Speedway: Somerset Rebels 54 Eastbourne 36
PUBLISHED: 09:40 25 May 2019 | UPDATED: 09:40 25 May 2019
Somerset Rebels opened their home league season with a comfortable win over Eastbourne.
Eliminated from the SGB Championship KO Cup by Redcar in the first round, the Cases Rebels had claimed a fantastic 50-40 win at Scunthorpe in their first league meeting of the campaign.
And having beaten the Eagles 52-38 in the Championship Shield at Oaktree a month earlier, they earned another home success over their rivals.
The Eagles brought in Connor Coles as a guest and reshuffled their order after Tom Brennan was ruled out with a broken leg.
The points from the first two heats were evenly spread, with the Eagles providing both winners.
Todd Kurtz trapped quickly and held off Edward Kennett to the turn, whilst Rory Schlein accounted for Alfie Bowtell, before pressing Kennett on the run to the third bend.
Running into the first turn on the following lap, Kennett powered by Kurtz and proceeded to pull away to take an easy win, with the Rebels pair filling the places.
Georgie Wood shot from the line like a scalded cat in Heat 2 but was soon challenged by Anders Rowe, who kept Wood under pressure over the opening two laps.
But Wood gradually eased away, controlling the race nicely to the flag while Henry Atkins was slowly away but was up into third place before the opening lap was completed, a place he held comfortably to the conclusion.
The Rebels took the initiative in heat 3, as they posted the first of many heat advantages onto the scoresheet.
Lewis Kerr just made the turn in front of Nico Covatti but the Rebels man was right on his shoulder and as they approached the final turn of the lap, Covatti slipped through the inside to lead.
For a while, Covatti couldn't shake off Kerr, who pressed for some time but eventually, he was able to pull away from his opponent, going on to take the flag with something to spare.
Valentin Grobauer made a tardy start but was soon on the chase and before halfway round the second lap, he had demoted Ben Morley to last place.
Disaster struck Atkins in heat 4 as the field ran into the second turn and, in trying to make up ground, he clipped the back wheel of Coles' machine, taking a tough looking fall in the process.
After a while he got to his feet, walking back to the pits under his own steam, although he was clearly bothered. The outcome, in addition to being excluded, was a dislocated shoulder and a trip to the hospital, forcing him to withdraw from taking any further part in the meeting.
The rerun went to Rebels skipper, Chris Harris, who flew around the wide line in the opening curves to account for the fast starting Coles and Richard Lawson. Once Harris was at the head of affairs the race was as a spectacle, as he pulled further away, the further they went.
Grobauer made up for his earlier slow start, flashing off the tapes to lead every yard of heat 5 as Kennett, no slouch himself, had no answer to 'The Rocket' but had a very good view of his back all the way to the chequered flag.
Covatti held a comfortable third place to the line, despite his machine seemingly faltering in the late stages.
Schlein found his gating boots in the next, hitting the front before the turn, with Lawson giving chase. Try as he might, Lawson couldn't get on terms, as Schlein eased to the win. Kurtz was holding an easy third spot when Wood fell on his own but was quickly up to allow the race to run to completion.
Kerr made a terrific gate in heat 7, leading well before the first curve and over the rest of the lap. At the bend, Harris was a way back but quickly settled on the wide outside and came barrelling around the first two bends of the second lap to close down Kerr like a freight train.
As they came off the bend, Harris cleverly cut back to power up Kerr's inner to grab the lead. Although Kerr tried to fight back, Harris had it all in hand, holding the former Rebel to the flag. The points were shared as Morley accounted for Rowe for third place.
Rowe didn't have long to think about it, as he was back out in the next heat, as a replacement for Atkins and Kurtz was first away, followed to the turn by Coles and Rowe.
Down the back straight, Rowe lost his place to Bowtell but didn't allow him to get away. As they approached the final turn of the lap, Bowtell made an error and Rowe was back through into third.
With Kurtz away at the front, Rowe rode a terrific race to reel in Coles over the next couple of laps, catching him and carving through his inside as the rounded up the penultimate lap. That was job done for the Rebels duo, as they posted the first home maximum of the night, to lead by 10 points 29-19.
Over the next three heats, the Rebels increased their lead to 18 points, putting them on the cusp of the win, as the scores stood at 42-24.
Firstly Covatti got the better of a tight duel to the first turn, with Lawson as Grobauer made an appalling start but soon put that behind him as he accounted for Wood early in the piece.
Once Covatti was in the van, he pulled away to win with some in hand, from Lawson and Grobauer. Wood got no further than the second lap before retiring at the rear.
A second maximum heat win followed, with Kurtz making the best of a level break with Morley and Schlein, who made it to second place as the completed the lap and from there on it was all Rebels, aided and abetted by Morley hampering Kerr badly late on in the race.
Kerr had a very close up look at the safety fence, and fell a long way behind, before retiring as the rest of the field concluded the race.
Kennett made a great start in heat 11, with the rest of the riders, headed by Harris, in his wake.
Harris dropped back and moved across to the outside, from gate 2, before charging around the whole field on the widest of lines, to power to the front, a position he held to the flag despite all of Kennett's efforts.
Bowtell had narrowly taken third in the early stages but Rowe was having none of it. He powered after Bowtell and harried him all the way. By the end of the second lap, he was pressing hard, taking an opportunity to execute a neat inside pass as they started the second last lap.
Eagles introduced Lawson as a tactical substitute in heat 12, replacing Wood, and it produced one of the races of the night.
Grobauer made a lightning start to lead up Lawson to the bend but Lawson was never far away, and over the next three laps, the pair raced neck and neck, with first one and then the other heading the field.
Lawson made several attempts on the lead but every time he edged a wheel in front the determined Grobauer fought back and regained first place, making the decisive move on lap 3, before cementing his win. Kerr took third place to share the points and put an end to the Rebels run of winning heats.
The Eagles took their one and only heat advantage in heat 13 when Kennett outran the field to the turn. Once there he made no mistake, leaving the rest floundering in his wake.
Harris was left flat-footed out of the gate but soon had it all rolling along nicely as he quickly made Lawson his first victim exiting the second turn and then shot past his partner Schlein on the back straight.
Schlein was back in second, inside the next turn, but a lap later it was Harris giving chase to Kennett as Schlein slowed before eventually pulling up and retiring as his machine gave up the ghost. Kennett was in the wind, leaving Harris chasing his shadow. With Schlein out of the race, the Eagles took the heat.
Morley made a rocket start to the next heat, only to see Covatti come with a wet sail around the dirt line to lead into the back straight. Rowe, who had got away in third in front of Coles, closed down on Morley and was pressing him all four laps. Morley couldn't shake Rowe off but just held on to grab second place at the flag.
The final race ended with the points shared as Harris made a whirlwind start to lead all the way, with Kennett, Covatti and Lawson contesting a level break.
The trio were still locked together into the second bend, with Covatti the meat in the sandwich. Unfortunately for the Argentinian champion, he was squeezed out in a pincer movement from the Eagles duo and could not recover from the manoeuvre.
Covatti was chasing hard but his bike started going sick, causing him to retire as they started the final lap.
The final scoreline, 54-36 to the Rebels, belied some of the terrific racing that had taken place, with some fantastic battles throughout the fields.
Top scorer for the visitors was their skipper Kennett with 11+1, including two heat wins. He was supported by Lawson who posted an 11-point haul, with the only other heat win for Eagles coming from Wood in heat 2.
For the Rebels, the whole team contributed some good points. Harris, who for the second week dropped just one point, topped the scorecard with his 14-point haul. Also for the second successive week, he deservedly carried off the Somerset 'Rider of the Night' award, chosen by the Meeting sponsors Mike Atkins Financial Management.
Covatti, Kurtz and Grobauer all added good tallies, with 10, 9 and 8 points respectively and mention should go to the busy Rowe, who posted a 6+1 from his own rides and whilst deputising for the unfortunate Atkins.
Cases Somerset Rebels will next see action, back at the Oaktree Arena, next Wednesday (May 29), when the Scunthorpe Scorpions provide the opposition.
With Harris on World Longtrack duty, former Rebel and fans favourite Charles Wright will step in to cover for the Rebels skipper.