Wednesday April 10, 2019
TEAM boss Laurence Rogers was keen to draw the positives from Birmingham’s battling performance in a 52-38 Championship Shield loss at Somerset.

The Edwards Plumbing Centre Brummies hung tough for most of the meeting, remaining within touching distance of the top-heavy hosts until heat 12.

In the end, it was a pair of Birmingham old boys who made the difference with Chris Harris and Nico Covatti producing inspired rides towards the back end of proceedings, supporting Wolverhampton ace Rory Schlein's four chequered flags.

An early 5-1 for Paco Castagna and James Shanes gave Birmingham the lead but even a sterling effort throughout the night from Ashley Morris could not hold back Somerset’s power-packed top end.

“The strength of having Rory Schlein and Chris Harris told at the end and the new German lad (Valentin Grobauer) rode well too,” said Rogers.

“It ebbed away from us, Tobias (Thomsen) had never seen the place before and rode hard for no points but all in all, I think we kept ourselves in there.

“There were positives, Ulrich (Ostergaard) is getting back to his best, there were a couple of wins for Paco (Castagna) and Ashley Morris looked very good.

“Ash started off very well against us for Wolves, put on a good performance at Eastbourne and was probably our best rider at Somerset.

“Going for the tactical when I did was something I had to do. It was unfortunate for Tobias but credit to Ash, he did the job and it kept things interesting towards the end of the meeting.

“The lads gave it their all and we are just a few points away from making this a winning team.”

It was a second defeat on the road in the Championship Shield group stage, making qualification unlikely, but Rogers has not give up yet.

“You never know where a couple of big wins at home could take us, it is never over until the fat lady sings," he added.

“Whatever happens, it gives our boys more track time and helps them to get back into scoring mode.”


Todd Kurtz took full advantage of the inside gate by taking a tapes-to-flag success in heat one with Rory Schlein quickly reining in Tobias Thomsen before pressurising second-placed Ulrich Ostergaard late on.

Brummies hit straight back after Anders Rowe had hit the tapes with Paco Castagna cruising to victory and James Shanes easing his way around Henry Atkins by the end of turn three of lap one.

Ashley Morris’s barnstorming start left Nico Covatti trailing in his wake but the ex-Birmingham charger did just enough to hold off the advances of Zach Wajtknecht before keeping Morris honest until the end.

Atkins took the lead with from gate one with Chris Harris anchoring the outside run and helping his rookie colleague keep at bay ex-Somerset rider Kyle Newman to level the meeting with the home side’s first 5-1 of the night.

Valentin Grobauer made a jet-propelled gate to edge Somerset ahead with Ostergaard again doing enough for second despite close attention from Covatti and the meeting began to get away from Birmingham when Newman and Castagna were left eating dust by Schlein and Kurtz in the sixth.

Harris again showed his class with a patient move to pass Wajtknecht and win the seventh with Birmingham filling the minor places easily enough.

Castagna was sent out in place of Shanes in the eighth and won from gate one, seeing off a brief surge from Kurtz while Thomsen made a fist of his battle with Atkins at the back but again failed to score.

Covatti’s pace was again a problem for his former club, jostling for position before scampering away from Newman up top while Shanes saw off a persistent push from Grobuaer at the back in a third straight shared race.

Schlein soared around Morris in the 10th, stretching his lead from the end of the opening lap but the battle for the rest of the points was ended when Kurtz pulled up with a mechanical issue.

Morris was sent out as a tactical substitute for Thomsen in the 11th and it nearly paid dividends but Harris was again smooth up top and the six-point gap was maintained.

Grobauer comfortably took heat 12 ahead of Wajtknecht but the run of drawn heats was finally ended as Castagna got passed and held at the back by plucky reserve Atkins, a ride that saw him score in each of his four rides on his Somerset debut.

Schlein sauntered to the 13th to as good as seal victory with Harris clawing back a point from Newman at the rear during lap three and then Covatti made sure of the result with a stellar blast around the boards in the penultimate race.

While Schlein took a fourth win of the night in heat 15, Harris stole the show with a scything move between Ostergaard and Morris on lap three to follow home his colleague in a 5-1 that gave the final score a flattering look.

SOMERSET 52: Rory Schlein 13, Chris Harris 11+2, Nico Covatti 9, Todd Kurtz 7+1, Henry Atkins 6+1, Valentin Grobauer 6, Anders Rowe 0.
BIRMINGHAM 38: Ashley Morris 10+1, Ulrich Ostergaard 8+1, Zach Wajtknecht 6+1, Paco Castagna 6, James Shanes 4+3, Kyle Newman 4, Tobias Thomsen 0.


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