Monday, August 11, 2014
The Rye House Rockets have visited the Oak Tree Arena twice already this season, and both times have been sent back to Hoddesdon stinging from heavy defeats, writes Dave Thompson.
On both occasions the ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels, now the 2014 PL 4’s Champions, posted 60 plus points, with the last meeting in June ending with a 66-26 score line.
Since those two meetings the Rockets have strengthened up, with the addition of Anders Mellgren, and Oliver Greenwood to their septet. However they arrived to this encounter without their ‘Number One’ Edward Kennett, who had aggravated a shoulder injury he suffered at Newcastle a couple of weeks ago, so another substantial hammering was on the cards, but no one expected the magnitude of the beating they would take.
Despite, in the main, the visiting riders not lacking when it came to rapid exits from the tapes, the Rebels showed no mercy, as they destroyed their opposition heat after heat. The die was cast in Heat 1, as the field broke level, but before they had gone more than a few wheel turns, the Rebels duo of Nick Morris and Charles Wright had overhauled Luke Bowen and Steve Boxall. Morris struck out for the wide line, taking up the running off the second turn. On an extremely well prepared track he streaked away, with Wright in close order, after he had beaten of the early challenge of Bowen.
Todd Kurtz seemed eager to get in on the act, but was a tad too eager for referee Darren Hartley’s liking, and the race was called back before they had reached the turn. In the restart, as in Heat 1, the quartet broke level, but this time they entered the first turn four abreast. Paul Starke took the long way round, hitting the front down the back straight, with Oliver Greenwood in pursuit. Whilst Greenwood was able to hold off the strong challenges of Todd Kurtz, he was unable to do anything about the flying Starke, who streaked away at the front in a rapid time of 57.25, the fastest time seen by a reserve race winner this season.
If Starke’s time was quick, cue Brady Kurtz. Any thoughts of a quick time by Kurtz, were forgotten as he was last away from the tapes in Heat 3. At the front Pontus Aspgren had accounted for early leader Steve Boxall before they reached the turn. Kurtz came blazing around the outside only to find Jason Garrity turning himself into a mobile roadblock, forcing Kurtz to take the long route around. By the back straight he had not only seen off Garrity, but had charged past all but Pontus Aspgren. As the Rebels pair reached the first turn on the next lap, Kurtz was at the head of affairs, and the pair were powering clear with every turn of the wheel. As they hit the flag, it was Kurtz who stopped the clock at 56.56 sec, the fastest time recorded at the Oak Tree Arena this season, only half a second outside the great Leigh Adams all time track record.
Heat 4 followed a similar pattern, with a relatively level break, with only Anders Mellgren not in the hunt. Olly Allen surged to the front off first turn, with Jason Bunyan and Paul Starke contesting second. Bunyan just got the better of Starke inside the second turn, but Allen was gone for all money. With Starke pressing hard, Bunyan locked up on the final bend of the lap, and Starke shot through into second place. That was the race over as any kind of spectacle, with the Rebels duo surging clear to the flag. Anders Mellgren never got in the race, and retired as he slowly cruised down the back straight on Lap 3.
Not content with posting the fastest time of the season, Brady Kurtz embarked on a personal battle with the clock, and fired to the front as the tapes rose for Heat 5. Pontus Aspgren was equally quickly away, and demoted a fast starting Luke Bowen to third place before they reached the opening curve. Bowen stuck to his task, and threw in a challenge on the third turn, but once he had been repelled by Somerset’s smooth Swede, his goose was cooked, and Aspgren pulled well clear in second. At the front Kurtz was flying, and pulling out a good lead, and with unrelenting speed his flashed across the line in 56.81 secs.
After a run of three maximums on the bounce, the Rockets eased the flow of points going the Rebels way, but the relief gained was only a minor respite, and didn’t even amount to a heat advantage. Anders Mellgren made a swift exit from the start, and was in front before they reached the turn. Nick Morris came next, with Charles Wright in close attendance. Morris powered down the back straight, and was upsides the former Rebel before turn three. As they entered the final two bends of the lap, Morris surged around the high line, and was in the vanguard by the home straight. Wright set about Mellgren, closing him down from a long way back and hounding him all the way to the flag, with Mellgren desperately hanging on as they ran to the line. Oliver Greenwood, another former Rebel, never got in a blow at any stage, and trailed in last.
Jason Garrity appeared wearing the ‘Black and White’ in Heat 7, as John Sampford threw in a tactical ride. The move produced a superb race between Garrity and Rebels skipper Olly Allen, but in truth it was probably Garrity’s only meaningful contribution all night. When the tapes rose Allen and Garrity were quickly away. They entered the turn upsides each other, with Allen on his favoured outside line. Garrity squeezed him up hard in the opening turns, moving Allen perilously close to the fence. They were glued together as one, with Garrity denying Allen room all the way. Entering the third turn, Allen was again moved out very wide by his opponent, but he bravely stuck to his task. He was pushed so wide that it brought back memories of his recent crash at Sheffield, but this time his machine pulled through the dirt without missing a beat. For almost another lap the pair continued the battle in a similar vein, with Allen eventually prevailing as they exited the final turn on lap two. Once at the front Allen pulled away from Garrity, with Todd Kurtz easily weighing in third place after an early tussle with Steve Boxall. The second place from Garrity only ensured that the Rebels would not extend their current 20-point lead any further, as this heat was shared 4-4.
The Rockets may have stopped the Rebels adding to their lead for that heat, but for Heat 8 it was business as usual as far as the Rebels were concerned. Once again the Rockets had the opportunity to put one over the home side, as their pairing of Luke Bowen and Jason Bunyan breaking on level terms with Charles Wright and Paul Starke, and once again they failed to take the advantage as the home duo hit the front before the turn. Wright handed them a second bite of the cherry as he locked up on the second bend, and to be fair, Bunyan took the invitation as he shot up the inside of the Stockport racer, but eventually he gave up the chance to stem the Rebels flow of points.
Wright gathered himself up, and soon had the machine back underneath him, and humming along nicely. On the final turn of the lap he was sailing around the fence line, closing Bunyan down as they went. The resulting pass was an inevitability from a long way back, and when it came, as they crossed the line to start the second lap, no one in the arena was surprised, and that probably included Bunyan himself. Starke serenely pulled clear at the front and Wright did likewise in second place, as they took a fifth maximum advantage in eight heats. In fact the Rockets could not prevent Somerset scoring a full house in each of the remaining seven heats, as the home side completely shattered what little fight there was left in the visiting riders.
Heat 9 saw the return of Brady Kurtz to the track, and in light of little opposition from Rye House, he resumed his battle with the clock, and he conquered it again in stunning style. What was different in this race was the manner of his victory. As in his first race he was not quickly out of the traps. Anders Mellgren was fastest away, leading up from Pontus Aspgren. Kurtz was only third into his stride, but was soon closing fast on the pair in front.
Down the back straight Aspgren drew alongside his fellow Swede, and as he executed his pass on the inside, Kurtz arrived on the scene at some speed. With Mellgren on the outside, and Aspgren covering the inside, his route to the front seemed blocked, but as they approached the turn, a chink of light appeared between the battling pair at the front. That was all the encouragement Kurtz needed, and in a stunning move he muscled his way through to the lead. Aspgren later said that he wasn’t sure who it was coming, but then saw an orange bike and knew it was Brady, so let him get on with it. Once through Kurtz just charged off into the distance, and for his part Aspgren also put a lot of daylight between himself and Mellgren. As for the time, Kurtz recorded his third sub 57 second time on the trot in 56.93 secs.
Not for the first time the Rockets broke on an even footing with the Rebels in Heat 10, and it was Jason Garrity who led into the opening turn. Once they reached the bend Garrity had no answer to the superior speed of Nick Morris, who swooped around the outside of the Droylsden born man. To add insult to injury, whilst Garrity was trying to cope with the outside attack from Morris, Charles Wright mugged him on the inside, and the Rebels heat win was sealed, as Wright moved Garrity wide in the third turn, ending any hopes he had of re-challenging for the lead. Another bloodless Rebels victory was completed.
The winner of Heat 11 was never in doubt from the tape rise, as Olly Allen led up from the ‘Black and White’ wearing Anders Mellgren. To compound Mellgren’s misery in his battle for double points, Todd Kurtz produced a massive run around the boards, starting at bend one and completing his move off turn three, pushing the affable Swede back to third, and demolishing the tactical ride. Luke Bowen was so slowly away he never got into the race and retired before starting the final lap.
Brady Kurtz blasted from the line in Heat 12 to lead all the way, but the Rockets had Oliver Greenwood, who was second away, in the mix, until Paul Starke stamped his authority on the matter in turn one, to cruise into second place behind his race partner. We all slow down as we get older, and although only a few minutes older than when he took his third ride, Brady Kurtz showed the inevitable signs of aging, as he ‘only’ recorded a time of 57.87 sec for his runaway victory.
Luke Bowen stepped up to replace Edward Kennett in Heat 13, but in truth it didn’t matter who the Rockets chose to fill his shoes, the Rebels were just ‘on it’, and it probably wouldn’t have mattered if the man himself had been available, as the home riders had displayed much more desire all evening than those representing the visitors. For the record, the tapes rose and it was Nick Morris and Olly Allen who showed to the turn, with Anders Mellgren pressing hard. As Allen took up the running down the back straight, Mellgren challenged hard inside the third turn, just getting his nose in front of Morris. His second place only lasted a matter of yards, before Morris completely overpowered him out of the turn. Mellgren did persist for another lap, but in the end Morris had too much in the tank, and drew clear of his pursuer. As Allen took an easy victory, so Morris did likewise for second place.
A glimmer of light, in their mists of despair, appeared for the Rockets, with Jason Garrity firing off the tapes to easily lead up in Heat 14. It may have been a moment of illumination for the visitor’s, but it wasn’t long before the mist descended again, and snuffed out the Rockets light. Pontus Aspgren had taken to the dirt, and was laying down some big beats on the outside. He came charging around the widest of lines on the opening turns, and blazed beyond Garrity before they hit the back straight. Not to be outdone, Todd Kurtz set off after the Rockets man, catching him as they approached the first turn for the second time. Garrity left a space on his inside, and Kurtz exploited it with gusto, muscling the Manchester man out of the way as he went.
With four straight 5-1 victories on the bounce, the nominated places for the Rebels were somewhat of a foregone conclusion, as Brady Kurtz and Pontus Aspgren took to the track. For John Sampford the decision was rather more difficult as he didn’t have any real standout scorers to choose from. In the end he plumbed for his only two viable options, in Jason Garrity and Anders Mellgren. When the tapes rose it was Brady Kurtz who made the gate to lead up, with Pontus Aspgren slowly away. As Aspgren got into his stride he tried to take the wide line around the whole field, but found his way blocked by a wide running Jason Garrity. As is his want, and in his typical unflustered manner, Aspgren sat and waited for the gap to appear. He didn’t have to wait long, and as Garrity moved slightly off the line, he flew through to hit second spot as they ran back to the line. Aspgren took second place to the sound of a very ample opera singer plying her trade in the background, and for the Rockets, and their fans, that must have been a welcome sound, as it signalled the end of their miserable night with a 72-20 defeat. This was not the Rebels biggest home victory, as they had defeated Mildenhall 72-18 in 2008.
The Rockets had had chances in the meeting to gather an awful lot more points than they finally did, as on several occasions they broke in front or level with the home riders. However they appeared to lack the speed or desire to see it through, and they were well and truly put to the sword by a rampant ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels side who had the bit between their teeth. If the Rockets had been a hospital case, there would have been a crowd of doctors gathered around their bed shaking their heads in confusion for long periods. If they were a horse they probably would have been shot shortly after Heat 8.
Whilst there were maximums for Brady Kurtz, with 15-points and Olly Allen with 12-points, whilst still suffering from two broken ribs sustained in his Sheffield fall, there were also paid maximums for two other riders, Pontus Aspgren with an 11+4 tally, but it was the 10+2 of Paul Starke that brought so much pleasure to the appreciative Rebels fans. Paul, for various reasons, has suffered a difficult time of late, and his scoring has suffered as a result. Tonight Paul put that all behind him, and produced a display of fast, brave and gutsy racing that brought him the ‘Rider of the Night’ award from former Canterbury and Hackney rider Mark Terry. Nowadays Mark runs his own business in the area, and is one of those people who work behind the scenes for the Rebels promotion, without whom, the club would not run as smoothly as it does. He was also celebrating his 48th birthday on the night, although he probably won’t thank me for saying so.
The Rebels next home meeting, on Wednesday, August 13, will be their eagerly anticipated clash with the league leading Edinburgh Monarchs. The Monarchs have had a fabulous run of victories this season, going unbeaten on 25 occasions in all competitions, including two challenge matches, until their defeat at the hands of Peterborough on July 20. Another defeat followed immediately, in a KO Cup match at the home of the Berwick Bandits, and with the ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels in their current mood and form, who would bet against them adding another defeat to the Monarchs tally.
Premier league meeting
The ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels
Rye House Rockets
Somerset – 72
1. Nick Morris - 3, 3, 3, 2* = 11+1
2. Charles Wright - 2*, 1, 2*, 2* = 7+3
3. Brady Kurtz - 3, 3, 3, 3, 3 = 15
4. Pontus Aspgren - 2*, 2*, 2*, 3, 2* = 11+4
5. Oliver Allen - 3, 3, 3, 3 = 12
6. Todd Kurtz - 1, 1, 2*, 2* = 6+2
7. Paul Starke - 3, 2*, 3, 2* = 10+2
Rye House – 20
1. Edward Kennett - Rider Replacement
2. Luke Bowen - 1, 1, 0, R, R = 2
3. Steve Boxall - 0, 0, 0, 0, 0 = 0
4. Jason Garrity - 1, 0, 4^, 1, 1, 1 = 8
5. Andres Mellgren - R, 2, 1, 1^, 1, R = 5
6. Oliver Greenwood - 2, 0, 0, 1 = 3
7. Jason Bunyan - 0, 1, 1, 0 = 2
SCB Referee: Darren Hartley
Heat 01: Morris, Wright, Bowen, Boxall (5-1) (5-1) 57.06
Heat 02: Re-run Starke, Greenwood, Todd Kurtz, Bunyan (4-2) (9-3) 57.25
Heat 03: Brady Kurtz, Aspgren, Garrity, Boxall (5-1) (14-4) 56.56
Heat 04: Allen, Starke, Bunyan, Mellgren (Ret) (5-1) (19-5) 57.00
Heat 05: Brady Kurtz, Aspgren, Bowen, Garrity (5-1) (24-6) 56.81
Heat 06: Morris, Mellgren, Wright, Greenwood (4-2) (28-8) 57.75
Heat 07: Allen, Garrity (Tactical), Todd Kurtz, Boxall (4-4) (32-12) 57.06
Heat 08: Starke, Wright, Bunyan, Bowen (5-1) (37-13) 58.38
Heat 09: Brady Kurtz, Aspgren, Mellgren, Greenwood (5-1) (42-14) 56.93
Heat 10: Morris, Wright, Garrity, Boxall (5-1) (47-15) 58.06
Heat 11: Allen, Todd Kurtz, Mellgren (Tactical), Bowen (Ret) (5-1) (52-16) 57.87
Heat 12: Brady Kurtz, Starke, Greenwood, Boxall (5-1) (57-17) 57.75
Heat 13: Allen, Morris, Mellgren, Bowen ret (5-1) (62-18) 58.38
Heat 14: Aspgren, Todd Kurtz, Garrity, Bunyan (5-1) (67-19) 58.25
Heat 15: Brady Kurtz, Aspgren, Garrity, Mellgren (Ret) (5-1) (72-20) 58.12