Premier League KO Cup
1st Round, 2nd Leg
Workington Comets 44 Somerset Rebels 46 (aggregate: Somerset 98 Workington 82)
THE Somerset Rebels eased through to the quarter-finals of the Premier League KO Cup by not only successfully defending their 14-point first leg lead over Workington, but also winning the second leg 46-44 to record just their second-ever victory over the Comets at their Derwent Park home.
If Workington were hoping to make immediate in-roads into Somerset’s 1st leg lead, they were in for a rude awakening as the Rebels won the first three heats to lead by eight points on the night and 22 points on aggregate.
Heat one saw Somerset skipper Josh Grajczonek fly past Workington’s Ricky Well as the pair went down the back straight on the opening lap, Grajczonek going on to win the heat in the fastest time of the season seen at Derwent Park this season, and with Jake Allen easily holding off ex-Rebel Rasmus Jensen for 3rd, it was a dream start for the Rebels.
Things got even better for Somerset in heat two as Zach Wajtknecht made a lightening start to take a tapes to flag victory, while team mate Bradley Wilson-Dean picked up the point for third, it saw the Rebels extend their lead on the night to four points and their aggregate lead to 18 points.
That overall lead soon became 22 points when Paul Starke and Charles Wright combined to hit home a maximum 5-1 race win in heat three, they taking full advantage of Workington mechanical woes which saw Mason Campton having to switch to his second bike with just seconds to spare before the riders were due to be brought ‘under orders’ and then Kenneth Hansen blowing his engine to pieces on the start-line, it earning him an exclusion as a consequence.
Electing to go off a 15 metre handicap in the re-run, any hopes Hansen might of held of getting up amongst the Somerset duo were quickly dashed as Starke and Wright sped away from the tapes, and to rub salt into the wound, Campton baulked his much faster team-mate, it taking Hansen the best part of 3 laps to get past his Australian race-partner and into third place, but by then the Somerset pair held far too great a lead for Hansen to make any appreciable impression.
The Comets immediately hit back with a 5-1 heat win of their own in the next race, but with the next 3 heats all seeing a share of the spoils, time, and races, were running out for the Cumbrian side if they were to deny the Rebels a place in the quarter-finals.
Heat eight almost spelt disaster for Somerset when their flying Kiwi reserve Bradley Wilson-Dean came to grief in a big way on the final bend when challenging Workington’s Matt Williamson for the lead, Wilson-Dean’s engine seizing on him, the suddenness of this causing the front forks to snap, sending him careering into the air-fence.
Thankfully, after some on-track attention, Wilson-Dean was able to get to his feet and walk back to the pits, but it was a different story for his bike, which was looking decidedly the worse for wear, with a bent frame adding to what will be a hefty repair bill for the young New Zealander.
As it was, the resultant 5-1 for the Comets saw then draw level with Somerset on the night, but more importantly for the Rebels, with seven heats remaining they still held the same 14 point overall lead with which they had started the match.
Workington took the lead for the first time in the match in heat 9 when Hansen and Williamson combined for a 4-2 race win, but after a further draw heat in the next race, Somerset’s Paul Starke making a stunning pass on the Workington number one Ricky Wells on the opening lap, three successive 4-2 race wins followed for the Rebels which saw them over the finishing line as far as the aggregate win was concerned with two heats to spare, and although Workington gained a consolation heat win in the penultimate race, Somerset’s Josh Grajczonek ended the match as he had started it, with a superb race win to sealed the meeting win for the Rebels
“I said in the days leading up to this match that we were going into the second leg with the aim of not just defending our 1st leg advantage, but to win the match,” said a jubilant Garry May, the Somerset team manager afterwards.
“We had game plan which we discussed on our track walk for the first half of the match, which the boys carried through to perfection and then took stock of where we were at the interval and refined the plan to carry us through to winning the match and with it, the tie as a whole.
“Once again this was a tremendous all-round team performance, not just tonight but over the two legs as a whole, with everyone playing their part, and to come away from tonight’s second leg with the match win as well was a nice way to round things off.
“Finally, I would like to thank the small band of Somerset fans who made the trip up to Workington tonight to cheer the team on, their support was very much appreciated by both myself and the boys in the team.”