Somerset Rebels undone by Redcar Bears over two legs

Todd Kurtz (blue) and Rory Schlein (red) lead out Ben Morley (yellow) during the Cases Somerset Rebe

Todd Kurtz (blue) and Rory Schlein (red) lead out Ben Morley (yellow) during the Cases Somerset Rebels win over Eastbourne Eagles. Picture COLIN BURNETT - Credit: Archant

After coming second best by, 17-points, in the first leg of their SGB Championship Knock Out Cup tie with the Redcar Bears, the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels had a mountain to climb, albeit not an insurmountable one, in the home leg of this first round encounter, writes Dave Thompson.

Valentin Grobauer (red) leads Lewis Kerr (white) during the Cases Somerset Rebels win over Eastbourn

Valentin Grobauer (red) leads Lewis Kerr (white) during the Cases Somerset Rebels win over Eastbourne Eagles. Picture COLIN BURNETT - Credit: Archant

However, the task quickly became a much harder prospect as the Bears built an early lead in the first five heats, as they added two heat advantages to their tally.

The Rebels were beaten to the drop when Tom Bacon flashed from the tapes in Heat 1. He led up from Rory Schlein and Todd Kurtz, the latter being swallowed up by Michael Palm Toft down the back straight. Schlein was soon harrying Bacon for the lead, but the Coventry born rider rode a canny race to hold off the charging Australian.

Nathan Greaves and his partner, Jack Smith took an early lead in Heat 2 and appeared to have secured a 5-1 advantage until Henry Atkins steamed under Smith off the third turn. Atkins moved his opponent wide, to give Anders Rowe a clear run through the inside. Rowe went in pursuit of Greaves, but the Bears reserve had too much in hand and ran out a comfortable winner at the flag.

The Bears duo came to the line in Heat 3, with both riders sporting the same helmet colour, and with only a few seconds to spare, Jordan Stewart finally corrected his error. When the tapes rose, Ben Barker and Nico Covatti contested the run to the turn, with the Bears skipper narrowly making the inside gate work to his advantage. Valentin Grobauer beat Stewart into the turn but was caught and passed by the Australian on the run to the third turn. Meanwhile, despite a spirited chase, Covatti couldn't make an impression on Barker, leaving the Rebels now facing a 21-point deficit.

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Heat 4 took two attempts to start after a coming together of the two Redcar riders in the first turn. Chris Harris was quickly away with Jack Smith on his inner. Charles Wright was making ground on the outside line when he caught a lift in the turn. He may have got back on track, had it not been for Smith straightening up and hitting Wright, just as he was about to get his bike under control. Wright was quickly up, but Smith was down for a while until he was able to regain his feet and walk back to the pits under his own steam. It looked a clear case of Smith causing the stoppage, but Ronnie Allan deemed it an unsatisfactory start and sent all four riders back to the start. In the rerun, Harris was again quickly into his stride, with Wright breaking level with him. However, Wright had no answer to Harris's wideout run to grab the lead and pull away to a bloodless victory. Smith got the better of Anders Rowe, and the heat was shared.

In the next heat, Nico Covatti broke level with Michael Palm Toft and Tom Bacon, with Valentin Grobauer close up. As they came off the second turn, Covatti stormed to the front. Grobauer was on Bacons tail, pressing him for third. Throwing it out wide on lap three, he made his move on Bacon as they headed to start the final lap, eventually getting by on the first bend. In front of the pair, Nico Covatti was coming under constant pressure from Palm Toft, with the Dane getting by as the pair started their final circuit to take a share of the points.

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The Rebels levelled the match in Heat 6, with a 'Full House' of points. Charles Wright and Rory Schlein disputed the lead to the bend, with Wright grabbing the lead on the inner. As they approached the final turn of the lap, Wright locked up, and before he could get it back on an even keel both Rebels were through the inside, as he dropped to the back. Nathan Greaves had moved to third and was trying to chase down Todd Kurtz, but his efforts only appeared to hamper Wright, as he tried to get back in the race. On the penultimate lap, Wright moved level with Greaves as the pair ran the back straight. As Wright passed inside, Greaves appeared to get unsettled and clip the fence, taking a heavy fall in the process. The red lights came on and the race awarded to the Rebels, 5-1, and Greaves was excluded.

Despite the maximum advantage, the Rebels still had a large hill to climb but were still mathematically in the hunt. Heat 7 didn't help their cause as once again the points were shared, with Chris Harris making a rapid exit from the gate. Once he had hit the front, the race was over. The further they went, the further he pulled away. Henry Atkins got in an early challenge on Jordan Stewart but failed to make it stick and the points were divided equally.

Atkins was quickly back out on track, as Garry May switched his reserves for Heat 8. The move paid dividends as Todd Kurtz just sneaked the lead on the opening turn, after a close battle to the bend with Tom Bacon. Atkins was quickly alongside Bacon and pair battled it out side-by-side over the next couple of laps. As they reached the third turn on Lap 3, he was still pressing the Bears Number 2. At the next turn, he caught a big lift and despite quickly getting his machine back under control, his chance was gone. Atkins held onto third place and could not find another opportunity to post a maximum advantage for the home team.

Nico Covatti and Charles Wright broke together in Heat 9 but it was the former Rebel who swopped wide to grab the lead off the second turn, pulling away as he went. Valentin Grobauer spun up badly on the start and as a consequence, was last away by a good margin. Undeterred, the Rotthalmünster born rider set about his work with some gusto, gradually closing Nathan Greaves down, until shot under him on the final curve of the third lap, to share the points.

The following two heats were also shared, making it almost impossible, although mathematically possible, for the Rebels to win through to the next round. Heat 10 may have been shared but turned out to probably be the best race of the night, especially in the early stages. Todd Kurtz and Jordan Stewart contested the run to the curve, with Ben Barker and Rory Schlein close up. As they hit the back straight they were all in a heap and raced four abreast with each rider tasting the lead at some point. As the lap came towards a conclusion, the Bears duo took up the running, only to see Schlein come roaring off the last turn to go straight from last place to second place, on the heels of Barker. Schlein was all over Barker, like a cheap suit, harassing and pressurising him all the way, until his persistence paid off on the final turn of Lap 3. Stewart and Kurtz passed and repassed each other, with Stewart finally getting the upper hand.

Anders Rowe replaced Henry Atkins, to partner Chris Harris in Heat 11. The original start was called back, as Rowe made an early jump, garnering a warning for his troubles. In the restart, Harris flew out of the gate to lead up alongside Michael Palm Toft, before charging for the dirt line and powering to the head of affairs as they ran into the second turn, whilst Rowe got the better of Tom Bacon, with a wide run off the same bend. With Harris pulling away, the action was towards the rear, as Rowe and Bacon raced wheel-to-wheel for third place until Bacon just got the better of the enthralling battle.

The opposite reserve switch occurred in the next heat, with Atkins coming in for Rowe. Both Atkins and Valentin Grobauer were left flat-footed at the start, with Nathan Greaves bolting from the tapes to grab the lead from the outset. Ben Barker settled on his tail but couldn't relax, as Grobauer was quickly making up for his tardy start and was soon pressing for second place. Despite the pressure from the Rebels man, Barker rode a clever race to keep him at bay to take a maximum advantage and finally end the Rebels participation in 2019 Knock Out Cup.

However there was still a match to win and the Rebels were two points down on the night, with just three heats to go. Heat 13 saw the Rebels level the scores, as they took a 4-2 advantage, which at the tape rise appeared that it could have been more. Chris Harris and Rory Schlein flashed from the gate, with Charles Wright close up. At the turn, Harris eased Wright wide, stopping his run for the front, leaving Schlein to lead into the back straight. Harris then took up the running from his race partner, with Wright starting to close down. Racing down the back straight on the second lap, Wright threw in a challenge to Schlein, before moving wide and breezing by the Australian off the final turn of the lap. He set off after Harris, but the Rebels skipper was in the wind, with too much in hand for the Stockport born racer. Michael Palm Toft never really got into the hunt.

The Rebels moved back into the lead in the following heat when Nico Covatti came with a wet sail down the back straight to account for the early leader, Jordan Stewart. With Covatti in the van, Henry Atkins set off after Stewart, quickly getting on his case and pushing him all the way. Atkins rode a terrific race, trying every line, both inside and out to find a way by the young Milduran. For his part, Stewart answered every question, but it was a close run thing for a long way.

That heat advantage gave the home side a narrow two-point lead on the night, with Heat 15 being the decider in the affair. For the home side, Garry May sent out his top two, Rory Schlein and Chris Harris, whilst Jitendra Dufill looked to Charles Wright and Ben Barker to bring home the bacon. The Rebels needed to stop the Bears from getting a heat advantage to ensure the win, and that is exactly what they did. But if anyone thought that race was boring, that was far from the truth, with Charles Wright hitting the front early, with Chris Harris right on his shoulder. The pair then, metaphorically, set about knocking spots off each other, as they passed and repassed at will. Wright was the one to eventually break the deadlock and go on to take the flag. Behind the pair, Schlein and Barker were having a battle of their own, with Schlein taking the honours.

The Rebels had found it hard to make headway on the evening, mainly due, with a couple of exception, to some less than adequate gating. The person that made the best of the opportunities at the tapes was Rebels Skipper, Chris Harris. His rapid exits from the gate had almost brought him a full five ride maximum, with his only dropped point coming in the final heat of the night. His performance brought him the Somerset 'Rider of the Night' Award, chosen by John and Nicola Doble of meeting sponsors, Stephen and Co Block Management. Harris was ably assisted in his task by Rory Schlein (10+1) and Nico Covatti (9pts). For the visitor's, the top score went to former Rebel Charles Wright with 11pts, with Ben Barker assisting with 9+1.The Rebels were on the road on Friday (17th May) and scored a fantastic away win, 50-40, at Scunthorpe, where Rory Schlein and Chris Harris were again on form, with 12pts and 11+1 respectively. Anders Rowe also starred with a fabulous 8+1 return from the reserve berth.

Meeting statistics

Somerset Rebels - 46 (82)

1. Rory Schlein - 2, 3, 3, 1, 1* = 10+1

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

3. Valentin Grobauer - 0, 1*, 1*, 1 = 3+2

4. Nico Covatti - 2, 2, 2, 3 = 9

5. Chris Harris (C) - 3, 3, 3, 3, 2 = 14

6. Henry Atkins - 1*, 0, 1, 0, 1 = 3+1

7. Anders Rowe - 2, 0, 0 = 2

Redcar Bears - 44 (97)

1. Michael Palm-Toft - 1, 3, 2, 0 = 6

2. Tom Bacon - 3, 0, 2, 1* = 6+1

3. Ben Barker (C) - 3, 2, 2, 2*, 0 = 9+1

4. Jordan Stewart - 1, 1*, 1*, 2 = 5+2

5. Charles Wright - 2, 1, 3, 2, 3 = 11

6. Nathan Greaves - 3, FX, 0, 3 = 6

7. Jack Smith - 0, 1*, 0, 0 = 1+1

SCB Referee: Ronnie Allan

Heat Details

Heat 01: Bacon, Schlein, Palm-Toft, Kurtz. (2-4) (2-4) (38-57) 57.81

Heat 02: Greaves, Rowe, Atkins, Smith. (3-3) (5-7) (41-60) 58.32

Heat 03: Barker, Covatti, Stewart, Grobauer. (2-4) (7-11) (43-64) 57.18

Heat 04: Harris, Wright, Smith, Rowe, (3-3) (10-14) (46-67) 57.68

Heat 05: Palm-Toft, Covatti, Grobauer, Bacon. (3-3) (13-17) (49-70) 57.06

Heat 06: Schlein, Kurtz, Wright, Greaves (Fell/Exl). (5-1) (18-18) (54- 71) AWARDED

Heat 07: Harris, Barker, Stewart, Atkins. (3-3) (21-21) (57-74) 57.19

Heat 08: Kurtz, Bacon, Atkins, Smith. (4-2) (25-23) (61- 76) 58.69

Heat 09: Wright, Covatti, Grobauer, Greaves. (3-3) (28-26) (64-79) 57.18

Heat 10: Schlein, Barker, Stewart, Kurtz. (3-3) (31-29) (67-82) 58.32

Heat 11: Harris, Palm-Toft, Bacon, Rowe. (3-3) (34-32) (70-85) 57.81

Heat 12: Greaves, Barker, Grobauer, Atkins. (1-5) (35-37) (71-90) 58.87

Heat 13: Harris, Wright, Schlein, Palm-Toft. (4-2) (39-39) (75-92) 57.41

Heat 14: Covatti, Stewart, Atkins, Smith. (4-2) (43-41) (79-94) 58.81

Heat 15: Wright, Harris, Schlein, Barker. (3-3) (46-44) (82-96) 57.88

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