Tuesday August 06, 2013
Just a few scant weeks ago, the ‘Case’s Somerset Rebels’ and ‘Workington Comets’ fought out a titanic battle for the right to progress to the next round of the Premier League Knock Out Cup.

On the night the Rebels prevailed by 7-points, after producing 5-0 and 5-1 wins in the final two heats of the home leg, to take the tie on aggregate, by a mere 1-point margin. Anyone who witnessed that meeting between these two teams, were understandably left with little doubt that this renewal, for league points, would not produce anything less than another tough night for the Rebels, and the opening few heats did nothing to dispel that notion.

The Rebels were again at full strength, with Simon Lambert, making his second home appearance in quick succession, after replacing the struggling Tom Perry in the reserve berth. The Comets were without the injured Ashley Morris, with current British U21 Champion Robert Branford deputising at Number 6. Since the last encounter the Comets had reshuffled their pack, following the last issue of the averages, which had seen Rene Bach move to the Number 1 berth, with Richard Lawson travelling in the opposite direction to Number 5, Kyle Howarth and Tero Aarnio had also swapped places at two and four. In the couple of matches since the reorganisation, Lawson appeared to have found a new lease of life, top scoring for the Comets against Rye House, and also posting a paid maximum in the guest role for Sheffield.

The opening four heats were nip and tuck, with neither team really getting the upper hand. Heat 1 saw the Comets draw first blood, as they supplied the winner of the shared heat. A quick start from Kyle Newman just saw him get the better of a fairly level break to the turn, with Rene Bach in close attendance. The pair then fought out a side –by-side battle over the next two laps. With first one and then the other gaining, losing and then regaining the narrowest of advantages over his opponent, until the powerful Bach produced a big run on the outside of the opening turn of Lap 3, easing into a narrow lead, which he wasn’t to lose, despite major efforts from the determined Newman. Jason Doyle was just a spectator for most of the race, as he comfortably accounted for Tero Aarnio to take third place.

Robert Branford produced an outrageous jump start in Heat 2, which appeared to have been totally missed by the referee, Jim Lawrence, and stormed to a long early lead from his team mate Chris Mills. It may have been that the Rebels reserves were expecting a recall, but whatever the reason they were left toiling in the wake of the Comets duo after the first turn. Eventually Mills moved into the lead, and the pair raced to a 5-1 from Stefan Nielsen in third. Simon Lambert fell at the end of the opening lap, but remounted and took up a vain chase, until he retired later in the race.

The Rebels were not fazed by the set back, and countered the maximum immediately, with one of their own. Alex Davies bolted from the tapes, to lead up narrowly to the turn from Rusty Harrison. No sooner had Davies gone to the front, than his race partner joined him, as he demoted Harrison to third, before they reached the first bend. Shortly afterwards Harrison was last, having been passed by his team mate, Kyle Howarth. Harrison gradually dropped way back off the pace, eventually pulling into the pits before completing his final lap. As Howarth chased the Rebels pair, Morris had moved into the lead, and was proceeding to put an ever increasing distance between himself and the rest of the field, which was led by Davies, also a long way in front of Howarth. Morris tore up the track, getting faster as the laps ticked off, until he flashed past the chequered flag, in the blazingly fast time of 56.68 seconds, just 0.62 seconds outside Leigh Adams all time Oak Tree Arena track record, as he posted the fastest time of the season so far.

Josh Grajczonek is in fine form of late, producing a full 5 ride maximum against his former team Glasgow on 19th July, and then reproducing the feat when guesting for Rye House, again against Glasgow, this time on their home track at Ashfield, and he showed why in Heat 4 here. Trapping in third place, with Simon Lambert and Richard Lawson leading him up, he powered around the wide outside of the pair in the opening turns, before leading into the back straight. The further they went, the further Grajczonek pulled clear. Meanwhile Lambert was doing a fine job holding of the hard charging Lawson, who tried every line possible to find his way to second place. Lambert manfully repelled Lawson for three and three quarter laps, before the Comets skipper managed to coax a run out of his straining steed, and just crept by Lambert on the run to the line, the resulting 4-2 advantage just putting the home side ahead by 13-11.

That meagre advantage virtually signalled an end to the Comets resistance, as the Rebels fired up the afterburners, to destroy the Cumbrians’ morale over the next three heats. Heat 5 saw the return of the flying Nick Morris, and his equally quick partner, Alex Davies.

This time it was Davies who took the honours, but not before Tero Aarnio had led the pair after a flying start. The Finn had bolted from the tapes, and led up, but from there on he had no answer to the power of the Rebels dynamic duo. Davies was in front of Aarnio before they reached the turn, and was followed through by Morris, who produced a storming run out wide to account for the Kuusankoski man.

At the head of affairs, Davies blazed away, and gave a passable impression of Morris’s early heat win, as he flashed past the post in an incredibly fast 56.78, again just a few hundredths of a second behind the lap record. Morris was also quick, and at one point almost collided with the back of the Davies machine, before dropping back and taking a comfortable second place, a long way clear for Aarnio, and a floundering Rene Bach.

Jason Doyle made up for a somewhat tardy start in his opening race, by leading up Heat 6, despite getting a big lift off the line. Kyle Newman was slowly away, and last into the turn, but he carved a path between Richard Lawson, and Robert Branford around the opening two turns to lead the Comets pair into the back straight, and take up station behind Doyle. Lawson steadily closed the gap on Newman, and as they ran into the third turn for the last time, he produce a big challenge up the Weymouth mans inside, but Newman had his measure, and more importantly the line to produce the drive out of the turn, which would see him home in second place with some ease.

A trio of 5-1 advantages was completed in Heat 7, as Josh Grajczonek blasted from the tapes to lead all the way. Behind him, Stefan Nielsen powered around the outside line to leave Kyle Howarth and Rusty Harrison struggling in his wake. The line Nielsen took was so wide that as he exited from the second turn, he was almost on the boards, and in fact he came into contact with the fence half way down the back straight. As the Rebels made the best of their way home, Rusty Harrison, again a long way behind, pulled out of the race before completing the final lap, and drove straight back into the pits for the second time in two rides.

Kyle Newman looked to have continued the run of Rebels successes when he rocketed off the line to lead Heat 8 into the turn from Tero Aarnio. Simon Lambert caught a big lift off the line, but as soon as he had his machine down and running, he chased down Chris Mills. By the end of Lap 2 he had Mills in his sights, and produced a big run around the outside of the final turn of the lap to grab third place. Meanwhile Tero Aarnio was now beating at Newman’s door and as they ran around the second turn of lap three, Newman ran wide, as Aarnio slipped up the inside to take the lead. Newman didn’t give up the fight, but he could never quite get back on terms, and the Comets provided their first heat winner since the second heat, but the Rebels still shared the points to maintain their 14-point lead.

Tony Jackson moved to cut the Rebels advantage, by introducing a tactical rider into Heat 9. Richard Lawson came to the tapes wearing the ‘Black and White’ and as they rose he rocketed from the gates to lead to the turn. However that’s as far as the double point move got, for as Lawson must have been thinking his ride would produce the goods, Nick Morris and Alex Davies swept by the Whitehaven born man, one on either side, and as they entered the second bend, Lawson found himself with only Robert Branford behind him. In one fell swoop the Rebels pair had completely destroyed the Comets tactical move. Not only that the further they went, the further behind Lawson dropped, and at the line Nick Morris led Davies through the flag, a long way clear of the totally deflated Lawson.

Heat 10 was a minor respite for the Comets, with Kyle Howarth beating Jason Doyle into the first turn. Once at the front, Howarth rode a superb race to not only hold off the Rebels top man, but to pull out a comfortable lead over Doyle, with Kyle Newman taking third. As good as Howarth’s ride was, his back up was non-existent, as again Rusty Harrison dropped well behind, and for the third race on the trot, he pulled off the track before completing all four laps, with seemingly no mechanical problems.

Rene Bach took to the track in Heat 11, giving the Comets their second chance to introduce a tactical ride, but when the tapes rose it was Bach’s partner, Tero Aarnio, who bolted from the tapes to lead up. Aarnio opened an early lead from Josh Grajczonek, who was soon on the pace, challenging for the lead down the back straight. No sooner had Grajczonek shown his wheel to Aarnio, Bach cut underneath him on the third turn to grab second spot. Grajczonek countered the move, as he stormed back to second around the outside of the final bend of the lap. Just as the race was shaping up into an intriguing battle, it came to an abrupt halt when Aarnio took a nasty looking fall, as the front end of his machine seemed to wash away, and the Finn flew over the handlebars, before the bike cart wheeled down the track towards the first turn. In a later interview he said that he was looking for his partner, and when he looked back, the fence was closer than he thought. On the plus side he said that his previously dislocated thumb had gone back into place in the crash, and now felt much better.

In the re-run Bach made the best of a level break, leading out on a very wide line as he demoted Grajczonek to second spot. Grajczonek kept it tight, and was in front as he slipped up the inside of the third turn. Bach came back again, and in the first turn of the next lap he threw in a hard challenge, but Grajczonek held firm, and eventually took the win. Behind them Stefan Nielsen fell on the last bend of lap two, but was quickly back on the bike, but his progress was slow. In the fall his mudguard had wrapped around his back wheel, and was causing his machine to get slower with every rotation of his back wheel. He just made it onto his last lap, before the other two finished the race, but on the final bend the errant mudguard brought his bike to a halt, leaving him the hard job of pushing home, with a completely locked up rear wheel, encouraged loudly by the fans.

Nick Morris and Simon Lambert blasted from the traps in Heat 12, with Rusty Harrison in third. The pair looked to have wrapped up another 5-1. With Morris in the wind, Lambert held a comfortable second spot, until Harrison closed him down over the final lap, and eventually struggled by Lambert to claim second place on the run to the flag.

Heat 13 took the Rebels ‘maximum’ tally to six on the night, as Jason Doyle emerged in front from a level break, clearing Rene Bach as they entered the turn. At the same time, Josh Grajczonek flashed around the outside of the Dane to join Doyle at the head of affairs. It wasn’t long before the duo had sealed the deal, pulling further clear as the laps ticked down to the flag fall, with Doyle leading his partner over the line.

Alex Davies made no mistake in Heat 14, although he was just bested into the turn by Kyle Howarth. Howarth’s tenure at the front lasted a matter of seconds, before Davies blew around the outside to lead into the back straight. Stefan Nielsen quickly took second spot from Howarth, but the Aston-under-Lyne rider struck right back, and retook the place in the next turn. The pair fought out a tight battle for the next couple of laps, until Howarth took the advantage to the line to deny the Rebels a seventh full house.

Davies’s work wasn’t finished, as Garry May sent the unbeaten man straight back out to contest the nominated heat. Somewhat surprisingly it wasn’t one of the two other unbeaten riders that joined him at the tapes, but it was the skipper himself, Jason Doyle, who got the nod. It could be argued that Kyle Howarth had provided the only credible challenge to the Rebels all night, and he was justly rewarded with a place in the line up, as he accompanied Rene Bach to the line.

The tapes rose, and it was the younger element that contested the lead. Howarth lifted on the run to the turn, as Davies took up the vanguard. Jason Doyle took advantage of Howarth’s misfortune, and swept past him, wide around the first curve. With the Rebels now in total control, another maximum advantage looked on the cards, but in a flash it all went wrong for Doyle. As the pair sped towards the start of the second lap, Doyle suddenly slowed, and as they rounded the first turn again, it was clear he was in trouble, and by the back straight he had pulled out as the Comets pair roared by. At the front Davies kept up the pace, and the further they went, the more distance he put between himself and his rivals, passing the finish well clear to the Comets duo, to give the Rebels a 59-33 victory.

The manner of the win was totally stunning, as the Rebels completely dominated the table topping Comets, who for their part looked a shadow of the side who had caused the homes side so many problems just a few short weeks before. The level of the Rebels dominance could be seen by the fact that they only returned two last places all night, and both of those fell to retirements. On top of that, no less than three Rebels had returned paid maximums on the night, none of whom were Jason Doyle. Alex Davies took the top spot, and the traditional bumps, as he posted a 13+2 five ride haul, with Nick Morris and Josh Grajczonek both posting four ride 11+1 returns. Jason Doyle had a quiet night by his standards, but still returned paid double figures (9+1), backed up by another fine performance from Kyle Newman (7+2), whilst the reserves outscored their counterparts, by paid 10, against paid 6. Nick Morris took the ‘Rider of the Night’ award from former Rebel, Neil Collins, no doubt swung in his favour by his paid maximum and blindingly fast Heat 3 victory.

Somerset – 59

1. Jason Doyle 1', 3, 2, 3, R = 9+1
2. Kyle Newman 2, 2', 2, 1' = 7+2
3. Nick Morris 3, 2', 3, 3 = 11+1
4. Alex Davies 2', 3, 2', 3, 3 = 13+2
5. Josh Grajczonek 3, 3, 3, 2' = 11+1
6. Stefan Nielsen 1, 2', 1, 1 = 5+1
7. Simon Lambert R, 1, 1', 1 = 3+1

Workington – 33

1. Rene Bach 3, 0, 4^, 1, 1' = 9+1
2. Tero Aarnio 0, 1, 3, F/x = 4
3. Rusty Harrison R, R, R, 2 = 2
4. Kyle Howarth 1, 1, 3, 2, 2 = 9
5. Richard Lawson 2, 1, 1^, 0 = 4
6. Robert Branford (G) 2', 0, 0, 0 = 2+1
7. Chris Mills 3, 0, 0, R = 3

SCB Referee: Jim Lawrence

Heat Results

Heat 01: Bach, Newman, Doyle, Aarnio (3-3) (3-3) 57.28
Heat 02: Mills, Branford, Nielsen, Lambert (ret) (1-5) (4-8) 59.25
Heat 03: Morris, Davies, Howarth, Harrison (ret) (5-1) (9-9) 56.68
Heat 04: Grajczonek, Lawson, Lambert, Mills (4-2) (13-11) 58.25
Heat 05: Davies, Morris, Aarnio, Bach (5-1) (18-12) 56.78
Heat 06: Doyle, Newman, Lawson, Branford (5-1) (23-13) 57.50
Heat 07: Grajczonek, Nielsen, Howarth, Harrison (ret) (5-1) (28-14) 57.94
Heat 08: Aarnio, Newman, Lambert, Mills (3-3) (31-17) 58.25
Heat 09: Morris, Davies, Lawson (tactical), Branford (5-1) (36-18) 57.47
Heat 10: Howarth, Doyle, Newman, Harrison (3-3) (39-21) 58.25
Heat 11: Re-run Grajczonek, Bach (tactical), Nielsen, Aarnio (f/x) (4-4) (43-25) 58.87
Heat 12: Morris, Harrison, Lambert, Branford (4-2) (47-27) 58.85
Heat 13: Doyle, Grajczonek, Bach, Lawson (5-1) (52-28) 58.10
Heat 14: Davies, Howarth, Nielsen, Mills (ret) (4-2) (56-30) 57.69
Heat 15: Davies, Howarth, Bach, Doyle (ret) (3-3) (59-33) 57.97

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