Sunday, August 17, 2014
With a changeable day making its mark with a shower of rain, just 30 minutes before the off, a good crowd gathered to watch what had been anticipated to be the match up of the season so far in the Premier League, writes Dave Thompson.
The ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels, lying second in the table, were at full strength as they entertained the table topping Edinburgh Monarchs, who for their part had guest Nathan Greaves in place of crash victim, Aaron Fox.
The Monarchs had gone 24 matches undefeated, until the suffered reverses against Peterborough and Berwick, but despite these losses they are still a formidable outfit on their day, so no one, especially the Somerset Management, were expecting an easy ride.
The Rebels got off to a quick start, opening up an 8-point lead by Heat 4. Nick Morris led at the first curve of Heat 1, chopping off the Monarchs pairing of Justin Sedgmen and Craig Cook in the process. Charles Wright was quick to take advantage of Morris’s move, as he shot past Cook around the opening turns, heading him onto the back straight. Sedgmen gave chase for a couple of laps, but Morris had all the answers, pulling away to a good lead on the final two circuits. Cook slowed drastically on the final lap, pulling off the track before reaching the flag.
Todd Kurtz made the best of a level break, leading into the opener from Derek Sneddon and Nathan Greaves, with Paul Starke stranded at the line with a blown motor. The Monarchs pair kept it close for a lap, but once on the second circuit, Kurtz pulled out a commanding lead to win totally unextended.
The contestants for Heat 3 broke level, but were immediately halted by the red lights as Ronnie Allan issued a recall. When they returned to their starting positions, he warned Brady Kurtz for moving before the release. They again broke level in the restart, with Max Fricke eventually hitting the front before the turn. Kurtz, tight up to the fence, came flying around Fricke in the first two bends, hitting the front as they ran to the back straight. Pontus Aspgren was slowly away, but had accounted for Steve Worrall before they hit the curve. Despite being at the rear, Worrall scrapped for all he was worth, pressing and re-pressing Aspgren for the first two laps. Aspgren, meanwhile, was steadily closing down Fricke, getting up his inside on at least three occasions on the final two laps, but couldn’t make the moves stick.
Heat 4 saw the Rebels post their first ‘Full House’ of the night, when Olly Allen overpowered early leader Derek Sneddon, with a very wide fast run around the fence line. Paul Starke took maximum advantage of a Sam Masters error in the first turn, moving swiftly beyond the former Rebels to grab third spot. Stark wasn’t done yet, and despite heavy pressure from the recovering Masters, he not only held third place, but sailed round the outside of Sneddon as they came off the final turn of Lap 3, to put the home side on the maximum advantage, which they held comfortably to the flag.
The Rebels looked to be in rampant form, but they were very quickly brought back earth as the visitors hammered in a maximum of their own. Despite almost missing the two minute warning Craig Cook made no mistake with the start. Justin Sedgmen shot from the tapes, and clamped Brady Kurtz to the opening bend kerb, with Pontus Aspgren in fourth. Cook, who was as good in this heat as he was poor in Heat 1, charged around the outside to garb the lead off the second bend. The further they went the further he pulled away, whilst at the back the two Rebels were trying to close the gap on Sedgmen, but with little success.
The next three heats were shared as the Monarchs put the brakes on the Rebels early charge. Heat 6 saw Sam Masters lead up with Nick Morris and Charles Wright in his wake. Wright took up the pursuit as they came onto the back straight, and although he closed on Masters on the second lap, he could make no headway against the rapid New South Wales rider, and the heat was deadlocked.
There was movement at the start of Heat 7, with first Max Fricke and then Olly Allen moving as the tape rose. The referee was quick to call them back for a second go. At the second time of asking Allen made a perfect start, flying off the line to easily lead up. As Allen made his way home, a slow starting Todd Kurtz was recovering quickly, and closing down Fricke and his partner, Steve Worrall. Kurtz came barrelling around the inside line of the final two bends of the lap, and looked to have timed his run perfectly, only to see the door slammed shut in his face. Despite his considerable efforts for the remainder of the race, the Monarchs duo cleverly team rode him out of the race.
The visitors broke on a 5-1 in Heat 8, with Justin Sedgmen taking up the running off the second curve. Charles Wright hit the dirt, putting maximum pressure on Derek Sneddon at the close of the lap. Sneddon held firm, until Wright ramped it up, drawing level on the back straight next time round, before going on to collect second place on the final turn of the lap. Not to be outdone, Paul Starke pressed Sneddon hard, and as they approached the third turn of the final circuit, he took his chance shooting through the inside pushing Sneddon to the back.
In this stage of the match, the Monarchs had successfully stopped the flow of points into the Rebels pot, but the encounter, which up to now had seen two distinctly different stages, was about to move into a third and what turned out to be their most dominant phase of the meeting for the Rebels.
They opened up the final section of the battle with two maximum advantages, effectively signalling the end of the Monarchs main period of resistance. Heat 9 was a disaster for the visitors. There was movement at the tapes, and Ronnie Allan called them back almost immediately, with a rapid starting Brady Kurtz in the lead. Before the race could be restarted there was an earnest discussion between the Start Marshal and Sam Masters, regarding the Australian’s starting position. After several tries the starter was satisfied, and set the starting procedure in motion, but before the referee could let them go, Masters had shot forwards, and burst through the tapes. He was excluded and started off 15+-metres. As far as the Rebels go, once Brady Kurtz and Pontus Aspgren had quickly hit the front, it was race over, and although he eventually gave chase. Masters had no realistic chance of catching the flying pair.
Nick Morris and Charles Wright shot from the tapes to lead up Heat 10, with Max Fricke in close attendance. With Fricke taking the high line, Morris moved wide to ensure the young Australian had to go the long way round if he wanted the lead. As Fricke was moved out, Wright took his chance to consolidate the Rebels positions at the head of affairs. Once the Monarchs man had been dealt with, the home duo made the race their own, with only a brief flurry from Steve Worrall, who closed up on Wright, only to lose his place to his team mate late on in the piece.
That maximum had given the visitors the opportunity to use a tactical move, as they were now 12-points in arrears. They wasted no time in sending out Craig Cook in the ‘Black and White’, but his task would not be an easy one, as he was up against the supremely confident and blindingly fast Olly Allen. Cook broke level with Allen, but that’s as good as it got for the Cumbrian, as Allen blew him away around the opening turns. Things could have got even worse for the Monarchs top man when Todd Kurtz came jetting around his outside, and looked to have almost completed a great pass, only to see Cook squeeze him up to the fence, slamming the door shut as he went. Kurtz was extremely unlucky to have his run blocked when about to deliver a decisive blow for a second time on the night. Kurtz dropped to the back, but never gave up, pressing the Monarchs pair all the way. Cook could only manage second place, and the Monarchs took a 3-5 advantage.
Derek Sneddon replaced Nathan Greaves in Heat 12, he gave the Monarchs early hope as he broke level with Brady Kurtz and Paul Starke, with Max Fricke close up, but in the final analysis he failed to trouble the judge. The trio hit the first turn together, and Kurtz hit the dirt, with Sneddon pushing him wider as they went. Kurtz toughed it out, squeezing around the Monarchs skipper as they headed to the second bend. Paul Starke had taken the same line, but found his run blocked by his partner, and had to come off the gas at a vital time.
That was enough to give Max Fricke a slight advantage over him, and push Starke to the back. He was soon flying after Sneddon, pressing him all the way. The pressure forced Sneddon into a mistake, and Starke made a nice cut back to pass the Monarchs skipper in the process. Starke closed down Fricke and by the last two turns of the next lap he threw in his bid for second, but Fricke beat him off to foil the maximum bid.
Craig Cook’s night got considerably worse in Heat 13, as he only got as far as the start line. As the tapes rose it was clear that he was in trouble, as he was looking down at his machine and making no attempt to start. As the rest headed into the first turn, Cook was left stranded at the tapes. When the remaining three hit the turn, it was Nick Morris at the front, but as he ran wide, Sam Masters cut back from gate 4, to just lead onto the back straight from Olly Allen. His time at the head of affairs was brief, as Allen move ahead inside the third bend. The Rebels captain quickly put distance between himself and the other two, pulling further away as he went. Morris chased down Masters, and the pair engaged in an enthralling battle, with first one and then the other taking the advantage, both using inside and out. Morris finally made it stick off the final turn of the lap, just getting up for the 5-1 as the flag approached.
Steve Worrall led up Heat 14, moving wide to force Pontus Aspgren to take the long trip, only to watch helplessly as the smooth Swede came with a wet sail to lead on the high road. Todd Kurtz wasn’t far off the pace, and slipped up the inside, but couldn’t make the move work. He pegged away at Worrall, eventually throwing down another challenging on the final two laps, which again proved unsuccessful.
With the meeting well won as far back as Heat 12, Garry May sent out Brady Kurtz and Nick Morris to contest the final race, with Justin Sedgmen and Max Fricke representing the Monarchs. The race turned out to be one of the best seen at the Oak Tree Arena for some time. Nick Morris was quickly away, moving wide in the first turn, allowing Max Fricke up his inside to lead onto the back straight. Morris stayed wide, and took the lead back a lap later. Fricke came back, hard underneath Morris on the final bend of the lap. Morris made a nice cutback up the inside, blasting back into the lead at the start of the next lap, and finally cementing his lead after a three lap see-saw battle with Fricke.
Meanwhile, Brady Kurtz had been floundering at the rear, and looking like he was going nowhere. He plugged away for three laps, looking off the pace and making no real impression. As they headed out onto the final lap, Kurtz hit the dirt line, and flew around the opening turns of the lap, almost scraping the fence. He laid down a huge storming run, closing with every turn of the wheel. Down the back straight he was almost on terms with the Monarchs pair, and in one seriously fast sweeping move, careered past the pair, first Sedgmen and then Fricke, as they headed for the final bend. To huge cheers from the home crowd, he charged into second place to complete the rout of the League leaders.
The final tally of 57-39 to the ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels gave them 3 valuable points in their quest for a second title, and in the process they supplanted their nearest rivals at the top of the table. Whilst their performance against Edinburgh was right out of the top drawer, no one at Somerset is getting over exited just yet, as the Rebels now embark on a difficult northern tour, with three meetings in as many days. They start with the return leg of this fixture, with a visit to the home of the Monarchs at Armadale, before moving onto the huge Shielfield Park circuit in Berwick, before finishing the weekend in Glasgow. To stay on top of the table, they will need to take at least 3-points from those matches.
The whole team contributed to bringing the Rebels to this place, with Nick Morris banking 12+2, Brady Kurtz with 12+1, and skipper Olly Allen posting his second successive full 4 ride home maximum. Following the tour, the Rebels return home to complete an extremely busy 10 days, with matches against local rivals Plymouth on Wednesday, and Ipswich on Friday.
Somerset Rebels - 57
1. Nick Morris - 3, 1*, 3, 2*, 3 = 12+2
2. Charles Wright - 1, 2, 2, 2* = 7+1
3. Brady Kurtz - 3, 1, 3, 3, 2* = 12+1
4. Pontus Aspgren - 1, 0, 2*, 3 = 6+1
5. Olly Allen - 3, 3, 3, 3 = 12
6. Todd Kurtz - 3, 0, 0, 1 = 4
7. Paul Starke - R, 2*, 1*, 1 = 4+2
Edinburgh Monarchs – 35
1. Craig Cook - R, 3, 4^, R = 7
2. Justin Sedgmen - 2, 2*, 3, 1*, 0 = 8+2
3. Max Fricke - 2, 1*, 1, 2, 1 = 7+1
4. Steve Worrall - 0, 2, 0, 2 = 4
5. Sam Masters - 1, 3, 1, 1 = 6
6. Nathan Greaves (G) - 1*, 0, 0 = 1+1
7. Derek Sneddon - 2, 0, 0, 0, 0 = 2
SCB Referee: Ronnie Allan
Heat 01: Morris, Sedgmen, Wright, Cook (EF) (4-2) (4-2) 57.97
Heat 02: Todd Kurtz, Sneddon, Greaves, Starke (EF) (3-3) (7-5) 58.28
Heat 03: (Re-run) Brady Kurtz, Fricke, Aspgren, Worrall (4-2) (11-7) 57.32
Heat 04: Allen, Starke, Masters, Sneddon (5-1) (16-8) 58.03
Heat 05: Cook, Sedgmen, Brady Kurtz, Aspgren (1-5) (17-13) 57.03
Heat 06: Masters, Wright, Morris, Greaves (3-3) (20-16) 57.75
Heat 07: (Re-run) Allen, Worrall, Fricke, Todd Kurtz (3-3) (23-19) 58.38
Heat 08: Sedgmen, Wright, Starke, Sneddon (3-3) (26-22) 58.81
Heat 09: (Re-run x 2) Brady Kurtz, Aspgren, Masters, Greaves (5-1) (31-23) 57.91
Heat 10: Morris, Wright, Fricke, Worrall (5-1) (36-24) 58.65
Heat 11: Allen, Cook (tactical), Sedgmen, Todd Kurtz (3-5) (39-29) 58.31
Heat 12: Brady Kurtz, Fricke, Starke, Sneddon (4-2) (43-31) 58.19
Heat 13: Allen, Morris, Masters, Cook (EF) (5-1) (48-32) 58.99
Heat 14: Aspgren, Worrall, Todd Kurtz, Sneddon (4-2) (52-34) 58.65
Heat 15: Morris, Brady Kurtz, Fricke, Sedgmen (5-1) (57-35) 59.38