Cases Somerset Rebels have gained early advantages in both the Premier League play-offs and their League Cup semi-final after back-to-back home wins over Newcastle Diamonds at the Oaktree Arena last night.
The Rebels hosted the Diamonds in a bumper double-header of speedway, beating them 53-37 in their first play-off group match before claiming a 50-40 advantage in the first leg of their League Cup semi.
The play-off encounter was first up, and Somerset started well with heat advantages in the opening two heats and race wins courtesy of Jason Doyle and Kyle Newman.
But by the conclusion of the next two heats, Newcastle had restore parity, though the Rebels contributed greatly to their own downfall.
First Jesper Monberg was excluded for a tapes infringement in heat three, replaced by Kyle Newman in the re-run, while Claus Vissing suffered the same fate in heat four, with the Somerset team management electing to start the Dane of a 15-metre handicap.
Taking full advantage of the opportunity handed to them, Newcastle ran in a maximum race win in heat four to bring the scores level at 15-15, but with Jason Doyle and Alex Davies posting a maximum race win of their own in heat six, it took Somerset back into a four-point lead, Davies making light of a hard move by Lindgren in the first turn to pass the Swede on the second lap to join his skipper up front.
Once again the visitors hit back, cutting that deficit in half in heat eight, Somerset’s Alex Davies reducing the potential damage as he overcame a poor start to pass Newcastle’s Claes Nedermark on the last lap to take second place from the Dane.
Two further heat advantages for the Rebels followed in heats nine and 10, Monberg and Doyle taking the race wins, but with the next two heats showing a share of the spoils, it left the Rebels just six points to the good with just three heats remaining, and the Diamonds in with a chance of taking something from the match in what is expected to be a keenly contested play-off group.
Those fears were alleviated somewhat in heat 13 when Doyle and Vissing combed for a 5-1 maximum race win, Doyle showing tremendous track skill in clamping Stuart Robson to the inside curve on the third turn of the opening lap to allow Vissing to come sweeping around the outside and into the lead, and suddenly the home fans could breathe somewhat easier as they saw their side opening up a 10-point lead.
The penultimate heat saw Somerset stretch those 10 points out to 12 , Kyle Newman making a dream start to hit the front while behind him James Wright came back from a tardy getaway to hunt down and pass Nedermark on the run to the chequered flag.
With the match and all three match points safely locked away by the Rebels, the only real question left for heat 15 was to see whether Somerset could further increase their points advantage over the Diamonds.
They certainly did that in style as Jason Doyle completing his five-ride paid maximum, he and Monberg hitting the front from the tapes to round things off with a third Rebels maximum race win of the match.
After a short break, the two sides returned to the track for the first leg of the League Cup semi-final.
It began the same way as the match that preceded it with Somerset taking a 4-2 heat advantage, Jason Doyle maintaining his unbeaten streak from the first match with a tape to flag victory, while Alex Davies made light of a poor start to come through into third place.
Newcastle’s Claes Nedermark was a busy man in the first meeting in taking seven rides and with every indication that he would be doing more of the same in this second meeting, he showed that his previous exertions had little effect on him as he sped to a win in heat two ahead of the Somerset duo of Newman and Perry.
From the outset of heat three it looked as if Newcastle would be celebrating a second race winner as ex-Rebel Mark Lemon hit the front from the tapes, but any joy in the Diamonds camp was relatively short-lived as Jesper Monberg swept around the outside of the Newcastle skipper as the riders headed down the back straight for the second time, James Wright then adding to the Rebels cheer when he passed Christian Henry for third place a lap later.
Nedermark made it two wins on the bounce with victory in heat four, but with Vissing and Perry shutting out Ludvig Lindgren at the back it ensured a share of the points to maintain Somerset’s narrow four-point lead.
That lead was quickly halved in the following race as Robson got the better of Monberg on the pits bend of the opening lap and with James Wright seemingly struggling to make anything like a decent start, Nedermark picked up the point for third place to give the visitors their first heat advantage of the match.
Having made six perfect starts so far over the course of the night, Jason Doyle was unusually found wanting as the tapes rose on heat six, though Alex Davies quickly made up for that as he rounded Lindgren to take the lead as the pair exited the pits bend for the first time.
By now Doyle had regrouped and was chasing Lindgren down, and it was only to be a matter of time before the inevitable happened, and so it proved as Doyle breezed past the Swede as the riders started their final lap, the resultant maximum heat win putting Somerset into a six-point lead.
Any thoughts that the home fans might have had of their side kicking on to establish that healthy first-leg lead were quickly dispelled as Lemon and Henry immediately hit back with a maximum heat win of their own to bring Newcastle back to within two points of the Rebels as the match reached its half-way stage.
For the opening two laps of heat eight it looked as if Newcastle would take the lead for the first time as Christian Henry and Claes Nedermark hit the front from the off, but Davies was soon putting Nedermark under severe pressure for second place, pressure the Dane could not cope with as he came to grief on the first turn of lap two, Somerset’s Tom Perry showing great reactions in laying his bike down in order to avoid the stricken Dane.
With Nedermark excluded from the re-run, the Rebels took full advantage of the second opportunity handed to them, Davies passing Henry with relative ease round the pits bend on the opening lap, he then going on to take a comfortable race win.
Crucially, Somerset’s James Wright found his gating boots in heat nine to hit the front from the off, the Somerset number four then riding four excellent laps to hold off the joint challenge of Lindgren and Nedermark to secure his first race win of the match to maintain the Rebels slender four-point advantage.
Having raced to a maximum race win in their previous outing, Jason Doyle and Alex Davies provided more of the same in heat 10, Doyle ‘shutting the door’ on Newcastle’s Mark Lemon as the riders headed down the back straight on the opening lap to quell any thoughts the Diamonds’ captain might have harboured about making a challenge on the Rebels duo.
That maximum race win doubled Somerset’s advantage over their visitors, that eight-point lead being maintained as Kyle Newman flew around the outside of everyone in the first turn to hit the front, but with Claus Vissing now appearing to struggle with the increasingly slick track, he was unable to make any impression on the Newcastle duo of Robson and Nedermark who packed in to take the minor places.
Once again Newcastle came back at their hosts and hit in a maximum race win in heat 12, but not before a ding-dong battle up front between Nedermark and Newman, the Dane leaving the Somerset rider precious little room as he forced Newman wide around the opening turn on the second lap.
Although Newman tried as best he could to ‘tough’ it out, he lost momentum which gave Lemon the opportunity to nip through into second place behind his team-mate, and with it bring the Diamonds back to within four points of the Rebels.
Heat 13 was a case of mechanical failures as first Newcastle’s Ludvig Lindgren never got off the start line, his bike packing up on him as the tapes rose, leaving him to forlornly push his bike off the track as the remaining three riders headed into the first turn.
With Doyle out front, did enough to slow up Stuart Robson as the riders took to the third turn to allow Claus Vissing an unhindered run around the outside to pass Robson and move into second place.
With it looking all over that the pair were heading for a crucial maximum heat win, Vissing’s bike suddenly slowed as he headed down the back straight for the last time and Robson was quickly back through into second, though Vissing was able to coax his bike round the finish line to pick up the point for third place.
The penultimate race of the night saw a share of the spoils with Christian Henry just getting the better of Somerset’s James Wright into the first bend, and try as he might, Wright was unable to get back on terms with his opposite number.
Still only holding a six-point advantage, the Rebels needed something big from the final heat with which to take any sort of decent lead to Newcastle for the second leg, Jason Doyle and Alex Davies being entrusted with the task of achieving that by the Somerset team management, while Newcastle sent the experienced duo of Robson and Lemon to the tapes as their representatives.
Once again Doyle showed great gating prowess and immediately hit the front from the off, Robson initially slotting into second place behind him, but the Newcastle number one had not reckoned on Alex Davies’ tenacity, the young Aussie making a stunning cut back and pass up Robson’s inside as the riders took to the back straight for the first time, he then joining Doyle up front to give Somerset the best possible of finishes and a 10-point lead for Sunday’s second leg of the semi-final tie.
Somerset Rebels 53, Newcastle Diamonds 37
Somerset: 1) Jason Doyle [c] 13+2 (5 rides), 2) Alex Davies 6+1 (4r), 3) Jesper B Monberg 12 (5r), 4) James Wright 6 (4r), 5) Claus Vissing 9 (4r), 6) Kyle Newman 6 (4r), 7) Tom Perry 2+1 (5r); team managers – Steve Bishop & Garry May
Newcastle: 1) Stuart Robson 6+1 (5r), 2) Rider replacement – Richie Worrall, 3) Mark Lemon [c] 7+1 (5r), 4) Christian Henry 9 (5r), 6) Brendan Johnson [g] 0 (4r), 7) Claes Nedermark 10+2 (7r); team manger – George English
Somerset Rebels 50, Newcastle Diamonds 40
Somerset: 1) Jason Doyle [c] 13+2 (5 rides), 2) Alex Davies 12+1 (5r), 3) Jesper B Monberg 6 (4r), 4) James Wright 6 (4r), 5) Claus Vissing 4 (4r), 6) Kyle Newman 6+1 (5r), 7) Tom Perry 3+2 (3r); team managers – Steve Bishop & Garry May
Newcastle: 1) Stuart Robson 10 (5r), 2) Rider replacement – Richie Worrall, 3) Mark Lemon [c] 8+1 (5r), 4) Christian Henry 8 (5r), 6) Brendan Johnson [g] 0 (4r), 7) Claes Nedermark 11+3 (7r); team manger – George English