July 10, 2016
Somerset Rebels speedway duo are Premier League Pairs Champions!

The Highbridge-based speedway side Somerset Rebels won Friday night’s Premier League Pairs Championship, their duo of Josh Grajczonek and Rohan Tungate defeating Edinburgh in the final in front of a packed Oaktree Arena.

This year saw the 10th successive staging of this prestigious event at Highbridge's Oaktree Arena track, but home track advantage has counted for little in the past with Somerset only winning the title once, in 2013, over the course of the previous 9 stagings, though they have suffered the heart-break of finishing runner up on no less than 4 different occasions, including in each of the past two years.

After a somewhat nervy opening ride, which saw Grajczonek and Tungate playing second fiddle to Newcastle’s Matej Kus, the pair really got into their stride and were undefeated in their remaining 3 outings, to leave Somerset clear at the top of their group on 26 points out of a possible 28 and book their place in the semi-finals, Kus’ heat win over the Somerset duo was, quite remarkably, the only points Grajczonek and Tungate were to drop all night.

The battle for second place in the group went down to the wire, with Glasgow, many people’s favourites for the title itself, just pipping Workington by a single point to join Somerset in the ‘sudden death’ semi-finals, Workington left ruing a tapes exclusion and subsequent 15 metre handicap for Ricky Wells in the opening heat when up again Glasgow.

Group B saw Edinburgh emerge as group winners with 23 points, Ryan’s Fisher’s swoop to win the Monarchs opening heat, this after his team-mate Sam Masters had been excluded after a second bend fall, setting the 2014 Pairs Champions on their way.

As was the case with the first group, the battle for second place in Group B wasn’t decided until the final heat, with Sheffield eventually booking their place with 21 points, just ahead of Plymouth who finished on 20 points, Steel City duo of Simon Stead and Kyle Howarth making sure of their place in the last four by defeating Plymouth when the two sides met in the final race of the group stages.

The first of the ‘sudden death’ semi-finals paired Somerset against Sheffield, and for the first half of the race it looked as if Somerset’s hopes of a place in the final were to be denied as although Rohan Tungate hit the front for the Rebels, Josh Grajczonek found himself at the back.

But Grajczonek never gave up on his task and although the Sheffield duo tried to team-ride to keep the Somerset skipper at the back, Grajczonek made a move which had to be seen to be believed as he passed between Stead and Howarth and into 2nd place to take the Rebels into the Grand Final.

The second semi-final was an all Scottish affair as Glasgow faced Edinburgh for the right to join Somerset in the Final.

For the majority of the race it was Glasgow who held sway with Aaron Summers taking the lead with team-mate Richard Lawson holding the all-important 3rd place, but on the final lap, Edinburgh’s Sam Masters cleverly slowed things down from his 2nd place position, in doing so, he effectively ‘trapped’ Lawson on the kerb of the final turn, which allowed Masters’ team-mate, Ryan Fisher to come around the outside of Lawson for 3rd place to send Edinburgh into the Final against Somerset.

After what had gone beforehand, the previous 22 heats of action being of the highest quality, the Final itself was somewhat of an anti-climax as far as the racing was concerned, as Tungate and Grajczonek flew out of the tapes to quickly establish a decisive lead to dominate proceedings to which Edinburgh’s Masters and Fisher had no answer, and to the cheers and ovations of the Somerset fans, the pair took the chequered flag to give the ‘Cases’ Somerset Rebels the Pairs Championship title for just the 2nd time in their relatively short history

Garry May, Somerset Team Manager, said afterwards: "Josh and Rohan were just superb tonight, as they have been all season. I think they were probably a bit nervous in their opening ride, but once they got that out of the way, they were almost untouchable."

"Even when Josh was at the back in the semi-final against Sheffield, I just knew that he would find a way past, which he did with an absolutely stunning move."

"In the Final itself, once they hit the front as soon as the tapes went up, they were not going to be denied, but even so, it was with a mixture of jubilation and relief when the chequered flag fell at the end of the 4 laps and we could start celebrating their Championship win!"

Josh Grajczonek said: "It was good to win the Pairs Championship again for Somerset, having won it in 2013 with Doyley [Jason Doyle]. I really wanted to make up for losing out in last year’s Final, and although we didn’t really go into the meeting with a game-plan, Rohan and I rode well as a pair, and I am just so pleased to have won tonight for everyone associated with the club, but most of all for the Hancock family who put everything into this club."

Rohan Tungate added: "This has been a perfect night for me and Josh and the support was amazing. I've been at the club two minutes and everyone has been great with me from the off, and the win tonight is for everyone connected with the Rebels, it’s just so great to see the smiles we have put on so many people’s faces tonight."

"It's a really proud moment for me to help the club win a trophy after they decided to sign me over the winter."

Pictured: Friday night's action at the Highbridge track, courtesy of Colin Burnett

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