Peterborough Panthers 37 Somerset Rebels 53
THE Rebels eventually got their Premier league campaign underway and maintained their good East of England Showground form with a 53-37 mauling of the Peterborough Panthers to secure four league points, writes Stephen Allen.
During the early stages of this meeting the Rebels were blessed with very little good fortune and incidents conspired against them, otherwise the magnitude of the win would have been much greater.
Twice Somerset pairings were nursing 5-1 heat advantages but both instances resulted in shared heats. Jake Allen suffered a carburettor malfunction whilst nested in behind Josh Grajczonek in the opening heat and then young Zach Wajtknecht shed a chain in heat two as he was well on the way to partnering the impressive Bradley Wilson-Dean to a maximum heat score.
Shared heats littered the first half of the meeting and it did look as though the meeting could well ultimately be decided by the race of the night, heat five. The Panthers' Simon Lambert and a determined Jake Allen traded places throughout and as the race evolved so Grajczonek was determined to become involved and the trio contested an absolute thrilling last lap, the 'Cases' Rebels duo this time coming out on top and putting the visitors into the lead.
By the interval just two points separated the two sides but Somerset came out with renewed vigour after the break and stamped their authority on the meeting much to the delight of team manager Garry May.
He said: "The lads showed great character out there today. We didn't have much going our way early on but we knew that if we kept our heads and remained focussed then we could pick up the win. Things really turned round after the break.
"We had spoken about what we needed to do and these lads responded. They listened and then performed. You can't ask for any more than that."
"We had to keep going for the goals - first to get the away point, then when we were assured of that the focus became the win on the day and then once that had been guaranteed it was a matter of aiming for the full four points. We never had any chance to let up as we couldn't afford to allow them (Peterborough) to try and find a way back into the meeting."
The 'J-factor' - Josh Grajczonek and Jake Allen - got the ball rolling with their second maximum heat score of the meeting in the first post-interval heat before Bradley Wilson-Dean and Charles Wright followed suit in heat 12, and that meant the Rebels were definitely leaving with some reward.
A good move through heat 13 traffic by Grajczonek left the Rebels needing just a finisher to gain the victory and when a rejuvenated Paul Starke, who had started with two last places, finished his night with his second win of meeting the attentions switched to the full four points.
Lamberts' late re-pass on Wilson-Dean proved to be in vain as the Rebels moved 12 points clear with just one heat remaining.
There was to be no benevolence about that final heat despite the commanding lead. A Tungate tumble was a consequence of a tight first turn and the cause of a restart.
In that second attempt Tungate made a good start and powered to the front quickly joined by Charles Wright to push the Rebels comfortably through the 50 point barrier on a night when the visitors restricted the home side to just two race winners all meeting.
A jubilant May added: "This is a great victory for us and it was great to see the small gathering of travelling support with smiles on their faces at the end of the meeting.
"This sets us up for our two meetings against Ipswich this week. We will head for Ipswich on Thursday determined to build on this excellent start to our league programme."
After Thursday's away match the Rebels will host the visit of the Witches on Friday night at the Oaktree Arena.