Curtain comes down at the Oak Tree Arena

Somerset Rebels 44 Boycie's Boys 46 - THE Somerset Sharp Rebels brought the curtain down on a highly successful, if somewhat fraught season.

Somerset Rebels 44

Boycie's Boys 46

THE Somerset Sharp Rebels brought the curtain down on a highly successful, if somewhat fraught season with an entertaining challenge match against Boycie's Boys, who included three former Rebels in the mix of Elite, Premier and National League performers.

In the Rebels Young Shield match with Stoke the track was as slick as it had ever been at the Oak Tree Arena, but since then the track staff had put in a tremendous amount of work to produce a surface that would provide good racing.

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However the autumnal weather, combined with an almost windless day caught everyone out, making the surface heavy, but the riders coped with conditions well, and provided the crowd with some great entertainment.

The match itself was a tight affair, with never more than four points between the sides, often less, and produced a last heat decider, in which either side could have carried the day.

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In the opening two heats the sides swapped 5-1s, with Lakeside Hammers star, Kauko Nieminen, and former Rebel Jay Herne flying from the tapes in Heat 1 to take the early advantage, despite a hard chase from Steve Johnston.

Former Oak Tree favourite Danny Warwick blasted from the tapes in Heat 2, but Justin Sedgmen soon passed him, Nick Simmons was soon on his case, and took second place.

Rebels 2003 number one, Mark Lemon, got the better of Emil Kramer to take Heat 3, and the Boys took a narrow advantage as Richard Sweetman took third place. Heat 4 saw the Rebels in front after a superb 5-1 from Cory Gathercole and Nick Simmons.

The Nieminen-Herne partnership repeated their Heat 1 start in the next, with Emil Kramer being the victim on this occasion. It was not long before the Rebels repaid the debt, and Heat 6 saw them take their second 5-1 advantage. The two Steves, Johnston and Boxall, flew from the tapes to contest the early stages, but behind them Simon Walker was getting into top gear and he claimed second spot.

The Boys levelled it up, and then went back in front over the next two heats. Firstly Richard Sweetman made a superb start, leading Cary Gathercole and Mark Lemon took third to level the scores.

Jay Herne took Heat 8, after Simon Walker suffered an engine failure on the line, over Danny Warwick and Nick Simmons.

With the exception of Heat 10, the next four heats were shared. Emil Kramer took Heat 9 with a flying start, and was never troubled by the pairing of Boxall and Warwick. Mark Lemon added his second win in Heat 10, as he just got the better of Steve Johnston. Third went to Richard Sweetman, but it may have been different had Simon Walker not suffered mechanical problems, while engaged in a tight battle.

Justin Sedgmen made a great start in Heat 11, but Kauko Nieminen beat him to the drop. However Sedgmen was not phased and was soon challenging on the inside of the final bend of the lap. He just failed to get through, but he gave Nieminen a really hard time. Jay Herne, who had been on a paid maximum up to this point, took third place and another shared heat went in the book.

Justin Sedgmen was out again in the next heat, but again he had to make do with second place. This time Richard Sweetman took the win, but Sedgmen harried him all the way, and Nick Simmons took third place to keep the Rebels in the mix.

Heat 13 brought the Rebels back level with their fourth full house. Cory Gathercole and Steve Johnston taking the honours. Mark Lemon made a superb start in Heat 14 to lead from Danny Warwick. Justin Sedgmen was the early challenger to Warwick, but could not get alongside. Emil Kramer took up the chase, but Warwick kept the Swede at bay.

So rather fittingly, and in true Oak Tree Arena tradition, the Rebels final encounter of the season had come down to a last-heat decider. The advantage was with Boycie's Boys as they only needed to share the points to take the match, but the Rebels required a heat advantage to force a draw, or a full house to take the honours.

Steve Johnston did his best to make it happen as he shot off to lead, but Cory Gathercole was squeezed out in the opening turns, and the opposing pair of Lemon and Nieminen closed ranks, and held him off with some tidy team riding. and the shared heat gave Boycie and his boys the match by just two points.

From a season-long viewpoint the Rebels have had a great season. Having been written off by almost every pundit at the start of the season, they were right in the hunt for a play-off place until the end of the league season. Off track the club overcame some unforeseen problems, with injuries forcing team changes and a totally unexpected change of management just as the season was building to its climax, so with this in mind the team's on track activities are nothing short of superb.

If the bulk of this season's team can be kept together, the Rebels will have a strong base to build on for the future, and it was clear that barring any rule changes to the contrary, those riders want to be involved in that future.

In the after meeting interviews, promoter Debbie Hancock and team sponsor Mark Saunders briefly outlined the problems the club had encountered, and explained some of the plans for next year, which left no doubt that the club has a bright, and hopefully successful future. So all that's left to say is Roll on 2010.

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