Somerset Rebels win the Premiership Knockout trophy with win over Kings Lynn Stars

Somerset Rebels with the Premiership Knockout Cup winners trophy. Picture PHIL HILTON

Somerset Rebels with the Premiership Knockout Cup winners trophy. Picture PHIL HILTON - Credit: Archant

Having narrowly missed out on a place in the SGB Premiership Play Off Final, the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels still had a chance of a major trophy, in just their second season in the top tier of British Speedway, writes David Thompson.

Action from the Somerset Rebels two-leg win over Kings Lynn Stars to win the Premiership Knockout Cu

Action from the Somerset Rebels two-leg win over Kings Lynn Stars to win the Premiership Knockout Cup winners trophy. Picture HAGGIS HARTMAN - Credit: Archant

On successive nights they took on Play Off runners-up, the Kings Lynn Stars. On Wednesday, the Rebels had home advantage for the first leg of this two-legged affair, and the opportunity to build a healthy advantage to take to The Adrian Flux Arena on the following evening, writes David Thompson.

The Rebels were still without injury victims, Aaron Summers and Jack Holder and also Bradley Wilson-Dean, still recovering from the removal of screws and plates from his shoulder. Garry May’s solution to his injury problems was to book Chris Harris, the architect of the Rebels downfall at Poole, for both legs, and former Rebels Charles Wright for the home leg, and due to the averages, Paul Starke for the away leg. Michael Palm Toft was still on the sidelines for the Stars, but they still tracked a full line up, with Tero Aarnio taking his place at reserve.

The Rebels got quickly into their stride; with an opening maximum in Heat one, as Jason Doyle and Jake Allen bolted away from the tapes to eclipse the Stars skipper Robert Lambert and his partner, Erik Riss. The Stars immediately struck back, with a ‘Full House of their own, as Simon Lambert and Tero Aarnio ruthlessly squeezed out Jake Allen on the run to the turn, with Allen doing well to stay on board.

The third heat brought a huge roar from the crowd as Charles Wright made his return to the Rebels line, but it was not as loud as the one which followed as Wright dispatched Ty Procter and Thomas Jørgensen at the first turn, and the proceeded to charge around his trademark line out on the boards to take the chequered flag in a drawn heat.

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Over the next few heats, the Rebels pulled out a 10-point lead, taking three heat advantages from four races, including two 5-1’s. The first of these came from Nico Covatti and Chris Harris, with Covatti riding a superb first turn to move Simon Lambert wide and allow Harris a free run up the inner. The second again involved Covatti, who joined Jake Allen, after Chris Harris’s bike expired and refused to restart before the two-minute warning ran out. The pair were led by Ty Procter, but first Allen around the wide outside and the Covatti up the inner, made short work of the Australian before they had reached the final turn of the opening lap. Sandwiched between these maximums were a shared heat and a 4-2 with Charles Wright taking his second victory and Richard Lawson trying everything to try to pass Erik Riss.

The Rebels run of points and Charles Wright’s third outing came to an abrupt halt in Heat 8, when Wright made a good start on the outside, but was squeezed up by Erik Riss, before running out of room and taking a horrific looking fall in the second turn, hitting the air fence before somersaulting over the front of his machine and heading hard into the ground. For a while, it appeared that it could be a serious injury, but to a huge cheer Wright eventually regained his feet and walked back to the pits under his own steam, apparently after dislocating his shoulder, which then immediately popped back in again. To add insult to injury, he was excluded from the re-run for being the cause of the stoppage. In the re-start, it looked as though the Stars would close the gap as their pair bolted from the traps, only for Nico Covatti to fly by both of them on the inside line from the last bend of the opening lap to the opening bend of the next. Once in the van, he made no mistake to bring home a shared heat.

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Jake Allen took Wright’s place in the next heat and put in a terrific performance in chasing down Niels Kristian Iversen and at one point, after executing his favourite dive bomber mover on the third turn, getting his nose in front. However Iversen retook the lead, but he never had a moment’s peace as Allen buzzed around his back wheel for almost all of the race. The heat was shared with Richard Lawson taking third place.

Over the next two heats, the Stars cut the Rebels lead to just four points after banging home two heat advantages, including a maximum in Heat 11. Thomas Jørgensen flew out in Heat 10, to win comfortably, but all the action was behind him, as Jason Doyle and Ty Procter swapped places for fun, until Doyle got the better on his compatriot late in the piece. The Stars took all the points in the next as Robert Lambert and Erik Riss outpaced Jake Allen and Chris Harris early on, with Allen recovering to challenge Riss until he got blocked off by his race partner.

If Kings Lynn thought they had seen the last of Charles Wright after his unfortunate trip to the shale, they were sadly mistaken, as not only did he appear in Heat 12, but he also lead it to a maximum advantage with Nico Covatti in second, after taking advantage of Wright’s first bend move to run Tero Aarnio wide, and allow the Argentinian free rein up the inner. Once there, the pair rode a perfect team ride to the flag.

Their maximum advantage was the beginning of the end for the Stars hopes on the evening, as the home side ran out the rest of the remaining three races by only dropping two points when two 4-2’s were followed by a closing ‘Full House’. Chris Harris put in a superb ride in Heat 13, as he hunted down Niels Kristian Iversen to come from last to first, with Jason Doyle taking third, when it looked as though the Stars would take the heat advantage. Iversen’s luck was right out as not only did Harris come from way back to beat him, but he also received a post-race warning for delaying the start, after an extended bout of pre-race ‘gardening’.

Richard Lawson sparked his night into action with a superb all the way win in Heat 14, followed by a closing maximum advantage from Jason Doyle and that man, Charles Wright. After a great start from both Rebels, which saw Jason Doyle lead before the turn, Niels Kristian Iversen got the better of Wright but not for long, as the Stockport racer headed for the dirt and boomed around the outside line to obliterate the Danes race. It was a superb finish for Wright after his earlier troubles, and his performance on the night lead Garry May to name him as the ‘Somerset Rider of the Night’. Not only that, the pair having resolved their differences which had led to Wright’s exit from the Oaktree Arena in the middle of the season, he vowed to do everything in his power to bring Wright back to the Oaktree Arena Tree Arena in 2019.

So the Rebels had done a job on the night and built up a 16-point advantage (53-37) to take to Norfolk on the following evening, but would it prove to be enough, as the Stars are a totally different proposition on their home shale.

The Rebels were dealt another injury blow on the morning of the second leg, with Jake Allen withdrawing with a leg injury. He had injured his leg when getting squeezed out in the second race of the first leg but had completed the evening, scoring a creditable and useful 8+1, as part of the reserves paid 24pt haul. However, overnight the injury had gotten worse and Allen was forced to pull out, leaving the Rebels needing to find a short notice replacement. The substitute came in the form of Argentinian, Coty Garcia, who answered Garry May’s late call up.

If the late change had upset the Rebels balance, they certainly didn’t show it, as they set off where they finished the previous evening. After a shared opening heat, where a fast starting Jason Doyle cleverly outpointed a very hard charging Robert Lambert, the Rebels opened up with a salvo of heat advantages, which saw them add another 8-points to their already substantial aggregate lead, and it could have been more as Nico Covatti and Coty Garcia bolted from the traps to lead Heat 2 on a 5-1. It was only Garcia’s apparently ailing machine that saw Simon Lambert close and finally pass the Rebels guest on the final turn of the third lap, as he tried to nurse his bike home.

On his previous visit to the Adrian Flux, Richard Lawson had a night to forget but he put that behind him as he produced a rocket start to lead up from a close together Thomas Jørgensen and Paul Starke, only to see the race stopped, with the Rebels on a 5-1, as Jørgensen straightened and fell on the second turn. With the Dane excluded, Lawson had to do it all again, and he didn’t disappoint, shooting from the line to lead after beating off the close attentions of Ty Procter on the second turn.

Rebels star of the first leg, Nico Covatti, featured again as he and Chris Harris blasted in a ‘full house’, as they jetted away to lead up Niels Kristian Iversen, with Harris leading the way. The further they went, the further Iversen fell behind. The race was effectively over after the first lap.

The Stars hit back immediately, taking two advantages on the trot, including a maximum of their own in Heat 6. Thomas Jørgensen lowered Jason Doyle colours in Heat 5, as he powered around the wide line to lead onto the back straight. Doyle survived a huge lift entering the back straight of Lap 3, as he fought to hold off Ty Procter. Heat 6 saw a level break, with the exception of Coty Garcia, however, it was the Stars pairing of Erik Riss and Robert Lambert who beat off the early attentions of Chris Harris to pull away and take all the points, bringing the Rebels lead on the night down to just two points.

The Rebels extended that lead back to eight points over the next three heats, with a shared heat sandwiched between two heat advantages. Richard Lawson added a second win in Heat 7, with a neat inside move on Niels Kristian Iversen down the back straight and he was almost followed through by Paul Starke but the Dane just held him off. Simon Lambert received a warning for a huge jump in the next heat and in the re-run he could only get away in third place. Richard Lawson, taking the replacement ride, narrowly failed to lead as Erik Riss just got the better of him to the first turn, clamping him to the kerb. Behind them, Nico Covatti was chasing down Lambert and completed the Stars man’s woe by executing a dogged inside pass on the final turns of the race to share the points. Covatti was quickly out again in Heat 9, replacing Coty Garcia, and this time made no mistake, rocketing out of the gate to lead all the way. Chris Harris followed up as the pair put Ty Procter and Thomas Jørgensen to the sword. That result put the overall win within reach but the Stars could still force a draw and the running of Golden Heats to decide the fate of the KO Cup but they needed a 5-1 advantage in all the remaining heats to do so.

It might have seemed a huge task but they started the ball rolling in the next heat, but not before a couple of hiccups. The race took two attempts to be completed; the first ending at the first turn after Paul Starke received a huge punt from Erik Riss on his inner, sending him careering into the air fence. It was a tight turn and the contact was purely accidental, so Tony Steele sent all four back to the tapes. In the rerun, Starke flew from the line to lead up and led the Stars duo, much to the delight of the small band of travelling Rebels fans. However, they would have to wait a little longer to celebrate, as first Robert Lambert, with a stunning move, squeezed past the Rebels rider at the end of the second lap. Riss came next, hunting down Starke to put a pass on him on the next lap and keep the Stars hopes alive.

However, it wasn’t to be for the Norfolk outfit, as the Rebels replied in kind in Heat 11, when Jason Doyle and Nico Covatti finally dashed the Stars hope with a flourish, bolting from the tapes to lead a lacklustre Niels Kristian Iversen and Simon Lambert every inch of the way, as the watching Rebels fans could finally hold their celebrations.

Paul Starke was repaid for his Heat 10 efforts as he again blasted off the tapes, this time to lead all the way. The busy Nico Covatti gave the Rebels the hope of another maximum, coming under Ty Procter on the second turn of Lap 2 to put the visitors on a ‘Full House’. However, Procter got it together and swept past Covatti late on the final lap to reclaim second place.

As well as winning overall, the win on the night was still on for the Rebels, as they needed five points from the last three races to take the win. In the final reckoning, they just failed that target, as the Stars took Heats 13 and 14 with maximum advantages. Heat 13 saw Niels Kristian Iversen finally come to the party, with a stunning race, along with Roberts Lambert, to defeat Jason Doyle and Chris Harris. Nico Covatti looked as though he might get the better of the Stars pairing in Heat 14, only to have to retire when in a good position, as his machine failed. Chris Harris rode a superb race in the final heat to grab second place behind Robert Lambert to give the Rebels a draw on the night.

Over both legs, despite the injuries and having to bring in guests, the Rebels did a thoroughly professional job, building up a good lead to take away for a potentially difficult second leg. And on the night of that second meeting, continuing in a similar vein, and not letting Kings Lynn get a foundation to build a comeback on. When things got difficult, they didn’t panic and just went about the job Garry May had asked them to do. For his part, May had got it right all the way around, with his guest bookings and his use of his potent reserve pairings, a pairing that had produced the undoubted star of the show, in one Nico Covatti, who’s double 12+3 hauls, along with Jake Allen’s 8+1 in the first leg, had been a building block to the KO Cup success. Rebels skipper, Jason Doyle did what he does and provided the glue that sticks this side together, winning important races when he had to, and providing his usual reliable points scoring prowess. Richard Lawson overcame his last appearance at the Norfolk circuit, with a fantastic run, only dropping one point in his first three rides.

Garry May’s choice of guests had proved a huge success, with Chris Harris and Paul Starke both providing vital and important points, whilst Charles Wright brought the biggest cheer from the home crowd on Wednesday night and provided a stunning performance, with big blasts around the fence and getting up after a horrific looking fall to come back out to win a race and take second place to Jason Doyle in a final heat 5-1. Although we won’t know for a while what next year’s British Speedway format will look like, Garry May delighted the Rebels fans by stating that he will do everything in his power to see Wright return to the Oaktree Arena in 2019, and by his performance on Wednesday, it looks like Wright himself might just fancy that.

So the KO Cup will reside at the Oaktree Arena until next season, and whatever that season brings, the Rebels name will always be on that trophy……now let’s see about that league title.

Premiership KO Cup final two-leg statistics

First League (raced at Somerset on October 17)

Somerset Rebels 53

1. Jason Doyle - 3, 2, 2, 1, 3 = 11

2. Rider Replacement

3. Charles Wright (Guest) - 3, 3, FX, 3, 2* = 11+1

4. Richard Lawson - 0, 1, 1*, 3 = 5+1

5. Chris Harris (Guest) - 2*, EX/M, 1, 3 = 6+1

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

7. Nico Covatti - 1, 3, 1*, 2*, 3, 0, 2* = 12+3

Kings Lynn Stars 37

1. Robert Lambert - 1, 0, 3, 0, 0 = 4

2. Erik Riss - 0, 2, 2, 2* = 6+1

3. Ty Proctor - 1*, 1, 1, 1 = 4+1

4. Thomas Jorgensen - 2, 0, 3, 2 = 7

5. Niels K Iversen - 1, 3, 3, 2, 1 = 10

6. Tero Aarnio (Guest) - 2*, 0, 0, 0 = 2+1

7. Simon Lambert - 3, 0, 1*, 0 = 4+1

SCB Referee: Ronnie Allan

Heat Details

Heat 01: Doyle, Allen, R Lambert, Riss (5-1) (5-1) 56.31

Heat 02: S Lambert, Aarnio, Covatti, Allen (1-5) (6-6) 58.18

Heat 03: Wright, Jorgensen, Proctor, Lawson (3-3) (9-9) 57.50

Heat 04: Covatti, Harris, Iversen, S Lambert (5-1) (14-10) 57.31

Heat 05: Wright, Riss, Lawson, R Lambert (4-2) (18-12) 58.19

Heat 06: Iversen, Doyle, Covatti, Aarnio (3-3) (21-15) 57.31

Heat 07: Allen, Covatti, Proctor, Jorgensen (5-1) (26-16) 57.44

Heat 08: Covatti, Riss, S Lambert Wright (excluded) (3-3) (29-19) 58.32

Heat 09: Iversen, Allen, Lawson, Aarnio (3-3) (32-22) 58.32

Heat 10: Jorgensen, Doyle, Proctor, Covatti (2-4) (34-26) 58.25

Heat 11: R Lambert, Riss, Harris, Allen (1-5) (35-31) 58.06

Heat 12: Wright, Covatti, Proctor, Aarnio (5-1) (40-32) 58.69

Heat 13: Harris, Iversen, Doyle, R Lambert (4-2) (44-34) 58.37

Heat 14: Lawson, Jorgensen, Allen, S Lambert (4-2) (48-36) 59.13

Heat 15: Doyle, Wright, Iversen, R Lambert (5-1) (53-37) 59.18

Second Leg (raced at Kings Lynn on October 18)

Kings Lynn Stars = 45 (82)

1. Robert Lambert - 2, 2*, 3, 2*, 3 = 12+2

2. Erik Riss - 1*, 3, 3, 2*, 1 = 10+2

3. Ty Proctor - 2, 1, 1, 2 = 6

4. Thomas Jorgensen - FX, 3, 0, 3 = 6

5. Niels K Iversen - 1, 2, 1, 3 = 7

6. Tero Aarnio (G) - 0, 0, 2* = 2+1

7. Simon Lambert - 2, 0, 0, 0, 0 = 2

Somerset Rebels = 45 (98)

1. Jason Doyle - 3, 2, 3, 1 = 9

2. Rider Replacement

3. Paul Starke (G) - 1, 0, 1, 1, 3 = 6

4. Richard Lawson - 3, 3, 2, 0, 1, 0 = 9

5. Chris Harris (G) - 3, 1, 2*, 0, 2 = 8+1

6. Coty Garcia (G) - 0, 1, 0 = 1

7. Nico Covatti - 3, 2*, 1*, 3, 2*, 1, R = 12+3

SCB Referee: Tony Steele

Heat Results

Heat 01: Doyle, R Lambert, Riss, Garcia (3-3) (3-3) (40-56) 59.00

Heat 02: Covatti, S Lambert, Garcia, Aarnio (2-4) (5-7) (42-60) 60.83

Heat 03: Lawson, Proctor, Starke Jorgensen (fell, excluded) (2-4) (7-11) (44-64) 59.05

Heat 04: Harris, Covatti, Iversen, S Lambert (1-5) (8-16) (45-69) 60.86

Heat 05: Jorgensen, Doyle, Proctor, Starke (4-2) (12-18) (49-71) 58.70

Heat 06: Riss, R Lambert, Harris, Garcia (5-1) (17-19) (54-72) 58.73

Heat 07: Lawson, Iversen, Starke, Aarnio (2-4) (19-23) (56-76) 59.12

Heat 08: Riss, Lawson, Covatti, S Lambert (3-3) (22-26) (59-79) 59.89

Heat 09: Covatti, Harris, Proctor, Jorgensen (1-5) (23-31) (60-84) 59.85

Heat 10: R Lambert, Riss, Starke, Lawson (5-1) (28-32) (65-85) 58.65

Heat 11: Doyle, Covatti, Iversen, S Lambert (1-5) (29-37) (66-90) 59.25

Heat 12: Starke, Proctor, Covatti, S Lambert (2-4) (31-41) (68-94) 59.80

Heat 13: Iversen, R Lambert, Doyle, Harris (5-1) (36-42) (73-95) 58.98

Heat 14: Jorgensen, Aarnio, Lawson, Covatti (Ret) (5-1) (41-43) 58.85

Heat 15: R Lambert, Harris, Riss, Lawson (4-2) (45-45) (82-98) 58.34

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