Saturday, April 12, 2014
The ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels looked to have a tough task on their hands against a strong looking Peterborough Panthers side, even with the visitors tracking a guest in the form of Aaron Summers, to deputise for Elite League double upper Ryan Fisher, writes Dave Thompson.
Things got even tougher after the fourth heat crash that saw Rebels skipper Ollie Allen withdraw from the meeting, after being concussed. Despite being reduced to a 6-man team so early in the piece, Somerset dug deep and produced a battling performance in an enthralling match that went all the way.
The Rebels quickly opened up a 4-point lead, taking both of the first two heats by the same 4-2 margin. Heat 1 saw Todd Kurtz produce a lightning departure from the tapes, leaving his opponents flat footed at the start. With many watching fans half expecting the red lights to flash on, Kurtz made the best of his way home, as Chris Durno’s hand stayed well away from the button. Behind Kurtz, Nick Morris had a ding dong battle with Lewis Blackbird over the opening couple of laps, before going on to claim the minor point behind second placed Aaron Summers.
Charles Wright continued his good form in Heat 2, flashing from the gate to lead before the turn. Paul Starke was slowly away, and had Ollie Greenwood to cope with in the battle for the last available point. Starke was all over Greenwood, who finished last season with several guest appearances for the Rebels. Starke tried everything, moving inside and out to find a way round the Panthers man, but to no avail, until he produced a storming run around the wide line in the closing stages of the race, to grab third on the line.
Pontus Aspgren made a good start in the next heat, as he shot from the tapes to lead, but his stay at the head of affairs was brief, with Ales Dryml hitting the front before the turn. Brady Kurtz couldn’t continue his good start to his Oak Tree Arena career, as he was slowly away, and nothing he did could buy him any ground until the race was almost done. Aspgren had to fight off a strong challenge from Ulrich Østergaard before securing second place at the flag, as the Panthers halved the Rebels lead.
Heat 4 saw the Rebels dealt a heavy blow to their chances of taking this tie, as they lost Ollie Allen after just one lap. Ollie Greenwood bolted off the tapes to lead up Allen, who was then passed by Lasses Bjerre on the second turn, before taking the place back at the next. Allen was closing on Greenwood as they entered the next lap, when half way round the bend, Greenwood’s chain broke, and his machine reared out of control, leaving Allen nowhere to go, and the pair took hefty falls. Whilst Greenwood was up quickly, Allen was down for some time, before walking into the ambulance, eventually having to withdraw from the meeting with concussion.
In the re-run Charles Wright replaced Allen, and as the tapes rose he blasted clear of Bjerre, to lead all the way. Bjerre challenged inside the second turn as he moved the Stockport man wide, but Wright had it all under control, and pulled clear again from the second lap to take the points for the Rebels.
Two shared heats followed as the Panthers put the brakes on the Rebels progress. Brady Kurtz collared the fast starting Lewis Blackbird before the turn, and was followed through by Pontus Aspgren, who came charging around the outside of the opening curves. As Aspgren took up the running, Blackbird powered after Kurtz, catching and passing him on the outside of the back straight of Lap 2. With the Rebels now down to a 4-2 advantage Aaron Summers gradually closed on Kurtz, and produced a big run off the final turn, to grab third on the line, and share the points. After running two last places, Brady Kurtz problems were traced to his machine, and a move to his second bike was to see a change in fortune next time out.
Heat 6 was called back just as the riders reached the turn, after the tapes had risen unevenly, leaving at least one rider at a disadvantage. In the re-run the Lasse Bjerre flashed from the tapes to lead up the Rebels duo of Todd Kurtz and Nick Morris. Kurtz got his nose in front of the young Dane as he barrelled around the wide line on the second bend, but his lead was to last just one lap, with Bjerre retaking the lead on the back straight next time round. Once back at the front Bjerre easily took the win, and shared the points.
The Rebels duo of Wright and Starke were beaten to the drop in Heat 7, and Ulrich Østergaard and Ales Dryml shot from the tapes to lead all the way for a 5-1, which tied the scores at 21-21.
There was more woe to follow for the Rebels as they went behind for the first time in the very next heat. The heat was called back again as the tapes took an erratic route to the top of the starting gate for the second time. The restart saw Lewis Blackbird make the best of a fairly level break to lead into the turn from Charles Wright. Todd Kurtz was last away, and could not get back on terms with Ollie Greenwood in third. Despite some hard chasing from Wright, Blackbird pulled well clear to score a bloodless victory, with Greenwood giving the Panthers the points.
The questions the Panthers posed of the Rebels were answered immediately, as Brady Kurtz overcame his earlier sluggish start, as he blazed off the line along side Pontus Aspgren. With Kurtz taking the outer route around the turn, he took up the running coming out of the second turn. They held a comfortable lead until Lasse Bjerre came with a big run at the death, but his rapid progress came to nothing as the Rebels pair had it all under control, posting their first ‘full house’ of the night to regain a slender lead.
They followed this up with another maximum advantage in Heat 10, with Todd Kurtz jetting off the tapes alongside Ales Dryml, grabbing the lead in a tight first turn. Ulrich Østergaard came through to second off the second bend, followed quickly by Nick Morris. From the next turn, Østergaard and Morris beat each other up, first one, then the other taking second spot. The pair delivered an action-packed fight as they battled for supremacy, before Morris took control as they entered the final lap, to give the Rebels a 6-point lead in the tie.
If the Rebels fans thought that the Panthers were beaten they were sadly mistaken, as the ‘Big Cat’ roared again in the very next race. The field broke level, but it was the Panthers pairing of Blackbird and Summers hit the front into the bend. The pair looked to have the heat well tied up, but they reckoned without Charles Wright. Wright closed on Summers, probing at the rear wheel of the Panthers stand in Number one. As they approached the third lap, he was challenging Summers down the wide outside, but a quick switch of line as they entered the turn, saw him bamboozle Summers with a neat inside move that saw him spoil the Panthers party.
The points were shared over the next three heats, setting up a last heat decider. Heat 12 started with another level break, but it was the 2012 European Champion, Ales Dryml, who hit the front in the turn. Charles Wright came out of the bunch to challenge Dryml wide on the second turn, before cutting back for an inside run at the next. His run took him to the front, but Dryml answered immediately coming back around the outside on the home straight. Brady Kurtz took third, holding off the early challenge of Joe Jacobs to retain his place. After the second lap the race settled with the points divided between both teams.
Nick Morris made a blinding start in Heat 13, only to be called back again due to the irregular tape rise. With the tapes behaving correctly, Morris replayed his earlier flying departure, bolting to the turn in front, with Lasse Bjerre and Aaron Summers in his wake. Bjerre provided an early challenge, which petered out as they entered the second lap, and that was the race run, as Morris streaked away to comfortably land the win, with the Panthers filling the places.
Ulrich Østergaard shot off the line to lead up Heat 14. Charles Wright wasn’t too far away and just failed to grab the lead into the turn. Pontus Aspgren took up the challenge after the second lap, but despite getting close to the flying Dane, he couldn’t find the drive to go by, and for the third successive race the points were shared.
With the match still in the balance, the Rebels just needed to avoid a Panthers full house to take the tie, with a maximum of their own giving them a full 4-point victory. The latter option went into the wind as Nick Morris missed the gate and was last away. Ales Dryml led up from Pontus Aspgren. The Rebels man had Ulrich Østergaard on his tail, but was holding off his challenges, until the first turn of the penultimate lap. With Aspgren looking for extra drive to cement his second spot and give the Rebels the win, he moved slightly wider into the turn leaving a very small gap inside. It might not have been much of an opening, but Østergaard has never needed much of an invitation, and he drove hard through the gap to snatch second place from Aspgren’s grasp. Try as he might, Aspgren could not get back on terms, as Østergaard’s momentum carried him clear of the battling Swede, snatching a last gasp draw for the Panthers, as their ‘Full House’ levelled the scores at 45-45.
The watching fans had been treated to a highly entertaining match, with some great racing, highlighted by Heat 10. Charles Wright, with a top scoring 14+1 from seven rides was the star of the show for the ‘Case’s’ Somerset Rebels, with his performance earning him the Rider of the Night’ award, presented by a party from Mole Valley Farmers Ltd.
Not far behind, and not for the first time this season, Pontus Aspgren posted another useful return, with 10+1. His performances so far this season are suggesting that the longer he is at the Oak Tree Arena, the more he will prove to be a very useful addition to the Rebels ranks.
Todd Kurtz performance made up for last week’s machine related problems, and he looked fast all night, whilst the mechanical issue looked to have transferred to younger brother Brady, until a machine switch brought better fortune. Having said that, a combined 17+3 over the last two home meetings is still an impressive return for one so young in his first full Premier League season. Nick Morris had an up and down night, starting slowly, before posting two wins, and ending by running a last in the nominated heat.
For the Panthers Ales Dryml came back to form with a bang, as he posted 11+1, ably supported by his race partner, Ulrich Østergaard, who recorded a useful 10+1.
The Rebels take to the road today (Saturday 12th April), as they visit Hoddesdon to do combat with the ‘old enemy’ the Rye House Rockets. With the Rockets having a bit of an inconsistent start to the season, the Rebels may have expected to take some useful points from the encounter, but if Ollie Allen’s crash prevents his participation at a track he rode all last season, the task will be so much harder.
Somerset – 45
1. Nick Morris - 1, 1*, 3, 3, 0 - 8+1
2. Todd Kurtz - 3, 2, 0, 2* - 7+1
3. Brady Kurtz - 0, 0, 3, 1* - 4+1
4. Pontus Aspgren - 2, 3, 2*, 2, 1 - 10+1
5. Ollie Allen (C) – WITHDRAWN
6. Charles Wright - 3, 3, 1, 2, 2, 2, 1* - 14+1
7. Paul Starke - 1, 1, 0, 0 – 2
Peterborough – 45
1. Aaron Summers (G) - 2, 1*, 1, 1* - 5+2
2. Lewis Blackbird - 0, 2, 3, 3 - 8
3. Ales Dryml - 3, 2*, 0, 3, 3 - 11+1
4. Ulrich Østergaard (C) - 1, 3, 1, 3, 2* - 10+1
5. Lasse Bjerre - 2, 3, 1, 2 - 8
6. Joe Jacobs - 2, 0, 0, 0 – 2
7. Oliver Greenwood - 0, EX, 1, 0 - 1
SCB Ref: Chris Durno
Heat 01: Todd Kurtz, Summers, Morris, Blackbird (4-2) (4-2) 58.19
Heat 02: Wright, Jacobs, Starke, Greenwood (4-2) (8-4) 58.82
Heat 03: Dryml, Aspgren, Østergaard, Brady Kurtz (2-4) (10-8) 58.63
Heat 04: (Rerun) Wright (for Allen), Bjerre, Starke, Greenwood (exl) (4-2) (14-10) 58.81
Heat 05: Aspgren, Blackbird, Summers, Brady Kurtz (3-3) (17-13) 58.78
Heat 06: (Rerun) Bjerre, Todd Kurtz, Morris, Jacobs (3-3) (20-16) 58.56
Heat 07: Østergaard, Dryml, Wright, Starke (1-5) (21-21) 58.94
Heat 08: (Rerun) Blackbird, Wright, Greenwood, Todd Kurtz (2-4) (23-25) 58.81
Heat 09: Brady Kurtz, Aspgren, Bjerre, Jacobs (5-1) (28-26) 59.15
Heat 10: Morris, Todd Kurtz, Østergaard, Dryml (5-1) (33-27) 59.12
Heat 11: Blackbird, Wright, Summers, Starke (2-4) (35-31) 59.18
Heat 12: Dryml, Wright, Brady Kurtz, Jacobs (3-3) (38-34) 59.22
Heat 13: (Rerun) Morris, Bjerre, Summers, Starke (3-3) (41-37) 59.37
Heat 14: Østergaard, Aspgren, Wright, Greenwood (3-3) (44-40) 59.41
Heat 15: Dryml, Østergaard, Aspgren, Morris (1-5) (45-45) 59.19