Somerset Rebels move three points clear at top of Premier League with win over Plymouth Devils
14:39 25 August 2014
The ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels moved 3 points clear at the top of the Premier League table with this workmanlike win over local rivals the Plymouth Devils, heat advantages to the Devils in the final two races giving the final score-line a closer look than was actually the case, writes Ian Belcher.
Somerset got off to an excellent start Charles Wight handing out a heat 1 defeat on Plymouth GB International, Ben Barker, and with Nick Morris picking up the point for 3rd place, it saw the home side 2 points to the good.
That lead was doubled with a second 4-2 race win for Somerset in heat 2, Todd Kurtz taking the honours for the Rebels, who stretched their advantage out to 8 points when Pontus Aspgren and Brady Kurtz combined for the first of what would be 3 Somerset maximum race wins of the night, Aspgren flying round the Oaktree Arena in 56.75 seconds, the third fastest time of the season.
A further 4-2 to Somerset courtesy of Olly Allen and Paul Starke in heat 4 moved the Rebels lead into double figures and had the Plymouth reaching for the ‘black & white’ with Ben Barker being out on a double points ride for the Devils.
From the tapes it was to be Simota who took the lead, the Czech going on to have an inspired night for the Devils, he scoring more than double the points in this one meeting than in his previous 3 visits to the Oaktree Arena put together, with Barker in 2nd, but with Somerset’s Brady Kurtz hot on his tail.
What followed was to be four laps of handlebar to handlebar action as Kurtz tried to find a way past Barker, only to be repelled on each occasion until he finally made the telling move as the pair entered the last bend on the final lap to snatch 2nd place from the Plymouth captain.
A maximum 5-1 race win for Somerset, Wright and Morris easy dispatching the woeful Franc and ex-Rebel Tom Perry put Somerset back into an 11 point lead, which then became 13 with a 4-2 heat win a race later, Allen recording his 2nd race win of the night.
Heat 8 saw Plymouth make the second, and final, throw of the double-point tactical ride dice, Simota donning the black and white on this occasion.
Simota hit the front from the off, but after coming through first bend traffic, Somerset’s Charles Wright set after the Czech rider, gradually reeling him in with each passing lap, but was just unable to get close enough to make a meaningful challenge before the chequered flag came to Simota’s rescue.
As it was, the tactical move only cut back Somerset’s lead by 3 points, but that was quickly nullified by the Rebels with Brady Kurtz and Pontus Aspgren combining for their 2nd maximum heat win of the night, that being followed up with a further Somerset 4-2, Charles Wright ending his scheduled rides with his 3rd race win from his 4 outings, though he had to hold off a hard charging Rasmus Jensen, the Dane having finally found his invitation to come to the party after 3 opening pointless rides.
Heat 11 was to see an uncharacteristic fall for Somerset skipper Olly Allen as he chased down Plymouth’s Ben Barker, and although Allen was quickly up after his unplanned close inspection of the Somerset shale, he was duly excluded for causing the stoppage of the race, it being awarded in favour of a 4-2 to Plymouth, their first non-tactical heat advantage of the match.
Heats 12 and 13 were to see a share of the spoils to maintain Somerset’s 14 point lead with just two heats remaining, heat 14 confirming that Somerset would not only win the match but also take all 3 points, despite it going by way of a 4-2 to the Devils.
Jensen, who was by now a completely different rider to the one who looked as if he couldn’t even buy a point in his opening three rides, hit the front from the off and was quickly joined at the head of the field by team-mate Simota.
Despite trying to team ride to keep Somerset’s Pontus Aspgren back in 3rd, Aspgren cleverly manufactured a move to pass Simota and was just lining up an attempted pass on Jensen when the race was stopped with Somerset’s Todd Kurtz having come to grief on the 3rd bend, the referee deciding to award the race rather than order a re-run, Aspgren’s 2nd place being all Somerset needed to win the match and collect all 3 league points.
Despite nothing riding on it, heat 15 was to be the race of the night, Charles Wright and Brady Kurtz coming to the tapes for Somerset with Barker and Jensen being the Devils’ representatives.
Once again it was to be the Plymouth duo who were to hit the front from the tapes with Jensen taking the lead, but Kurtz was quickly on Barker’s case, the young Aussie trying every line possible to find a way past his quarry, but on each occasion he being thwarted by Barker, albeit with, at times, some desperate riding.
As was the case when the pair met in heat 5, Kurtz finally got the better of Barker and almost snatched the win from Jensen’s grasp as they made the dash for the line, Kurtz then seemingly being knocked off from his bike by Barker as the riders slowed down after crossing the finishing line, much to the obvious and very vocal displeasure of the Somerset crowd.
As it was, the resultant 4-2 to the Devils saw them close Somerset down to ‘just’ a 10 point winning margin, and although relatively close by the end, it was a match which Somerset always had under control as they moved those 3 points clear at the top of the Premier League table.