SGB Premiership
Somerset Rebels 45, Wolverhampton Wolves 44
League points: Somerset 3, Wolverhampton 1

THE ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels continued their outside push for a place in the title-deciding Play-Offs with this narrowest of wins over defending league champions Wolverhampton, writes Ian Belcher.

The match had just about everything, including four final heats which will live long in the memory of all Somerset fans who were at the Oaktree Arena on Wednesday night.

The match started in the worse possible way for the Rebels as Wolves cruised to an opening heat 5-1 maximum, but a heat later Somerset were back on level terms as Lewis Kerr and Jake Allen responded with a 5-1 race win of their own.

By the end of the opening third of the match, Wolverhampton had eked out a four-point lead, but Somerset restored parity in the sixth heat, when Richard Lawson and Cameron Heeps raced away to the Rebels' second maximum heat win of the night.

From thereon in, there was nothing between the two sides until Somerset got their noses in front for the first time in the match in heat nine, but two heats later and it was the visitors who led affairs, albeit by a narrow two-point margin.

But all that went before paled into insignificance with the events of the final four heats, the first of which saw Somerset ride unopposed to a 5-0 heat win when both Wolverhampton riders were excluded from the race for separate incidents, the upshot of which put Somerset back into the lead 37-34.

After racing away to three largely untroubled race wins, Wolves number 1 Fredrick Lindgren finally had his colours lowered in heat 13, when Rebels skipper Josh Grajczonek produced an amazing burst of speed to pass the Grand Prix star as the riders took to the third bend on the opening lap.

With Grajczonek going on to leave Lindgren trailing in his wake, and with Richard Lawson picking up the point for third place, Somerset were now five points to the good with just two heats remaining.

But this match was not finished yet, as in heat 14 Wolverhampton’s Jacob Thorssell hit the front from the tapes, but with the Rebels of Allen and Hougaard packing in for the minor places, a 3-3 score would have seen Somerset virtually assured of victory.

But sensing he had a chance of passing Thorssell on the final lap for the lead, Allen over-cooked things and came to grief, for which he was duly excluded, the resultant 4-2 to the visitors bringing them back to within three points of Somerset.

As the riders came to the tapes for the final race, the Somerset pair of Grajczonek and Charles Wright knew that anything other than a maximum 5-1 race win for Wolves would see the Rebels take a famous victory.

Lindgren sped away from the tapes, but behind him it was a battle royale between the Somerset pair and Wolverhampton’s Thorssell, trading places in numerous occasions, before Grajczonek finally secured second place on the final lap to ensure victory for the Rebels.

Rebels team manager Garry May said afterwards: “This match had just about everything you could ever wish from a meeting.

“I think I went through every emotion possible over the course of the match and those last four heats were really something else!

“But the Somerset boys were determined that they were not going to be denied and they deserve massive praise for the way they kept on at Wolves in order to secure the win.

“Each and every one of the lads paid a crucial part tonight, and a look at our side of the scorechart will tell you that this was a complete, all-round, team performance, where they had to dig deep at time, but dig deep they did, and they got their just rewards!”

Somerset (45): Josh Grajczonek 8+1, Lewis Kerr 7+1, Richard Lawson 7, Patrick Hougaard 7, Cameron Heeps 6+2, Charles Wright 6, Jake Allen 4+2.
Wolverhampton (44): Freddie Lindgren 14, Jacob Thorssell 12, Kyle Howarth 10+2, Rory Schlein 5, Nathan Greaves 3+1, Ellis Perks 0, Sam Masters R/R.

The Rebels, who stay fifth in the Premiership table but are just three points off fourth with one match in hand, host bottom side Leicester on Monday, August 14 (shown live on BT Sport).

They then face a double-header against Swindon - away on Thursday, August 17 and home on Friday, August 18.