Somerset Rebels edge out Poole Pirates in historic first home meeting

Somerset Rebels rider Jake Allen powere past Nicolai Klindt to take the lead in heat two

Somerset Rebels rider Jake Allen powere past Nicolai Klindt to take the lead in heat two - Credit: Archant

‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels historic first home meeting in the SGB Premiership took place in front of a bumper Bank Holiday crowd on Friday evening, writes Dave Thompson.

Earlier in the day, the Rebels had been given a torrid introduction into life in the SGB Premiership, when they visited Wimborne Road, the home of Friday’s opponents, the multi-title winning Poole Pirates.

The day started badly in Dorset, also in front of a massive crowd, with the Rebels quickly finding themselves 14-points down after just five heats, with Paul Starke, suffering a harsh looking exclusion in Heat 1, following an inside pass on Pirates guest Nick Morris. To their credit, the Rebels fought back, and over the next three races, they hauled themselves back into contention, posting a 2-4 advantage and two maximum wins, with victories for Josh Grajczonek, Patrick Hougaard, and Paul Starke. The first of those maximums came in a re-run, following Hans Andersen’s exclusion for riding into Charles Wright and taking out his front wheel.

That was as good as it got for the Rebels, as they were unable to match the Pirates out of the gate. The home side took command of the meeting, pulling away again to complete an 18-point victory, by 54-points to 36, the highlight of which was a stunning last to first win in Heat 14, by former Rebel Brady Kurtz. Kurtz missed the break and compounded that with an error, locking up on the second turn, before getting the bike back on an even keel, and blazing after the field. By the end of the opening lap, he was up to third, second place came down the back straight, and as they came off the final turn of Lap 2, Kurtz was in front to complete an amazing recovery from a certain looking last place.

The evening part of this double header couldn’t have been more different, not only the weather, which had been hot and sunny in Dorset, was now overcast and cold, and with rain having been forecast earlier in the day, although it hadn’t materialised, the track had been prepared accordingly, with less moisture in it than the Rebels were used to seeing. Having said that the Rebels septet were ready to do battle, and were quickly into their stride.

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Jason Garrity stood in for the absent Krzysztof Kasprzak, who was on duty for his Polish League club. Garrity was a late call-up, after original guest, Danny King had suffered an accident at Sheffield the night before, and his replacement, Nick Morris, suffered a blown engine in the morning encounter at Wimborne Road.

Garrity got off to a bad start, hitting the tapes in the opening heat, and was replaced by Nicolai Klindt. When the tapes rose for the re-run it was the Rebels who made the gate, with Rohan Tungate and Paul Starke heading the field into the turn. Klindt was soon on Starke’s tail and harried him all the way, but in truth, he was never in a position to make a pass, as Rebels favourite comfortably held his position. Up front, Tungate showed a welcome return to the form that had elevated him to the number one position last season. He has been suffering from mechanical problems in the Rebels opening fixtures, and consequently, his fire power has not been in evidence.

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Klindt was back on track very quickly, taking his programmed place in Heat 2. One of Klindt major assets is that he is rapid out of the start, and that was evident here as he led up. As quick as he was, he had no answer to Jake Allen, who came powering around the wide line, to complete the pass with a sustained run from the third turn, hitting the front as they negotiated the opening curve of Lap 2. Once there, Klindt had no answer to his pace. James Shanes had just got the better of Jan Graversen in the opening exchanges, and despite the Rebels rider’s close attention, he held out for third place to share the points.

The Pirates hit back in Heat 3 when Brady Kurtz came from off the pace to sail around the outside of the fast starting Rebels duo of Patrick Hougaard and Charles Wright. Lewis Kerr was close up and followed Kurtz through as they ran the back straight. Hougaard was soon on his case, and a sweet move on the opening turn of the next laps saw him through to chase the rapidly disappearing Kurtz. Charles Wright moved onto the wheel of Kerr, but no matter what he tried, he couldn’t find a way to demote Kerr from third place, as the Pirates reduced the deficit to just two points.

The home side quickly restored the lead and added to it as they took advantages in the next two heats. Heat 4 saw the two team captains come head to head, and little separated them on the track as they contested the early running after tape rise. It was Josh Grajczonek who came out ahead, getting the better run around the opening turn, on the inside of his opponent. Once in front, he pulled out an unassailable lead, leaving Hans Andersen to fend off an early challenge from Jan Graversen as they ran the third bend. Graversen had accounted for James Shanes early doors, and kept up the pressure on Andersen, although after his initial challenge he could never quite get into a position to see another one through.

A ‘Full House’ followed when Charles Wright and Patrick Hougaard bounded out of the traps to lead up from Jason Garrity. Garrity’s presence as a threat was short-lived, with Jack Holder taking up the chase. As they hit the final turn of the lap, Holder dived hard under Hougaard to grab second, but running wide, he left the door open for the Rebels man, who repaid the compliment, but in much smoother fashion, on the very next bend. Once he had re-passed Holder, Hougaard ran out the race in a comfortable second place, to take all the points for the home side.

Once again the Pirates hit back, with a maximum of their own. Hans Andersen and Nicolai Klindt were lightning off the start, with the latter leading off the second turn. Andersen, after seeing off a serious challenge from Rohan Tungate, sat on Klindt’s back wheel and rode a superb race to protect him from the marauding Tungate, who was always buzzing around, trying to find a way through. There may not have been any passing in this race, but in itself, it was an exciting and fascinating encounter, with Tungate pressing all the way, and Andersen demonstrating some fine team riding skills to deny him a chance to take an advantage.

The meeting came to a state of stalemate over the next few heats, with neither team able to gain an advantage, but that doesn’t mean it was without excitement. Heat 7 was a case in point, with Brady Kurtz leading the way off the start from Josh Grajczonek and Jan Graversen. It was Grajczonek who took up the chase, quickly drawing alongside Kurtz. The pair then engaged in a wheel-to-wheel battle that raged for almost all four laps. Bend after bend, first one, and then the other took a slight advantage, whilst racing just inches apart, Grajczonek on the outside, with Kurtz on his inner. The final breakthrough went in Grajczonek’s favour, with the Rebels skipper taking the widest of lines, running down the back straight and into the final turn of the race, to eke out a narrow win over his former teammate. Lewis Kerr took third to share the points.

Both team managers swapped reserves for Heat 8, with totally different levels of success, as the Rebels representative took second place, with his counterpart not making it to the finish. Jack Holder blasted from the tapes, grabbing the lead from the off. Jake Allen and Paul Starke came next, with Nicolai Klindt making an uncharacteristically slow getaway. Allen and Starke were soon putting the pressure on Holder and were all over his back wheel, but the young Sydneysider had all the answers to run out the winner. For his part, Klindt never got in the race, and fell further behind with every passing pal, until eventually, he pulled off the track before completing all four laps.

Klindt was back out quickly in the following heat, but again his gating skills deserted him, and once more he never got into the hunt. At the opposite end of the race, his captain, Hans Andersen flashed off the tapes, leading all the way. Charles Wright threw in an early challenge on the second turn, but Andersen repelled him, and after the second lap he was holding a comfortable lead. Patrick Hougaard took up the chase, but with no more success than Wright had enjoyed.

Brady Kurtz was eager to get away in Heat 10, and took a huge roller at the tapes, only for Craig Ackroyd to immediately call them back. The restart saw Rohan Tungate and Lewis Kerr contest the early pace, with Tungate getting the better of his rival heading into the back straight. Kerr slightly hampered his teammate in the process, and it was lap 2 before Kurtz could take up the chase, but by this time Tungate was in the wind. Paul Starke recovered from a slow start, and by the final two laps he had found Kerr’s back wheel, but couldn’t find a way by. Off the final bends of the race he was right up there, but Kerr just had enough in hand to give the Pirates a share of the points.

The deadlock was broken in Heat 11. Jason Garrity did himself no favours when he moved at the tapes, and as he brought the machine to a standstill the tapes went up, leaving him flat-footed as the rest roared away. The Rebels pairing of Josh Grajczonek and Jake Allen quickly put the race to bed, as they blazed off the tapes to lead up. Jack Holder provided Allen with an early challenge, but it was never enough, and despite putting up a spirited chase, he never got in a blow after that, as the Rebels maximum saw them pull 8-points clear on the night.

However, as earlier, the Pirates were up to the task, quickly nullifying that maximum with one of their own, after the race was restarted twice. The first recall came after Lewis Kerr had jumped the start, the second following a nasty looking crash suffered by Jake Allen. As Allen approached the turn in the first re-start, his machine suddenly found some grip, violently straightened, and propelled him at high speed headlong into the air fence. His machine was destroyed, and as he later, understatedly, said in an interview, he “Ate some rubbish”. Fortunately, unlike his machine, he was unharmed, quickly regaining his feet, and walking back to the pits, but also excluded for his pains. Despite only having three riders the final restart proved to be an exciting affair. Charles Wright and Lewis Kerr disputed the early running, with Kerr just getting the upper hand through the opening curves. Wright moved to the wide line to challenge but left a gap for Klindt to exploit. As Kerr pulled ahead, Wright and Klindt raced side-by-side in the battle for second place, a battle that raged for three laps, the pair exchanging narrow advantages until Klindt just edged into a small lead at the death, giving the Pirates their second ‘Full House’ of the evening.

After an early tussle with Rohan Tungate, Hans Andersen led into the back straight, but not by much. Tungate made a neat move to slip inside Andersen, as they hit Bend 1 on Lap 2. Andersen hit back immediately, with a wide out run down the back straight. Patrick Hougaard took up the chase on towards the end of the lap but had no more joy that Tungate, with Andersen running out a comfortable winner, and with Jason Garrity not troubling the scorer, the heat ended all square.

The Rebels put themselves within reach of all four league points with a 4-2 advantage in Heat 14, as Patrick Hougaard came with an unrelenting run from the final turn of the opening lap to the first of Lap 2, stealing away the lead from the early front runner, Brady Kurtz. Jake Allen came next and threw in his bid for second as they completed two laps, but to no avail. With Hougaard comfortably holding Kurtz, and Kurtz, likewise, holding off Allen, the race ran out to the Rebels advantage.

With the home side now assured of victory, with the scores standing at 45-39, the only issue was the destiny of the fourth league point. A heat advantage would see it lodged in the Rebels account; any other result would see it reside at Wimborne Road. In the event, it went the way of the ‘Bank of Poole’, as Hans Andersen shot from the tapes to lead every inch of the way. In the early stages, the Rebels packed the places, but a slight mistake from Patrick Hougaard saw Brady Kurtz take the third spot. For his part, Kurtz could never make inroads into Josh Grajczonek’s second place, and as the final laps were ticked off, the order remained to see the Rebels home 47-43, with the Pirates taking the final heat honours 2-4.

It had been an entertaining match, witnessed by what was probably the biggest crowd ever seen at the Oaktree Arena for a league match. Even when there was a run-away winner in a heat, there were plenty of enthralling battles and passes, in behind, to keep everyone engaged. For the visitors, their skipper, Hans Andersen, had been outstanding, fast starting, battling and belligerent, with the highlight of his 13+1 tally being his team riding of Nicolai Klindt, to hold off the persistent Rohan Tungate and Paul Starke in Heat 6. His back up came from the ever quick Brady Kurtz, who showed he still knows how to wring the speed out of the Highbridge circuit, as he posted an admirable 10-point total. Both Nicolai Klindt (8+1) and Lewis Kerr (6pts) made decent contributions.

On the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels side of the pits, the top honours went to Josh Grajczonek with a 13-point haul. He was ably backed up by Patrick Hougaard, who not only posted a 9+1 total, but also carried away the ‘Rider of the Night’ trophy, nominated by the meeting sponsors, and long-time supporters of the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels, ‘Whitepack Network Services’, presented on their behalf by club legend, Steve Bishop. Further support came from Jake Allen (8+1) and Rohan Tungate, whose 8+1 was a pleasing return to form from the Rebels Number One, after suffering a less than happy start to the season, with a myriad of mechanical issues.

Since the meeting, there has been much criticism on Social Media from a certain section of Pirates supporters, regarding the Poole management’s decision to run a guest instead of a using Rider Replacement to cover the absence of Krzysztof Kasprzak. A decision, which in their opinion cost them the match, but that’s for their management to ponder, it’s a part of speedway, and not Somerset’s problem. As the old saying goes, “You can only beat what’s put in front of you”, and that’s exactly what the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels did, much to the delight of most of the massive crowd, the sponsors, management and riders of the club, long may it continue.

The Rebels focus now moves to the SGB Premiership Knock Out Cup, as the side travels to visit the home of the Leicester Lions tonight (Saturday 15th April). They take with them an 8-point lead from the first leg, but Garry May is insistent that the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels are not going to Beaumont Park to defend the lead, but to ensure they go through to the next round by winning the match. They will arrive at Leicester minus the services of Paul Starke, who will be claimed by his Championship Club Peterborough, as they have the first call, as this KO Cup match up is a re-arranged fixture. His place will be taken by recent opponent, and Poole Pirate, the fast starting Nicolai Klindt.

Meetings statistics

Somerset Rebels - 47

1 Rohan Tungate - 3, 1, 3, 1* = 8+1

2 Paul Starke - 2*, 0, 1*, 0 = 3+2

3 Charles Wright - 0, 3, 1*, 1 = 5+1

4 Patrick Hougaard - 2, 2*, 2, 3, 0 = 9+1

5 Josh Grajczonek - 3, 3, 3, 2, 2 = 13

6 Jake Allen - 3, (JG-0), 2, 2*, FX, 1 = 8+1

7 Jan Graversen - 0, 1, 0, (JA-2), (JA-FX) = 1

Poole Pirates - 43

1 Jason Garrity (Guest) - XT, 0, 0, 0 = 0

2 Jack Holder - 0, 1, 3, 1 = 5

3 Lewis Kerr - 1, 1*, 1*, 3 = 6+2

4 Brady Kurtz - 3, 2, 2, 2, 1 = 10

5 Hans Andersen - 2, 2*, 3, 3, 3 = 13+1

6 Nicolai Klindt - 1, 2, 3, 0, 0, 2* = 8+1

7 James Shanes - 1*, 0, 0 = 1+1

SCB Referee: Craig Ackroyd

Heat Details

Heat 01: (Re-Run): Tungate, Starke, Klindt, Holder (5-1) (5-1) 57.53

Heat 02: Allen, Klindt, Shanes, Graversen (3-3) (8-4) 57.67

Heat 03: Kurtz, Hougaard, Kerr, Wright (2-4) (10-8) 57.35

Heat 04: Grajczonek, Andersen, Graversen, Shanes (4-2) (14-10) 58.09

Heat 05: Wright, Hougaard, Holder, Garrity (5-1) (19-11) 58.81

Heat 06: Klindt, Andersen, Tungate, Starke (1-5) (20-16) 58.63

Heat 07: Grajczonek, Kurtz, Kerr, Graversen (3-3) (23-19) 58.81

Heat 08: Holder, Allen, Starke, Klindt (3-3) (26-22) 58.72

Heat 09: Andersen, Hougaard, Wright, Klindt (3-3) (29-25) 58.97

Heat 10: (Re-Run): Tungate, Kurtz, Kerr, Starke (3-3) (32-28) 58.59

Heat 11: Grajczonek, Allen, Holder, Garrity (5-1) (37-29) 59.07

Heat 12: (Re-Runx2): Kerr, Klindt, Wright, Allen (Fell/Excluded) (1-5) (38-34) 59.25

Heat 13: Andersen, Grajczonek, Tungate, Garrity (3-3) (41-37) 59.09

Heat 14: Hougaard, Kurtz, Allen, Shanes (4-2) (45-39) 59.41

Heat 15: Andersen, Grajczonek, Kurtz, Hougaard (2-4) (47-43) 58.40

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