Somerset Rebels triumph over Glasgow Tigers in meeeting that ‘had it alll’

Somerset Rebels Man of the Match Paul Starke on the outside in heat action

Somerset Rebels Man of the Match Paul Starke on the outside in heat action - Credit: Archant

If a speedway meeting could be expressed in terms of Ice Cream, Friday’s encounter between the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels and the Glasgow Tigers, would probably be described as a Honeycomb, Salted Caramel, and Cookie Dough triple cone, with lashings of Nuts, Clotted Cream, Chocolate and Raspberry sauce, all topped off with a Cherry. Like the Ice Cream it had everything, writes Dave Thompson.

Glasgow started the season as most people’s favourites for the title, and had been untouchable at home. On the road they had drawn one and suffered a couple of defeats, including a heavy beating at Sheffield on Thursday. Both teams had no injury worries about any of their respective septets, and were at full strength, so a tight exciting meeting was in prospect.

As with last week’s KO Cup match up with Workington, the Rebels found it difficult to get a foot hold in the meeting, as Glasgow reeled off five straight heat wins, to grab an early lead. The meeting was half way to completion before the home side got back on terms, and start to establish a base for a stunning final third of the match.

Richard Lawson got the ball rolling for the visitors, as he trapped quickly to just sneak the lead at the opening turn over Rebels skipper, Josh Grajczonek. Jake Allen’s grabbed third spot from a quick starting Nike Lunna, as they ran to the turn, and then ran the inside line to pass Grajczonek and throw down a challenge to Lawson. Lawson held him off, but Allen was hampered by a broken seat bracket, making it difficult for him to sustain his challenge for the lead, allowing Lawson to pull away for the win, as the points were shared.

Things looked much better for the Rebels as Bradley Wilson-Dean bolted from the tapes to lead Heat 2. However Fernando Garcia was soon hunting him down, and came with a powerful outside run off the final turn of the lap, to cruise by Wilson-Dean and into the lead. Try as he might, the Kiwi couldn’t get back on terms, as Garcia headed for the flag, meanwhile Danny Ayres had accounted for Zach Wajtknecht, and the visitors took an early lead in the affair.

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Heat 3 was shared, but again it was Glasgow providing the winner. Paul Starke made a great start to lead from the gate, but it was 2015 Rebels, Richie Worrall who got the better of the run to the turn and lead into the bend. Although Starke never gave up on the chase he wasn’t able to run Worrall down, and had to settle for second place. Charles Wright easily accounted for a slow looking Ben Barker, and a second shared heat was recorded on the scorecard.

Glasgow added two points to their lead in Heat 4 as skipper, Aaron Summers, just outran Rohan Tungate from the gate to the turn. Tungate attempted to cut back under Summers at the second bend, but the Glasgow man managed to hold off the threat to maintain his lead. Tungate was persistent throughout the race, but could never find a way to the front, or force a mistake from Summers. Zach Wajtknecht harried Danny Ayres for third place, after Ayres had got the drop in the early stages. Wajtknecht was unrelenting, but like Tungate with Summer, he couldn’t find a route past Ayres, who eventually just scrambled home in third.

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Rebels fans thought they might have something to cheer about in Heat 5, as Paul Starke and Charles Wright bolted from the gate, to just about lead up Richard Lawson. With Starke heading affairs, a good run around the turn might have secured the points, but despite doing nothing wrong, the home duo were eclipsed as Lawson roared around the outside line to hit the front as they entered the back straight. Whilst Starke chased hard he was at a loss to close the gap on Lawson, at the same time Wright appeared to be struggling to hold off Nike Lunna at the rear. Lawson took the win, and Lunna was held by Wright, as the heat points were shared.

With five straight Glasgow heat wins, the Rebels were apparently up against it, but the tide was about to turn, as the home side took their first heat win, and with it a heat advantage. As in the earlier heats, it was a Glasgow rider who made the early running, when Aaron Sommers hit the front from the gate. Josh Grajczonek came with a strong run around the very wide outside, almost touching the fence as he went, and as they ran off the second turn he swept past Summers to head the race. Once there he gave Summers no chance to get back on terms, and led all the way to the flag. Behind the pair Jake Allen had comfortably accounted or Fernando Garcia to give the Rebels their first heat advantage of the night, cutting the Glasgow lead to just two points.

Another Rebels heat winner followed, when Rohan Tungate came from behind to beat early leader, Richie Worrall. Worrall had just made the better start, and held a narrow lead at the bend, with Tungate just inches away. They ran the lap at close quarters, and as they came off the final turn they were upsides, before Tungate made the better run inside the first turn of Lap 2 to grab the lead. Zach Wajtknecht came in for Bradley Wilson-Dean, and was on Ben Barker’s case for the whole race, but couldn’t force his way through to gain the home side an advantage.

Bradley Wilson-Dean replaced Wajtknecht in the next heat, and the move paid dividends, but not before Stuart Wilson called them back, and warned Danny Ayres for moving at the under the green light. In the restart Wilson-Dean rocketed to the lead from the tapes. Jake Allen, who had suffered a bad lift in the original start, held second spot from a hard charging Ayres. Allen eventually put clear air between the pair on lap three, but Ayres still had thoughts on second place, and tried to blaze a path around Allen as they hit the final lap. Trying a big outside run, he came to grief, taking a very close look at the Oaktree Arena shale for his troubles. In truth his attempt was in vain, as Allen looked comfortable in second by this point. Stuart Wilson excluded Ayres, and awarded the race 5-1 to the Rebels, giving them the lead in the tie for the very first time.

Heat 9 was shared, with Glasgow adding another heat win to their tally. Aaron Summers made a good start, just edging out Paul Starke on the opening turn. Starke pressed Summers over the first lap, until he made an error as the came back to the home straight, giving Summers a clear run to the flag. Charles Wright took up second spot but could never trouble the leader.

Jake Allen disputed the early running in Heat 10, and grabbed the lead from Richie Worrall at the turn. Worrall pressed him for the next two laps, but Allen answered every question asked to maintain his lead. Josh Grajczonek was squeezed out on the run to the turn, but was soon in third, easily passing Ben Barker in the early stages, and setting off after Worrall. He was soon pressing Worrall, but the St Helens man rode a good race to hold second spot to the line. Ben Barker retired, pulling into the pits as he reached the final turn of the race.

Glasgow replaced Nike Lunna with Fernando Garcia in Heat 11, but the move did not produce the desired effect. Richard Lawson made the gate to lead up, with both Rebels not far behind. Rohan Tungate rode a superb opening turn to cut up the inside of Lawson on the second bend to hit the front. No sooner had Tungate made his move, so Bradley Wilson-Dean repeated it as they ran down the back straight, and from leading up, Lawson found himself in third place in less than half a lap. Wilson-Dean’s job wasn’t done, as he had to hold off the charging Lawson for three and a half laps. He rode fantastically well to keep the determined Lawson at bay, and give the home side their second maximum advantage of the night, and more importantly an 8-point lead, with just four heats to go Glasgow once again stopped the Rebels scoring, as they provided the winner of Heat 12, and shared the points. Bradley Wilson-Dean came in for Zach Wajtknecht, and the switched looked it might pay dividends as he broke level with Richie Worrall. Charles Wright missed the gate, and was making up ground as he came together in a tight turn with Fernando Garcia. Wright hit the dirt, and was down for a little time, initially complaining of a painful wrist. Stuart Wilson judged no fault and returned all riders to the tapes.

In the restart, Wright lifted at the tapes and Wilson-Dean made a terrible start, gifting the lead to the Tigers duo. Wright was first to react, catching and passing Garcia with a powerful inside run off the final turn of the lap. A lap later, Wilson-Dean was in place to deliver his challenge, and as they hit the first turn of the penultimate lap, he made a sustained run around the kerb, finally relegating Garcia on the third turn, to go on and share the points.

Heat 13 not only sealed the Rebels win, something that seemed unlikely in the early stages of the meeting, it also provided one of the talking points of the night. As the tapes rose, there was a stampede for the first turn, with all four riders arriving at the same time. When the dust settled, literally, it was Josh Grajczonek showing at the front, with Richard Lawson heading the chase. As Grajczonek started to make the race his own, Rohan Tungate was chasing down Lawson for second spot. As they hit the final lap he was sitting on Lawson’s tail, and as soon as they ran the start line for the final time he took his chance. Lawson had left a big gap inside as he took the wide line at the turn. Tungate made a fabulous cutback to charge up the inside line, and as they came out of the second turn, he closed the door on Lawson, amid loud cheers from the home fans. It appeared to be a clean pass, and although it was hard racing, it was a fair pass, but after the race Lawson obviously felt otherwise, and had some harsh words and a push and shove for Tungate as they ran back to the pits.

Ben Barker made his first showing of the night as he bolted off the tapes to lead up. However his unrestricted view of the track in front of him lasted no longer than the time it took to reach the third turn, as the whole field swept past him down the back straight, and he eventually pulled off the track on the final bend of the race, without crossing the finishing line. As the field ran past Barker, it was the Rebels duo of Paul Starke and Bradley Wilson-Dean who took up the running, before going on to complete a bloodless maximum, putting the Rebels 16-points to the good.

If all that had gone before had been the bulk of the Ice Cream, it was now time to put that Cherry on the top, and what a Cherry it turned out to be.

Garry May took the decision not to run Rohan Tungate or Josh Grajczonek in Heat 15, tracking Paul Starke and Jake Allen instead. The Tigers predictably tracked Richie Worrall, accompanied by Richard Lawson. When the tapes rose it was the Tigers pairing who hit the front, looking as though they would finish the meeting with a flourish. However Paul Starke hadn’t read that bit of the script, and parked himself out in the dirt, on the very widest of lines, winding on the power as he went. With each passing lap, he got faster and faster, virtually scraping the air fence as he went. By the time they had reached the end of the third lap, he was closing fast on Richie Worrall. Forsaking the outside, Starke made a stunning cut back from the start line to the turn, sweeping under, first Worrall, and the Lawson in a single move, hitting the front as they exited the second turn. The move stunned the Tigers duo, as a huge roar went up from the crowd to signal Starke’s arrival at the head of affairs, and turn a maximum advantage for the visitors into an unexpected shared heat. Cherry well and truly plonked on top on that ample Ice Cream.

From a very shaky start, the Rebels had pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and completed a stunning 16-point victory, with a fantastic team performance to beat one of the seasons fancied teams. Jake Allen and Bradley Wilson-Dean go from strength to strength with each passing meeting; Rohan Tungate is proving to be an able foil to Josh Grajczonek, providing a multitude of points, especially when other heavy scorers are having a lean time.

The performance of the night though, had come from Paul Starke, whose ride in heat 15 alone was good enough to win him the ‘Rider of the Night’ award from Di Phillips of SREF, but his contribution was much more than the one race, as he was also top scorer, with 11+1. Since coming to Somerset in 2014, he’s transformed himself from a bit part reserve, to an extremely capable and valuable member of the team, who is getting better all the time.

For their part, after the initial stages, Glasgow were disappointing, and after now suffering two heavy defeats on subsequent nights, there maybe one or two in their septet who may have questions to answer.

The Rebels now hit the road in defence of their 2015 KO Cup victory, as they take a 14-point lead to Workington tonight (Saturday) in the second leg of this first round tie.

Meeting statistics

Somerset Rebels - 53

1. Josh Grajczonek - 1*, 3, 1, 3 = 8+1

2. Jake Allen - 2, 1, 2*, 3, 0 = 8+1

3. Charles Wright - 1*, 1*, 2, 2 = 6+2

4. Paul Starke - 2, 2, 1*, 3, 3 = 11+1

5. Rohan Tungate - 2, 3, 3, 2* = 10+1

6. Bradley Wilson-Dean - 2, 3, 2*, 1*, 2* = 10+3

7. Zach Wajtknecht - 0, 0, 0 = 0

Glasgow Tigers = 37

1. Richard Lawson - 3, 3, 1, 1, 2 = 10

2. Nike Lunna - 0, 0, 1 = 1

3. Richie Worrall - 3, 2, 2, 3, 1* = 11+1

4. Ben Barker - 0, 1*, R, R = 1+1

5. Aaron Summers - 3, 2, 3, 0 = 8

6. Fernando Garcia - 3, 0, 0, 0, 0 =3

7. Danny Ayres - 1, 1, Flx, 1 = 3

SCB Referee: Stuart Wilson

Heat Details

Heat 01: Lawson, Allen, Grajczonek, Lunna 57.56 (3-3) (3-3)

Heat 02: Garcia, Wilson-Dean, Ayres, Wajtknecht 58.31 (2-4) (5-7)

Heat 03: Worrall, Starke, Wright, Barker 57.44 (3-3) (8-10)

Heat 04: Summers, Tungate, Ayres, Wajtknecht 57.21 (2-4) (10-14)

Heat 05: Lawson, Starke, Wright, Lunna 57.53 (3-3) (13-17)

Heat 06: Grajczonek, Summers, Allen, Garcia 57.41 (4-2) (17-19)

Heat 07: Tungate, Worrall, Barker, Wajtknecht 57.47 (3-3) (20-22)

Heat 08: (Re-Run): Wilson-Dean, Allen, Lunna, Ayres (Fell-Excluded) Awaraded (5-1) (25-23)

Heat 09: Summers, Wright, Starke, Garcia 58.88 (3-3) (28-26)

Heat 10: Allen, Worrall, Grajczonek, Barker (Ret) 58.64 (4-2) (32-28)

Heat 11: Tungate, Wilson-Dean, Lawson, Garcia 59.00 (5-1) (37-29)

Heat 12: (Re-Run): Worrall, Wright, Wilson-Dean, Garcia 59.19 (3-3) (40-32)

Heat 13: Grajczonek, Tungate, Lawson, Summers 58.81 (5-1) (45-33)

Heat 14: Starke, Wilson-Dean, Ayres, Barker (Ret) 58.81 (5-1) (50-34)

Heat 15: Starke, Lawson, Worrall, Allen 59.25 (3-3) (53-37)

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