Somerset rebels sunk by the Plymouth Devils

07:25 21 April 2014

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Speedway - generic picture

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The ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels chances of reaching the Premier League Cup Semi-Finals were dealt a severe blow at the St Boniface Arena on Saturday night, as they failed to take a single point from their encounter with the Plymouth Devils, writes Dave Thompson.

The Rebels almost totally dominated the first half of the match, building up a 10-point lead by Heat 7, but it all changed with a mid meeting converted tactical ride for the Devils, after which the Rebels failed to land a single heat advantage, and provided only one heat winner at the same time.

The Devils tracked Steve Boxall in the guest slot for the absent Rasmus Jensen, who was on Danish U21 duty in his home land. They also operated Rider Replacement for the injured Kyle Newman, whilst the Rebels were at full strength.

The Rebels started the meeting in similar fashion to their last visit to the St Boniface Arena, streaking in to the early lead. Todd Kurtz blasted from the tapes, alongside Nick Morris, and once clear at the first turn the pair were never troubled. Kurtz went to the front, with Morris protecting his back from a threat that never materialised. Ben Barker eventually took third place, but he was never close enough to get in a blow.

The reserves followed that by posting a 2-4 advantage, when Paul Starke made a sweeping pass on Kalle Katajisto coming off the final turn of the opening lap, after the Finn had led up from the tapes. Charles Wright took a comfortable third place, as Starke repelled all of Katajisto’s efforts to regain the lead.

Another Rebels maximum followed as Brady Kurtz made the best of a level break to lead at the turn, with Steve Boxall pressing in second. Boxall’s challenge was soon nullified, as Pontus Aspgren swept around his outside, to take up station behind Kurtz. The only moment of concern for the Rebels came when Kurtz ran very wide coming off the first turn on the second lap, but he soon had matters back on track as the pair ran out easy winners.

The home side halted the Rebels charge in Heat 4, as they took advantage of an Ollie Allen fall to post a 4-2 return. Allen broke quickly, with his race partner, Paul Starke, for company, but things started to go wrong as they reached the opening turn. Allen ran very wide, and as Starke looked for his skipper, expecting to see Allen by his side, he found that Allen was out in the boondocks, and it was Sam Simota charging through and not Allen. Simota cut between the pair and blazed off to lead down the back straight. Allen had recovered, and settled into third place, but as they approached the third turn on the next lap, he got it all wrong, and slid off, giving the Devils the advantage, instead of sharing the points.

A shared heat followed, as Nick Morris just got the better of Roland Benko, and Steve Boxall at the opening curve. Todd Kurtz gave the Rebels a heat advantage, as he slipped through the inside line of the second turn, to demote Boxall to the rear, but the Rye House man blasted back into third as he charge round the outside off the final turn of the lap. Kurtz could never get in another blow, and the heat was shared.

Ben Barker broke level with Ollie Allen and Charles Wright in Heat 6, but got the better run to the turn as Allen spun up off the start. With Wright giving chase to Barker, Allen was being pressed by the rider replacement, Kalle Katajisto. Coming off the final turn of the lap, Katajisto drove hard up the inside of Allen, and forced him to the fence in a very hard move that saw the Rebels skipper have to shut off or take the inevitable consequences. He chose to exercise discretion, and that, effectively, was his race over. In the coming together something must have given way on his machine, as his chase ended on the second bend of the next lap, as he pulled onto the centre green. Wright pursued Barker, but could never get on terms.

When the green light came on to signal the start of Heat 7, Sam Simota moved at the tapes, but as he stopped, his early movement had dire consequences for Brady Kurtz on his right hand side. The young Rebel saw the movement and dropped the clutch, charging straight into the tapes as a result, for which he was duly excluded by Graham Flint.

Garry May sent Paul Starke to the track in place of Kurtz, rather than take the 15 metre penalty, and it proved to be the right decision. As the tapes rose to get the re-run underway, Starke blasted from the gate to lead up with Pontus Aspgren on his outside. Sam Simota was not far away, but Starke dropped it over the top of him into the turn, as Aspgren charged around the outside to lead onto the back straight. Once he had dealt with Simota’s run, Starke moved into an easy second place, and the Rebels cruised to an easy 1-5 advantage, giving them a 10-point lead in the process.

The Devils quickly introduced a tactical ride, in the shape of Steve Boxall, who was in the rider replacement slot. They also made a switch of reserve, swapping out Ben Reade for Kalle Katajisto. All bar Todd Kurtz broke level, and as the other three reached the turn together Katajisto squeezed up Paul Starke hard and Starke became the meat in the sandwich. As Katajisto forced Starke wide, Boxall made it round the outside, and Todd Kurtz slipped up the inside, but his run could not take him up into second place, as Katajisto held him off. Once the Devils pair had dealt with the Rebels threat they pulled away to take the maximum 8-1 advantage to cut the Rebels lead to just three points.

As often happens in these situations, the tactical ride changed the whole complexion of the meeting. For whatever the reason, the Rebels seemed to lose almost all their ability to make a gate, and when they did the Devils riders just rode right around them, as the Rebels seemed content, in most cases, to stick to the inside and seemingly unproductive line.

Ollie Allen beat Steve Boxall to the first turn in Heat 9, only to run very wide, before falling and hitting the bottom of the air fence on the second turn. Charles Wright charged around the outside, and took up the running on the back straight, with Boxall in pursuit. Boxall kept up the pressure for all four laps, but Wright had him in his pocket, and the Kent man couldn’t close the gap. Wrights win was to prove the only bright spot in a pretty poor second half of the match for the Rebels.

Heat 10 came, and with it what proved to be the first hammer blow to the Rebels chances of taking points from the match. As the tapes went up, it was Ben Barker and Roland Benko who were the first to show, with Barker taking a marginal lead at the turn, with Benko close up. The pair rode a superb team race, with the more experienced Barker marshalling his young team mate, often indicating where he wanted him to ride. The result was that they easily shut out the Rebels duo of Aspgren and Brady Kurtz, and the posted maximum gave the home side the lead for the first time.

With five races still remaining, the visitors had ample time to pull the match back round, and with Heat 11 then being shared, their deficit was still only small. Nick Morris broke quickly, and just led Sam Simota to the turn, but the Czech headed for the dirt, as Morris took the shortest way round, and it was the Devils man who found the better drive, and head the pack down the backs straight. Once at the head of affairs Simota made his way home, with the Rebels pair filling the minor places. Kalle Katajisto was slowly away, and despite a good deal of effort, he couldn’t close on Todd Kurtz, and at times looked like he was having trouble coping with a fairly uneven surface, something that may well have contributed to Ollie Allen’s departure from Heat 9.

Katajisto was back in the fray in the very next heat, where he fared considerably better in a race that had to be started twice. For once in the second part of the match, the Rebels pairing of Brady Kurtz and Charles Wright led up, but Katajisto flew round the very widest of lines to snatch their lead away off the second turn. Roland Benko was not far behind, and running to the third turn he slipped past Kurtz. As they entered the turn Kurtz slid off his machine, and ended his meeting stuck under the air fence.

The race restarted with the exception of the younger Kurtz, and once more Wright made a great start, and again Katajisto came barrelling around the outside to lead down the back straight. This time Benko couldn’t close the gap, and race settled with Katajisto pulling away and Benko chasing, but not catching Wright.

Wright was quickly back on track, as he replaced the clearly out of sorts Ollie Allen, in Heat 13. The Devils were far too quick for the Rebels duo from the gate, with Barker leading up from the tape rise. Nick Morris broke in a close third place, as he was led by Sam Simota at the opening bend, after Barker came over him to shut him out into the turn. Once in the van, the Devils pair had a comfortable ride to the flag, as Morris never got in a blow.

The resulting Devils 5-1 left the Rebels needing two maximums of their own in the remaining races to snatch the win by a single point, but the writing was on the wall when the abundant Kalle Katajisto blazed from the gates to lead all the way. Pontus Aspgren was next away, but only got as far as the second turn, when he pulled of the track with what appeared to be a dead machine. With Steve Boxall now in second place that was the end for the Rebels, as there was now no way back and the Devils were destined to take the win with maximum points, regardless of any Rebels maximum in the last heat.

Charles Wright got his reward for a good nights work, with a place in the nominated heat, alongside the other Somerset representative, Nick Morris. Unsurprisingly the Devils plumped for Ben Barker and Sam Simota. Barker fizzed from the tapes to lead up, and was gone in the wind, but behind him the first lap produced some little excitement, as firstly the Rebels pair passed and re-passed each other, before Simota shot up their inside top lead them up the home straight, before Morris and Wright took the places back off the third turn of the next lap. And that was how it finished. The Devils had run out winners by a 52-41 score line, but it was the Somerset performance that would have all the questions asked of it. For the Devils, Steve Boxall top scored with 12+2, followed closely by Ben Barker on 12+1, and Kalle Katajisto with 11+1.

In the ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels camp, only the two reserves had acquitted themselves with some credit, with Wright scoring 9+1, and Starke, 8+1, and to some extent Nick Morris joined them in that department with 10+1, but he surely wouldn’t be happy with his own performance after scoring a paid maximum on his last visit to the SBA.

As for the rest, no one stood out, especially in the second section of the match, and they will all have to up their game if they are to have even the remotest chance of progressing, but that progression is now in the hands of other teams. The overall the team performance was so totally inexplicable that it left team manager, Garry May, scratching his head, and angry with a showing that had seen them throw away a strong winning position from half way, and one that didn’t reflect, not only their undoubted talent, but also their renowned fighting spirit. All in all it can only be described as poor. Next Fridays match against Rye House will be their opportunity to answer many of the questions that this meeting has posed.

Plymouth – 52

1. Ben Barker 1, 3, 3, 2*, 3 = 12+1

2. Kyle Newman Rider Replacement

3. Roland Benko 0, 2, 1*, 2*, 1 = 6+2

4. Steve Boxall (G) 1, 1*, 6^, 2, 2* = 12+2

5. Sam Simota 3, 1, 3, 3, 0 = 10

6. Kalle Katajisto 0, 2, 1, 2*, 0, 3, 3 = 11+1

7. Ben Reade 0, 1, 0 = 1

Somerset – 41

1. Nick Morris 2*, 3, 2, 1, 2 = 10+1

2. Todd Kurtz 3, 0, 1, 1* = 5+1

3. Brady Kurtz 3, T, 0, Flx = 3

4. Pontus Aspgren 2*, 3, 1, R = 6+1

5. Oliver Allen F, R, F = 0

6. Charles Wright 1, 2, 3, 2, 0, 1* = 9+1

7. Paul Starke 3, 2, 2*, 0, 1 = 8+1

SCB Referee: Graham Flint

Heat Details

Heat 01: Todd Kurtz, Morris, Barker, Katajisto (1-5) (1-5) 51.59

Heat 02: Starke, Katajisto, Wright, Reade (2-4) (3-9) 50.94

Heat 03: Brady Kurtz, Aspgren, Boxall, Benko (1-5) (4-14) 51.41

Heat 04: Simota, Starke, Reade, Allen (fell) (4-2) (8-16) 51.69

Heat 05: Morris, Benko, Boxall, Todd Kurtz (3-3) (11-19) 51.12

Heat 06: Barker, Wright, Katajisto, Allen (ret) (4-2) (15-21) 51.41

Heat 07: Aspgren, Starke (for Brady Kurtz – Excl Tapes), Simota, Reade (1-5) (16-26) 50.93

Heat 08: Boxall (Tactical), Katajisto, Todd Kurtz, Starke (8-1) (24-27) 51.10

Heat 09: Wright, Boxall, Benko, Allen (fell) (3-3) (27-30) 51.65

Heat 10: Barker, Benko, Aspgren, Brady Kurtz (5-1) (32-31) 52.63

Heat 11: Simota, Morris, Todd Kurtz, Katajisto (3-3) (35-34) 51.91

Heat 12: (Re-run) Katajisto, Wright, Benko, Brady Kurtz (fell – excl) (4-2) (39-36) 51.66

Heat 13: Simota, Barker, Morris, Wright (5-1) (44-37) 51.85

Heat 14: Katajisto, Boxall, Starke, Aspgren (ret) (5-1) (49-38) 51.87

Heat 15: Barker, Morris, Wright, Simota (3-3) 52-41 51.66

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