Monday July 10, 2017
The new-look BMR Rockets can consider themselves a little lucky not to pick up at least a consolation match point after going down 50-41 at Wolverhampton in a thrilling SGB Premiership battle in front of the BT Sport cameras.

Although behind from the moment that early race leader Chris Harris drifted wide, allowing both Kyle Howarth and Freddie Lindgren through coming off the second bend of Heat 1, the Rockets pushed the defending champions all the way. Stuart Robson won Heat 2, with Danny Ayres - a late guest replacement for Rob Branford third – and Harris and Robson steadied the ship with victories in Heats 5 and 6 after the Wolves had taken their lead up to 6 points with a 5-1 in Heat 3. Harris’ success followed a huge battle with Jacob Thorsell, while Robson’s followed an equally titanic effort alongside Howarth, with Grand Prix star Lindgren left at the rear of the pack.

The evergreen Robson appeared set for a third straight victory when blasting from the tapes in Heat 8, but the race was called back after Barker had fallen on the second bend and Howarth made the most of his second change to gain narrow revenge over his adversary.

Scott Nicholls took Heat 9 to keep the Rockets in contention at 30-24, before both Lindgren and Howarth found a way past Ricky Wells for a home maximum in the next race. That cued up Harris for a double points outing as a Tactical Rider in Heat 11, but the British World Cup star had to settle for third spot just behind Sam Masters as Barker compensated by capturing his first victory in the Black, Chrome and Orange.

The resulting 5-2 left Rye behind 37-30, and the margin widened back to 9 points after Masters held off Harris for the victory in a pulsating Heat 13 that also clinched the overall win for the Black Country side.

The Hertfordshire club still harboured ambitions of an away match point, but those hopes took a major blow when recent Rocket Ellis Perks spun on the second bend of Heat 14, collecting the oncoming Justin Sedgmen, who fell heavily and was unable to take his part in the re-run. The Rockets will now be hoping on the Aussie’s fitness for Saturday’s return match in Hoddesdon.

Once again, it was Robson who was leading at the time of the stoppage – and once again it was Robson who was left to rue the red lights, as Thorsell took the re-run.

A 47-38 score-line left Rye needing a 5-1 from the finale to nab a match point, but Harris and Nicholls – from the back against Masters – could only follow home Speed Swede Thorsell for a 3-3.

Rye House top-scorer Stuart Robson reflected after the match on such a close-run result at what is proving the toughest venue for away sides in the 2017 Premiership. “It was a fighting team performance and you can’t take anything away from the lads. It was just unfortunate that it didn’t go our way, but everyone tried, and everyone gave 100%. You can’t ask for any more than that. If it doesn’t happen when you do that, then it’s not meant to be.”

Regarding his sensational Heat 6 success over Kyle Howarth and Freddie Lindgren:
“I could hear Kyle, and I saw him a couple of times getting pretty close to me. I just tried to keep a cool head and ride my own line. I chopped and changed my line a couple of times just to keep him guessing, and it worked.”

Finally, on the subject of the re-runs that got away from him: “That was unfortunate! I found what was for me the sweet spot on the start line each time. I made it both times, but after that there wasn’t anything left. In Heat 14, Justin took a heavy fall and his bike landed on him. Hopefully he will be OK for Saturday. OK, I dropped a point in that re-run but it’s more important that he’s alright.”

Rye House Team Manager Peter Schroeck added, “There were a lot more positives than negatives from tonight. If we were to come here in the Play-Offs and keep the score down to 9 points going back to our place I would be well pleased.

“The fact that we lost here last time by 18 points also says a lot. While Wolverhampton is a super-tough place to come to, we made them sweat for a long time and I’m confident that we have a team that can go to other tracks and get the points we need to make the top four.”

BMR Rockets:
Stuart Robson 11+1, Chris Harris 9 (inc 2 as a TR), Scott Nicholls 7+1, Ricky Wells 5, Ben Barker 4, Danny Ayres (guest) 3+2, Justin Sedgmen 2+1

Jacob Thorssell 12+1, Sam Masters 11, Kyle Howarth 10+1, Rory Schlein 8+2, Fredrik Lindgren 6+1, Nathan Greaves 3, Ellis Perks (guest) 0

Match Points: Wolverhampton 3 Rye House 0