Although the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels beat league basement club Leicester with comparative ease for the second home win this week to maintain their place at the top of the Premiership League table, the meeting itself was overshadowed by an horrific looking crash in heat 14 which brought proceedings to a premature end.
After somewhat of a surprise in the opening heat which saw Somerset’s Jason Doyle headed home by Leicester’s Ricky Wells, a maximum 5-1 race win in heat 2, courtesy of reserve pairing Jake Allen and Bradley Wilson-Dean, put the Rebels into an early lead, one that they were never to relinquish from thereon in.
A further maximum race win in heat 7, the providers on this occasion being Jack Holder and the afore-mentioned Jake Allen, saw Somerset stretch their lead out to 10 points, an advantage which was maintained after the conclusion of heat 8, which was to see a fourth share of the spoils from those first 8 races.
Despite their arrears, Leicester eschewed the chance to deploy their tactical substitute option to try and get themselves back into the match, the Rebels making the Lions pay for the missed opportunity by further extending out their lead to 14 points with successive 4-2 race wins in heats 10 and 11.
A decision to exclude Somerset’s Nico Covatti from the re-run of heat 12 after his fall going into the first bend, was met by the universal disapproval of the home fans, but with Bradley Wilson-Dean winning the re-run for the Rebels, it meant that Somerset were now virtually assured on the meeting win, Jason Doyle’s victory in heat 13, his third race win of the night, being enough to put the Rebels into an unassailable position with two heats still remaining.
The penultimate heat got no further than the first bend when a coming together between Leicester’s Stuart Robson and Somerset’s Jake Allen resulted in the latter careering across the track and into Leicester reserve Josh Auty, with the pair of them then being thrown into the path of the on-coming Richard Lawson, who was left with nowhere to go other than into the two stricken riders and their machines.
The impact of the incident saw no less than 4 of the Oaktree Arena safety-fence air bags virtually explode, but despite this the air-bags more than did their job, as after lengthy on-track attention to the 3 riders by the paramedics, they were all, thankfully, able to emerge from the carnage relatively unscathed, Auty being potentially the worse affected with a bad swollen ankle, whilst Allen suffered a sore elbow and Lawson able to walk away from the incident with little or no damage to himself, a minor miracle in itself.
With four air-bags now needing to be replaced, plus the time it would take for the paramedics to fully assess the rider injury’s, the decision was made to abandon the meeting and the result declared, providing the Rebels with the three points they needed to hang on to top place in the SGB Premiership table.
“Of course, I am delighted that we won the match and took all three league points to keep us at the top of the table,” said Somerset team manager Garry May afterwards, “but that is all overshadowed by the horrific crash in heat 14, and we are just thankful that all three riders involved seem to have emerged from it relatively unscathed.”
“This was a potentially tricky match for us as although Leicester might be propping up the league table, that had riders in their line-up who were more than capable of making life difficult for us, but my boys did a thoroughly professional job tonight and never gave Leicester even a sniff of causing us an upset.”
“But as I say, our main thoughts are with the three riders involved in that heat 14 incident, and hopefully, the early indications that none of them have suffered any major injury proves to be correct.”
SOMERSET 46: Jason Doyle 11, Bradley Wilson-Dean 10+1, Jake Allen 6+1, Richard Lawson 6, Jack Holder 6, Nico Covatti 4+1, Aaron Summers 3+2.
LEICESTER 32: Scott Nicholls 8+1, Charles Wright 7, Josh Auty 6, Hans Andersen 5+1, Ricky Wells 3, Connor Mountain 2+2, Stuart Robson 1+1.
The Rebels’ next action will be an early afternoon start on Bank Holiday Monday when they visit Poole for the third confrontation between the two sides this month. The meeting starts at 12.30pm and will again be ‘first v second’ as the Pirates also won on Wednesday and remain a point behind the Rebels, as do King’s Lynn who gained two comfortable home wins against Wolverhampton which has re-shaped the latest league table