Sunday, April 27, 2014
The travelling fans of the ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels, who had made their way to the Saint Boniface Arena in Plymouth, were unfortunately treated to what the football fraternity might call ‘A game of two halves’, writes Dave Thompson.
In the first half, the Rebels appeared virtually invincible, as they streaked to a 10-point lead by Heat 7, only to suffer a losing 8-1 tactical ride from the Devils, to find themselves defending a vastly reduced advantage, before going on to deliver a dismal performance in the second half of the match, which had team manager Garry May at his wit’s end. He expected them to put it right, and tasked them with delivering a much improved performance as they took on the Rye House Rockets at the Oak Tree Arena on Friday evening, and put it right they did, as they destroyed the visitors by a 34-point margin.
The Rockets’ were at full strength, but the home side were without their Number One, Nick Morris. Last season’s Rebel, Josh Grajczonek, deputised, and it was he who bolted from the starting gate in Heat 1, to lead into the turn. As led he moved Eddie Kennett wide in the second bend, and from that point on it was over as a contest, as Grajczonek tore around the Highbridge circuit to record the easiest of victories, with the Rockets’ pair of Kennett and Mathieu Trésarrieu filling the places, after a slow Todd Kurtz start. Interestingly that last place by Kurtz, was the only one the Rebels would give up during the whole meeting.
Charles Wright led at the turn in Heat 2, after making good from a level break. Luke Bowen, whose last visit to the OTA ended with a badly broken leg, and him taking a long time out of the sport, took second spot from Paul Starke, after Starke was run wide in the opening turn by Simon Lambert. He quickly recovered, and was soon passing Lambert, but could make no impression on Bowen.
In the very next heat the Rebels hammered home a maximum advantage, but not before the lead had changed four times before the first lap was completed. Brady Kurtz and Jason Garrity broke together, with Kurtz marginally in the lead. Pontus Aspgren came past the pair ran to the turn, where Garrity struck a beeline for the dirt, powering around the Rebels duo as he went. Kurtz moved wide, and charged around the young Northerner’s outside on the last turn of the lap. Exactly one lap later, Pontus Aspgren duplicated the move, and the Rebels shot clear to take all the points. Jason Bunyan trailed in last, never getting in the hunt.
The Rockets provided the winner of the next heat, and as a result shared the points. Steve Boxall was quickly away, to lead to the turn. Ollie Allen was next away, and got close in the second turn, before dropping away from Boxall. The Kent man pulled away, looking to take an easy win, but Allen got it back together, and rapidly closed Boxall on the penultimate lap. However the Rocket’s rider had too much in hand for the Rebels skipper. The minor place was filled by Paul Starke.
Another shared heat followed, as the Rockets took a second heat win on the bounce, but not before the race had to be re-run twice. The first start was recalled, as there was movement at the start. The second running got as far as the first turn, where Eddie Kennett squeezed up Pontus Aspgren on his outside. There was contact between the pair, with Kennett’s rear wheel seemingly taking out Aspgren, as the Swede came to grief. From the referee’s viewpoint it was difficult to call with any certainty, so all four went back to the tapes for a third time.
This time the visitors broke in front, with Kennett leading up Mathieu Trésarrieu. Pontus Aspgren got around the outside, only to find Kennett move him out again. Undeterred Aspgren flew down the back straight, claiming second from Trésarrieu. Meanwhile Brady Kurtz was recovering from a slow start, reeling in the Frenchman as he went. On the second lap Kurtz ran down Trésarrieu, and glided up his inside on the third turn. At the front Kennett was gone, and the heat was shared.
With the meeting stalled as far as the Rebels were concerned, they needed something special to kick start their scoring again and they got it as the tapes rose for Heat 6. The Rebels pairing of Josh Grajczonek and Todd Kurtz blazed from the gate, showing the Rockets twosome, Steve Boxall and Luke Bowen, exactly what the term ‘Blast off’ really means. There was no way back for the visiting riders, as the Rebels posted one of the easiest maximum advantages you will ever see.
Heat 7 saw a second successive maximum posted by the Rebels, their third overall. On this occasion the advantage gained did not come in the same untroubled manner as the last, as at least one of the Rebels pair had an opponent in front of him from the start. They also had a tactical rider to contend with, with Jason Garrity coming to the line wearing the ‘Black and White’ helmet colour. Ollie Allen tore off the tapes to lead up from Garrity, with Charles Wright close up. Wright stuck it out in the dirt, and careered around the wide line and then down the back straight, powering past Garrity on the final two turns of the lap. Once in second place Wright rode out the race to retain second place and foil the tactical ride. Once again Jason Bunyan trailed in last.
The Rockets stopped the scoring spree in Heat 8, but it was to prove to be only a temporary hiatus for the Rebels. The field broke level, but it was Mathieu Trésarrieu who emerged in front at the second turn, after Paul Starke ran very wide, and also allowed Simon Lambert through. Once in control, Trésarrieu pulled out a lead, but Starke flew past Lambert down the back straight to regain second place. It wasn’t long before Todd Kurtz, who was very slowly away, was challenging Lambert, and on the very next lap he was through. Lambert didn’t give up the place easily, but Kurtz had too much in hand for him, and he could never regain a points scoring position.
The younger Kurtz was out in the next heat, and found himself level with Steve Boxall, and the other two on the run to the turn. Boxall seemed intent in running as wide as he could, with Kurtz on his outside, but the plan came unstuck as Cowra born youngster had too much speed for him, and on top of that he made a mistake, which gave Kurtz additional breathing space as they ran to the back straight. Pontus Aspgren was never far away, and harried Boxall, coming with a long smooth run on the final lap, getting upsides on the third turn, but not fully able to push on through, as Boxall just fended off the Rebels racer at the close.
With the Rebels now back in full flow there was no way back for the Rockets, and by the end of Heat 10 the Rebels had virtually sealed the deal. Todd Kurtz jetted from the tapes, with race partner Josh Grajczonek not far away. In the opening turns, Grajczonek came with a wet sail around the outside line, and as they entered the back straight he was in front. Jason Garrity challenged Kurtz down the back straight, but never had enough in his locker to make it stick. As the Rebels pair pulled way, we were treated to the sad sight of Garrity’s race partner, Jason Bunyan, trailing in a long way behind. It proved to be his last outing of the night. He looked a shadow of his former self, who over the years has graced the OTA with sweeping passes around the boards, and hard battling races, which made him a feared opponent for many a Rebels rider.
Now 20-points down, the Rockets used their second tactical ride of the night, sending Eddie Kennett to the tapes in the ‘Black and White’ helmet, but like Garrity before him, it proved to be an unsuccessful attempt to claw back some points. Kennett broke quickly, but with Ollie Allen on his inside he had a hard task as they reached the turn. As Kennett had done to others before, Allen moved him wide to the fence, and as things got tight, he was left with nowhere to go. Allen charged to the front, and the other two riders also moved past Kennett. Allen went on to a comfortable victory, but behind him Mathieu Trésarrieu had got the better of Charles Wright, who was now being put under pressure by Kennett. Wright is a cool character, and didn’t panic as he covered every line the Hasting born rider tried. For the second time on the night, Wright had thwarted a rider from converting his tactical ride to double points.
John Sampford replaced Jason Bunyan with Simon Lambert in Heat 12, but again to no avail, as the Rebels posted another heat advantage. Lambert made the break, with Paul Starke close behind. Brady Kurtz was next up, and charged to the front around the opening turns. Luke Bowen came off the second bend, moving into second place behind Kurtz, leaving Lambert and Starke at the rear. At the same spot on the next lap, Starke made a similar move on Lambert, setting off after Bowen, but despite closing him down on the next lap, he could never get through to second place.
Heat 13 saw Ollie Allen and Steve Boxall dispute the early running, but it was Allen, making a great run around the outside to lead into the back straight. Eddie Kennett moved in front of both Josh Grajczonek and Boxall to grab second place, and at the same time Josh Grajczonek came through to pass Boxall, but Boxall charged back up his inside on the third turn. Grajczonek wasn’t done, and came roaring back around the outside on the first turn of the next lap to claim back third spot. Allen was a disappearing spot on the horizon by this time, but Grajczonek was closing fast on Kennett, challenging up his inside on the second bend of the last lap. Despite his efforts, Grajczonek couldn’t make the move a good one, and had to be content with third place, blowing his chances of a paid maximum on the night.
Luke Bowen came into Heat 14 for Lambert, but his introduction couldn’t prevent the Rebels from posting their fifth ‘Full House’ of the night. Charles Wright bolted from the gate, with Pontus Aspgren and Jason Garrity in his wake. Aspgren took the advantage on the opening turns, with Luke Bowen moving past Garrity and challenging Wright on the next lap. Wright was never truly troubled, and it wasn’t long before he pulled away from Bowen, and completed the maximum for the home team.
The nominated heat didn’t draw the usual suspects, as both team managers rang the changes, with the Rebels posting Brady Kurtz and Pontus Aspgren, against Mathieu Trésarrieu and Steve Boxall for the Rockets. As it turned out, it didn’t really matter who John Sampford sent out, they all had to beat Brady Kurtz. Kurtz broke quickly, leading up with Trésarrieu for company. Pontus Aspgren was next up, and came barrelling around the outside of Kurtz and Trésarrieu. As Aspgren took to the front, Kurtz got trapped inside the Rockets’ pair down the back straight. Approaching the third turn he had dropped to the rear, but he didn’t panic.
Riding with a calmness and maturity that belied his young years, he just sat and waited for Boxall and Trésarrieu to take the normal line out of the corner. Pulling it tight inside, Kurtz cruised through the inside line, and as they came of the last bend he was through in to second place, with some aplomb. That one moved summed up the Rebels dominance on the night, no matter what they tried, the Rocket had no answers, because the Rebels had them all in their locker. In the closing laps, Kurtz closed up on Aspgren, and coming off the final turn of the race, he slipped up the inside to claim his fourth win in five rides.
The ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels had smashed the Rockets septet, and the level of their superiority in posting a 62-28 win, can be measured by the fact that they had run only one last place all night, and that being in the very first race of the evening. Every Rebels rider had contributed solid points to the cause, none more so that Brady Kurtz, who returned a fantastic 13+1 to top score. Skipper Ollie Allen recoded a creditable 11, in a fine Captains performance. Pontus Aspgren gave another superb performance, with 10+2, cementing his place as growing fan’s favourite. Josh Grajczonek returned to his old stamping ground with a great 10-point haul. Both reserves had again showed their value to the side, with Charles Wright winning the ‘Rider of the Night’ award from sponsors TQ Exel for his rides preventing the Rockets from cashing in on their tactical moves.
The 34-point margin has opened up the mathematical possibility that the Rebels could still qualify for the Semi-Finals of this competition, but they will also have to rely on other results.
Somerset Rebels - 62
1. Josh Grajczonek (G) 3, 3, 3, 1 = 10
2. Todd Kurtz 0, 2*, 1*, 2* = 5+3
3. Brady Kurtz 3, 1*, 3, 3, 3 = 13+1
4. Pontus Aspgren 2*, 2, 1, 3, 2* = 10+2
5. Oliver Allen 2, 3, 3, 3 = 11
6. Charles Wright 3, 2*, 1, 2* = 8+2
7. Paul Starke 1, 1*, 2, 1 = 5+1
Rye House Rockets = 28
1. Edward Kennett 2, 3, 0^, 2 = 7
2. Mathieu Tresarrieu 1*, 0, 3, 2, 0 = 6+1
3. Jason Bunyan 0, 0, 0 = 0
4. Jason Garrity 1, 1^, 1, 0 = 3
5. Steve Boxall 3, 1, 2, 0, 1 = 7
6. Luke Bowen 2, 0, 0, 2, 1 = 5
7. Simon Lambert 0, 0, 0, 0 = 0
SCB Referee: Dave Robinson
Heat 01: Grajczonek, Kennett, Tresarrieu, Todd Kurtz. (3-3) (3-3) 57.43
Heat 02: Wright Bowen, Starke, Lambert. (4-2) (7-5) 58.38
Heat 03: Brady Kurtz, Aspgren, Garrity, Bunyan. (5-1) (12-6) 57.87
Heat 04: Boxall, Allen, Starke, Lambert. (3-3) (15-9) 58.62
Heat 05: (Re-run x 2) Kennett, Aspgren, Brady Kurtz, Tresarrieu. (3-3) (18-12) 57.68
Heat 06: Grajczonek, Todd Kurtz, Boxall, Bowen. (5-1) (23-13), 58.40
Heat 07: Allen, Wright, Garrity (Tactical), Bunyan. (5-1) (28-14) 58.25
Heat 08: Tresarrieu, Starke, Todd Kurtz, Lambert. (3-3) (31-17) 58.67
Heat 09: Brady Kurtz Boxall, Aspgren, Bowen. (4-2) (35-19) 58.13
Heat 10: Grajczonek, Todd Kurtz, Garrity, Bunyan. (5-1) (40-20) 58.87
Heat 11: Allen, Tresarrieu, Wright, Kennett (Tactical). (4-2) (44-22) 57.90
Heat 12: Brady Kurtz, Bowen, Starke, Lambert. (4-2) (48-24) 58.59
Heat 13: Allen, Kennett, Grajczonek, Boxall. (4-2) (52-26) 58.81
Heat 14: Aspgren, Wright, Bowen, Garrity. (5-1) (57-27) 58.87
Heat 15: Brady Kurtz, Aspgren, Boxall, Tresarrieu. (5-1) (62-28) 59.53