Monday, June 16, 2014
The ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels came into the second leg of this Premier League KO Cup quarter-final with a mountain to climb, writes Dave Thompson.
A mountain in the shape of a 40-point deficit from the first leg of this encounter. The Rebels were at full strength, as they were when the two teams met in early May, when the Rebels beat Ipswich 67-27 in their Premier League Cup Group match. For their part the Ipswich Witches fielded two guests, Claus Vissing deputised for Richie Worrall, whilst Nathan Greaves fulfilled the same function for Adam Ellis, as both Witches were required to ride for their Elite League sides.
Whilst the Rebels have hit 60-points in recent matches, and beaten teams by 40-points or more, the Witches have improved somewhat since their last visit to the Oak Tree Arena Tree Arena, so another 40-points victory over the Witches may not be as easy to come by.
The Rebels needed to make a flying start, and as the tapes rose on Heat 1, Charles Wright shot from the gate, followed by Nick Morris, with things looking set fair for an opening maximum. Claus Vissing was first to challenge, as he moved out wide into the dirt line, but his run came to nothing, and when the dust settled on the opening turns he was at the rear. Cameron Heeps was never far away and quickly pressed Morris as they approached the fourth turn, and when Morris made a tiny error in the same place on the next lap, he was through, denying the Rebels the full house they were looking for.
Nathan Greave looked to have given the visitors the win in the second heat, as he led up from the start, with the remaining three riders close up. Paul Starke was on the outside of the group, and as they approached the turn, the field tightened up, and Starke, ran out of room and took a fall as they entered the turn. He was quickly on his feet, and walking back to the pits, as the referee called all four back to the start. In the re-run it was Kurtz who was quickly way, leading up to the turn. Starke was again caught on the outside, and this time he stayed upright, but had his run blocked by Ritchie Hawkins, who then moved past Nathan Greaves into second place. As Kurtz pulled clear to take an easy victory, Starke never recovered, despite closing on Greaves in the latter stages of the race, and the points were shared.
The Witches levelled the scores in Heat 3, as they took their first advantage of the night. Brady Kurtz fell out of the traps, as Gino Manzares just got the better of Pontus Aspgren to the turn. Kurtz recovered quickly enough to put in a run up the inside of Morten Risager around the fourth turn, and into the second lap, but once the Dane had beaten him off, he never got in another blow. Risager continued his run, moving past Aspgren and then into the lead, putting the visitors on a precious 5-1 of their own, but Aspgren was pressing Manzares hard. The further they went the more Aspgren pressed, but didn’t look like he could make progress, until he dived hard under Manzares in the final turn of the race to grab second spot, and minimise the damage to the Rebels prospects of progressing.
Heat 4 was shared, but was full of incident before the race even got underway. First Paul Starke had bike problems, and got to the line very late in the countdown, using Todd Kurtz machine. Then Rohan Tungate’s machine gave up the ghost, and as he was receiving a push start from the starting marshals the two minutes ran out and he was excluded. With Tungate now off 15 metres, the Rebels took full advantage, with Ollie Allen and Starke getting the better of Ritchie Hawkins from the gate. As Allen took the lead, Hawkins pressured Starke, and on the second lap he made a nice move up the inside of the Worcester man to grab second off the third turn. By this time Tungate had seen off his penalty and was all over Starke, who was fending him off for his life, but Tungate finally got the upper hand, with a big run on the final lap paying dividends, as he overhauled Starke on the run to the line.
The visitors moved into the lead in the very next heat, which they took by a maximum advantage, in a start of differing fortunes. Whilst Cameron Heeps and Claus Vissing were quick off the tapes, the Rebels duo of Brady Kurtz and Pontus Aspgren made a slow getaway, and never got in a position to deliver a challenge to the visiting pair, who pulled well clear, with Vissing taking the win. It was a result, which in truth sealed the Rebels fate, even though it was still mathematically possible for the home side to progress. However that would mean that Ipswich would have to concede several races where they did not have a finisher, and lose the remainder 5-1.
Nick Morris made a real hash of the start in Heat 5, moving before the tapes rose, and was then caught on his heels when they did go up. Rohan Tungate took advantage of Morris’s error as he broke quickly from the start. No sooner had he hit the front, he was swallowed up as Charles Wright came storming around the wide line to take the lead. With Wright heading the field down the back straight, Nathan Greaves got it all wrong in the second turn, and came down, but the race continued until the field were almost on him again, and the red lights came on he just as he got off the track.
With Greaves excluded the riders tried again, but this time the eager Tungate smashed through the tapes, and had to serve his second 15 metre penalty of the night. In the second re-start Nick Morris led up, but gave way to a charging Charles Wright down the back straight. Tungate gradually closed the gap, and was right on the back wheel of Morris over the final lap, but despite a valiant effort could not find a way into second place, and the Rebels levelled the scores at 18-18.
The respite was a brief one for the Rebels, with the Witches taking Heat 7, by a margin of 2-4. Ollie Allen got the better of a level break, leading into the turn, but as they ran down the back straight Gino Manzares moved up his inside, and in a neat move on the third turn, he moved into the lead. Allen never let him get far ahead, and was all over the back of him for the rest of the race. Allen explored all the liners around the Highbridge circuit, moving inside and out to find an opening, but it never came, and Manzares bravely held him off to the line. With Morten Risager seeing off Todd Kurtz, the Witches took a 2-point advantage on the night, and there 20-22 finally made it mathematically impossible for the Rebels to gain a place in the semi-final.
Charles Wright probably produced the ride of the night in Heat 8, with a stunning opening lap that had the crowd cheering him home. The field broke level, with Wright on the outside, but he got a huge lift on the run to the turn, which handed the advantage to the visiting duo of Cameron Heeps and Ritchie Hawkins. Once Wright had his machine under control he charged into the turn, and headed straight out for the dirt. Hurtling around the opening bends, and powering past Cameron Heeps down the back straight in the process. His run took him almost alongside Hawkins, and into a challenging position as the pair hit the third turn, but Hawkins kept it wound on, and as they came off the final bend he moved wider still. By this time Wright was pressing on, and almost collected Hawkins back wheel, but quick as a flash he cut back underneath, and flew past the former Rebel on the inside. From his position on the run to the opening turn of the first lap Wright had no right get to get to the front of the field, but he had done so by producing an opening lap that had the crowd gasping. Once he was at the head of affairs he pulled away to take an easy win. Paul Starke pressed for third place, but never really got in a blow.
Heat 9 was a quiet affair in comparison, with Rohan Tungate taking the advantage from a level break. Brady Kurtz and Pontus Aspgren chased hard, but never got to terms with the flying Tungate, and the heat was shared.
Heat 10 followed a similar pattern, as again the field broke level. Once again it was an Ipswich rider who finally took advantage, with Morten Risager passing early leader Charles Wright down the back straight. Gino Manzares was last away, and retired before the rider reached the third turn, leaving the Rebels to share the points.
The home side moved back into the lead after taking a maximum advantage in Heat 11. Ollie Allen made a fast start, but was pressed at the front by Claus Vissing. As they hit the turn Allen took the wide line, stopping Vissing’s run in the process. Todd Kurtz was quick to take advantage of the big hole up the inside, as he moved into second behind Allen. Vissing recovered from his trip to the Somerset hinterland, and charged after Kurtz, pressuring him all the way. Despite Vissing’s pressure, Kurtz held firm, countering every move and riding a superb race to keep the flying Dane at bay.
Kurtz was quickly back to the track as he replaced Paul Starke in the next heat. Morten Risager and Brady Kurtz broke together, with the Somerset man leading before the turn. Todd Kurtz took second place up the inside of Risager, only to be demoted back to third off the final bend. As the field rounded the second bend on the next lap, Nathan Greaves took a big lift and careered straight out to the fence, hitting it just beyond the end of the air-fence. He struck it with such force that he completely destroyed a section, and uprooted two fence posts in the process. It was a terrible looking fall, and Greaves had to be extracted from the tangle of fence and machine. Amazingly he was up and able to walk back to the pits, to great applause from the crowd. The fence was so badly damaged that it took the track staff 25 minutes to repair, but they did such a good job the meeting was able to continue without further delay. Greaves was excluded, and the race awarded.
Ollie Allen and Nick Morris broke in front in Heat 13. Allen led out of the opening turn, but Morris had Claus Vissing up his exhaust pipe, and off the second bend Vissing was through the inside. Morris cut back to the inside, regaining second off the final turn of the lap, but it was short lived, with Vissing repeating his first lap move in the same place this time round. Once through into second, Vissing never gave Morris another chance, and the race finished 4-2, with Allen in a comfortable lead.
The Rebels hit the maximum advantage in the penultimate heat, when Todd Kurtz got up the inside of the fast starting Gino Manzares, and pulled away. Pontus Aspgren pressed Manzares down the back straight, but could not find a route into second spot. He probed away at the American, until he came with a long smooth wide run on the final lap, before cutting back off the final two turns to take second place at the flag.
The nominated heat saw the thoroughly deserved inclusion of Charles Wright and Todd Kurtz for the Rebels, whilst the Witches tracked Morten Risager and Claus Vissing. At the tape rise it was Risager and Wright who made the early running, with the Ipswich man just getting the better of Wright as he moved him wide in the opening turns. Todd Kurtz was next away, but Vissing was soon up his inside as the pair exited the second bend. Vissing moved to challenge Wright on the back straight, but couldn’t find a way into second. For his part, Wright closed Risager down, putting him under pressure off the final turn off the lap. Kurtz was back on Vissing’s back wheel, and pressed hard for the whole race, with Vissing having to work very hard to hold him off. Meanwhile Risager had to repel a strong challenge from Wright, who came with storming run on the final lap, which just failed to produce the goods for the Somerset man.
The final result was a Rebels win of 49-41, but it was the Witches who progressed to the Semi-Final of the KO Cup, by the aggregate score of 74-106, with the damage being done in the first leg at Foxhall. Despite the Rebels not going through, the ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels and the Ipswich Witches had treated the crowd to a highly entertaining meeting, with some superb racing being produced from both sides.
Morten Risager, who had missed the team’s previous encounter at the Oak Tree Arena, top scored for the Witches, with 12-points, and was ably backed up by former Rebel, Claus Vissing, on 7-points. Top of the list for the Rebels was Charles Wright, who produced a superb 13-point tally, with Ollie Allen backing up with 11-points. Todd Kurtz also weighed in with 9+1. Wright’s performance earned him the ‘Rider of the Night’ award from Nick Wellstead of the ‘Utilities Advice Bureau’.
The Rebels now concentrate on their Premier League campaign, with a trip to Newcastle on Sunday, and a home fixtyre against Glasgow next Friday.
Somerset - 49 (74)
1. Nick Morris 1, 2*, 1*, 1 = 5+2
2. Charles Wright 3, 3, 3, 2, 2 = 13
3. Brady Kurtz 0, 0, 2, 3 = 5
4. Pontus Aspgren 2, 1, 1*, 2* = 6+2
5. Oliver Allen 3, 2, 3, 3 = 11
6. Todd Kurtz 3, 0, 2*, 1, 3, 0 = 9+1
7. Paul Starke 0, 0, 0 = 0
Ipswich - 41 (106)
1. Claus Vissing (G) 0, 3, 1, 2, 1 = 7
2. Cameron Heeps 2, 2*, 2, 0 = 6+1
3. Morten Risager 3, 1, 3, 2, 3 = 12
4. Gino Manzares 1, 3, R, 1 = 5
5. Rohan Tungate 1*, 1, 3, 0 = 5+1
6. Nathan Greaves (G) 1*, Flx, 0, Flx = 1+1
7. Ritchie Hawkins 2, 2, 1*, 0 = 5+1
SCB Referee: Dale Entwistle
Heat 01: Wright, Heeps, Morris, Vissing (4-2) (4-2) 57.81
Heat 02: (Re-run) Todd Kurtz, Hawkins, Greaves, Starke (3-3) (7-5) 57.68
Heat 03: Risager, Aspgren, Manzares, Brady Kurtz (2-4) (9-9) 58.19
Heat 04: Allen, Hawkins, Tungate (15 metres – 2mins), Starke (3-3) (12-12) 58.28
Heat 05: Vissing, Heeps, Aspgren, Brady Kurtz (1-5) (13-17) 56.84
Heat 06: (Re-run x 2) Wright, Morris, Tungate (15 metres – Tapes), Greaves (Flx) (5-1) (18-18) 58.32
Heat 07: Manzares, Allen, Risager, Todd Kurtz (2-4) (20-22) 58.47
Heat 08: Wright, Heeps, Hawkins, Starke (3-3) (23-25) 58.66
Heat 09: Tungate, Brady Kurtz, Aspgren, Greaves (3-3) (26-28) 57.60
Heat 10: Risager, Wright, Morris, Manzares (Ret) (3-3) (29-31) 58.81
Heat 11: Allen, Todd Kurtz, Vissing, Heeps (5-1) (34-32) 57.62
Heat 12: Brady Kurtz, Risager, Todd Kurtz, Greaves (Flx) (4-2) (38-34) Awarded
Heat 13: Allen, Vissing, Morris, Tungate (4-2) (42-36) 58.69
Heat 14: Todd Kurtz, Aspgren, Manzares, Hawkins (5-1) (47-37) 59.75
Heat 15: Risager, Wright, Vissing, Todd Kurtz (2-4) (49-41) 59.32