Friday April 19, 2013
Just three weeks ago the ‘Case’s Somerset Rebels’ took a comfortable 16-point victory in their season opening challenge match against the Plymouth Devils, and many thought that they would repeat the dose in this League Cup group match.

However in the intervening weeks some of the Devils new guard have shown a steady improvement in form, with Ty Proctor in particular starting to get to grips with life in the Premier League, as well as piling up the points for Elite League Wolverhampton. Ricky Kling is another whose performance here was in total contrast to his previous efforts against the Rebels. This together with an under par performance by the Rebels, and a slick track combined to make this tie a much closer affair than was generally expected.

In the early stages the two sides were locked together in a series of shared heats, as the Rebels struggled to impose their authority on the match. In fact the Devils provided two of the first three heat winners, and it was Heat 4 before the home side took their first advantage.

After a week on the sidelines with concussion, Alex Davies started where he left off, with a storming all the way win in the opening heat. Jason Doyle made a poor start, and was shuffled to the back as the Devils duo put the squeeze on. Although he gave Chris Schramm a hard time for three laps, he couldn’t make an impact on the places, and eventually retired on the final turn.

Todd Kurtz once more proved that he will become an invaluable source of points in the early part of the season for the Devils, as he just got the better of a level break from the tapes to lead up. Stefan Nielsen was right on him for the whole race, but despite keeping Kurtz busy for four laps, he could not find his way to the front. Tom Perry clamped Ben Reade top the kerb in the opening turn, and should have easily taken third, but Reade was not having any of it, and pressed Perry hard, with the Rebels man only just hanging on to third at the death.

The third heat winner went to the visitors, as Ricky Kling powered around the outside of the quick starting Kyle Newman on the second turn, and took up the running on the back straight. Josh Grajczonek was last away, but was soon passing Mark Lemon off the second turn. He set off in pursuit of the front two, and by the third turn he was chasing Kling for the lead. He put in a strong challenge as they ran down the home straight to start the second lap, but could not negotiate a route to the front, and in the end Kling comfortably held him off to share the points.

The Rebels took a narrow lead in Heat 4, as they took a heat advantage for the first time. Stefan Nielsen made the best of a fairly level break, just showing to the turn, before Todd Kurtz moved around the Rebels youngster at the first bend. Nielsen was soon fending off Cory Gathercole, and as they entered the fourth turn Kurtz machine came to a dead stop, causing the other three riders to take avoiding action, with Nielsen lucky not to collect the stricken Aussie. Nick Morris was just getting into the race after a slow start, but he suffered most of all from Kurtz misfortunes, and was virtually put out of the race, destroying any chance he had of taking a win. At the front Nielsen was manfully fending off Gathercole, and rode a superb race to repel his much more experienced rival.

The Devils threw a spanner in the Rebels works as they blasted in a 1-5 advantage in the next heat, when Ty Proctor and Chris Schramm blazed off the line to leave Josh Grajczonek and Kyle Newman floundering in their wake. Try as they might the Rebels pairing could not make any ground on their rivals, leaving the Devils duo to take a most comfortable maximum advantage, and move into a 2-point lead in the tie.

The match was soon all square again, as Heat 6 went to the home side with a 4-2 advantage. That result looked unlikely as Cory Gathercole shot off the line to lead up Jason Doyle, but Doyle was soon up his inner on the turn to take up the running. Gathercole hit back down the back straight, only to see Doyle regain the lead on the outside of the final turn of the lap. Alex Davies charged after Gathercole, but despite pressuring him all the way, Gathercole stuck it out to the finish, even with Doyle trying to slow him up off the last turn, in an attempt to get Davies into second.

Another swing in fortunes followed in the very next heat, as Ricky Kling equalled his last Oak Tree Arena total score, by adding a second win to his tally on the night. He took the win in almost identical fashion to his first, as he was led up Nick Morris, before powering around the outside of the Canberra man. Morris moved wide into the dirt off the last two turns of the lap, but couldn’t find the drive he was looking for, as Kling pulled clear. Mark Lemon had been close up from the start, and took advantage of Morris’ excursion, only to see Morris regain second down the back straight, from where the race settled into the final positions, with the Devils taking the 2-4 advantage.

Last season Alex Davies seemingly had a problem with Heat 8, but this season he has put those well and truly to bed, especially at home, where he has not failed to win the heat whenever he has taken part in it, and tonight was no different, but he had to do it the hard way. The Devils had switched their rider order from the previous encounter, bringing Todd Kurtz into heat 8, and it looked to have paid dividends as he flew off the line to lead up, with Chris Schramm by his side, but they had figured without the power of the 2013 version of Alex Davies. Davies headed for the dirt, and came with a wet sail around the fence, charging past the Devils pairing as if they were not there. Once at the head of affairs he pulled clear with each turn of the wheels, taking a bloodless victory in the process. Stefan Nielsen did not make one of his better starts, and although he was clearly putting it all in, he could make no impression on the two Devils, and the heat saw the points shared.

The Rebels finally started to gain some semblance of control over the fixture, as they hammered in a maximum advantage in Heat 9. The field broke fairly level, but it was Josh Grajczonek who showed first, and when Kyle Newman clamped the challenging Cory Gathercole hard to the kerb, he gave Grajczonek the office to charge around the wide line to power into a good lead. Initially Gathercole never let Newman too far in front, keeping up the pressure on the Poole based youngster for the first two laps. Eventually Newman was able to break free of Gathercole’s clutches, putting clear air between himself and the Devils' skipper, and give the Rebels the lead for the first time since Heat 4.

Another advantage followed, adding another 2-points to the Rebels lead. As the tapes rose it was the Devils pair of Kling and Lemon who made the gate, and looking like they would level the match, but it was that man Davies who had other ideas, and he stormed to up the straight and was in front before the turn. Jason Doyle broke fairly level, but took a big lift off the line, and was immediately relegated to the rear. He recovered enough to be in a challenging position after taking to the dirt on the wide outside, only to see his run blocked off as he entered the back straight. He switched inside, and continued to press, until he found an opening on the second lap to move past Lemon, and set off after Kling, but he could never get on terms with the Swede. Davies was long gone, and the Rebels had turned a potential 5-1 against into a heat advantage that was to prove crucial.

Three shared heats followed as the Devils hung on to the Rebels shirt tails, as the home side provided two of the three winners. Heat 11 saw Nick Morris destroyed the field off the gate, charging into a lead an unassailable lead that he never looked like relinquishing. Behind him, Ty Proctor and Chris Schramm took account of Tom Perry from the tapes, and although Perry put in a pursuit, he never got in a challenging position.

The Devils switched reserves in Heat 12, bringing in Todd Kurtz for Ben Reade. Josh Grajczonek made a lightning start, and led up to the turn. Mark Lemon also made a speedy exit, and was soon pressing Grajczonek down the back straight and to the final turn of the lap. Grajczonek held firm, repelling the Lemon pressure, before opening up a secure lead, which he maintained to the flag. Stefan Nielsen couldn’t recover from a slow start, and despite considerable effort, never got into contention.

The Devils took the win in Heat 13, as they totally out gated the Rebels duo at the start. Ty Proctor took up the running from the off, with Cory Gathercole close up, and a 1-5 advantage looked on the cards. Jason Doyle was soon in pursuit of his former team mate, and at the start of the second lap he was past Gathercole and into second. Nick Morris quickly took his chance, and nipped up the inside on the second turn, to relegate Gathercole to the rear. By this time Proctor was gone, but the Rebels had recovered from a losing position to share the heat.

A heat advantage in the next heat would have seen the Rebels home, and put them in the frame for all three match points, but things didn’t go to plan, as the Devils shot off the start to lead into the first turn with a maximum advantage on the cards, and a levelled match in sight going into the final heat. As Kling led into the turn, Stefan Nielsen, who was in for Perry, having made a good start, charged past Todd Kurtz to take second spot on the tail of Kling. Kyle Newman got a terrible start, but by the final turn of the lap was challenging inside Kurtz, but the Devils reserve held his form, before Newman renewed his efforts around the opening turns of the third lap. Again Kurtz held him off, and opened a gap that was to see him home. At the front Nielsen charged after Kling, but could never get into a challenging position, and had to be content with second spot.

After a lack lustre night for some of the more prominent Rebels, the nominated heat saw the places taken by Alex Davies and Josh Grajczonek, both of whom had been superb on the night. For the visitors the obvious choice was Proctor and Kling.

With just 2-points separating the teams, it looked as though the visitors would pull off a shock victory, as the pair bolted off the line to lead up to the turn, but the Rebels pairing had been joint top scorers in the main body of the match for a reason, and they demonstrated it for all to see in the final heat. Josh Grajczonek headed for the dirt, and rode so close to the fence that he could have actually been touching it. He was last out of the gate, but his powerful run out on the boards took him past the entire field, and as he squeezed through an impossibly tight gap on the back straight, he was in the lead, blasting the Devils hope of a famous victory to smithereens.

Not to be outdone, Alex Davies charged into third spot, moving Kling to the rear. He pursued Proctor, and inexorably closed the gap, as he stuck tight to the inside line. By the end of the second lap he was on the Devils top man, and swiftly moved up his inside on the opening turn of the next lap, completely turning the heat on its head. Proctor was not giving up easily, and pressed Davies all the way to the finish, but has he had done all night Davies rode superbly to hold off the pressing Proctor, and combining with Grajczonek’s stunning victory, had given the Rebels a 6-point victory on the night. For their part the Devils had posted an unexpected away point, as some of their more prominent riders had finally started to come good. Davies and Grajczonek were both up for the ‘Rider of the Night’ award, and it must have been a close call, but the decision eventually when to Davies, although no one would have argued if it had gone the other way.

With skipper Jason Doyle and some of the other Rebels having an off night and the team dropping a match point, means that they will have to go to the St Boniface Arena tonight (Saturday), and probably have to come away with a draw or a victory to progress to the next stage of the competition.

Somerset Rebels = 48
1. Jason Doyle R, 3, 1, 2 = 6
2. Alex Davies 3, 1, 3, 3, 2* = 12+1
3. Josh Grajczonek 2, 1, 3, 3, 3 = 12
4. Kyle Newman 1*, 0, 2*, 0 = 3+2
5. Nick Morris 1, 2, 3, 1* = 7+1
6. Tom Perry 1*, 0, 0 = 1+1
7. Stefan Nielsen 2, 3, 0, 0, 2 = 7

Plymouth Devils = 42
1. Ty Proctor 2, 3, 2, 3, 1 = 11
2. Chris Schramm 1*, 2*, 1*, 1* = 5+4
3. Mark Lemon 0, 1, 0, 2 = 3
4. Ricky Kling 3, 3, 2, 3, 0 = 11
5. Cory Gathercole 2, 2, 1, 0 = 5
6. Ben Reade 0, 0, 0 = 0
7. Todd Kurtz 3, R, 2, 1*, 1 = 7+1
SCB Referee; Dave Robinson

Heat Details
Heat 01: Davies, Proctor, Schramm. Doyle (ret). (3-3) (3-3), 58.60
Heat 02: Kurtz, Nielsen, Perry, Reade. (3-3), (6-6), 59.75
Heat 03: Kling, Grajczonek, Newman, Lemon. (3-3), (9-9), 59.13
Heat 04: Nielsen, Gathercole, Morris. Kurtz (ret). (4-2), (13-11), 59.98
Heat 05: Proctor, Schramm, Grajczonek, Newman. (1-5), (14-16), 59.06
Heat 06: Doyle, Gathercole, Davies, Reade. (4-2), (18-18), 59.63
Heat 07: Kling, Morris, Lemon, Perry. (2-4), (20-22), 59.03
Heat 08: Davies, Kurtz, Schramm, Nielsen. (3-3), (23-25), 59.00
Heat 09: Grajczonek, Newman, Gathercole, Reade. (5-1), (28-26), 59.28
Heat 10: Davies, Kling, Doyle, Lemon. (4-2), (32-28), 58.91
Heat 11: Morris, Proctor, Schramm, Perry. (3-3), (35-31), 59.34
Heat 12: Grajczonek, Lemon, Kurtz, Nielsen. (3-3), (38-34), 59.34
Heat 13: Proctor, Doyle, Morris, Gathercole. (3-3), (41-37), 59.22
Heat 14: Kling, Nielsen, Kurtz, Newman. (2-4), (43-41), 59.41
Heat 15: Grajczonek, Davies, Proctor, Kling. (5-1), (48-42), 59.32

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