
Heat 03: Kennett, Howarth, Wright, Schlein (4-2) (10-8) (41-67) 58.22
Heat 04: Lawson, Kerr, Greaves, Masters (5-1) (15-9) (46-68) 57.81
Heat 05: Kennett, Howarth, Nicholls, Wright (3-3) (18-12) (49-71) 57.81
Heat 06: Lawson, Masters, Riss, Heeps (3-3) (21-15) (52-74) 57.82
Heat 07: Lawson, Schlein, Nicholls, Allen (3-3) (24-18) (55-77) 57.78
Heat 08: Howarth, Allen, Kerr, Greaves (3-3) (27-21) (58-80) 58.63
Heat 09: Masters, Wright, Kennett, Riss (3-3) (30-24) (61-83) 58.69
Heat 10: Wright, Masters, Schlein, Heeps (3-3) (33-27) (64-86) 58.63
Heat 11: Allen, Lawson, Howarth, Nicholls (5-1) (38-28) (69-87) 58.06
Heat 12: (Re-Run) Wright, Allen, Schlein, Riss, Kerr (exc tapes) (5-1) (43-29) (74-88) 59.06
Heat 13: Lawson, Masters, Nicholls, Kerr (3-3) (46-32) (77-91) 58.97
Heat 14: Schlein, Kennett, Allen, Greaves (3-3) (49-35) (80-94) 58.82
Heat 15: Lawson, Howarth, Wright, Nicholls (4-2) (53-37) (84-96) 58.14

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