Wednesday April 17, 2019
BRAVE Birmingham suffered last gasp Championship Shield heartache in a Perry Barr blockbuster.

And it was a familiar face, typically, who stole the show for the visitors!

Nico Covatti, one of the most popular riders ever to race for the Brummies, went through the card to hand Somerset the points.

Ironically the only time they led was in the first race and at the chequered flag in the last heat decider – Birmingham held the upper hand in between.

It was the first Brummies' first home meeting in official competition at professional level since 2014 – and on this evidence the sport has a bright and healthy future as fans were entertained with some breathtaking action.

Laurence Rogers’ men can take heart from a solid effort which saw them leading the match for the bulk of it.

But the vital Heats 13 and 15 which feature the big guns proved costly for the Edwards Plumbing Brummies who, ultimately, didn’t have enough in the tank and ran out of steam.

Italian ace Covatti proved to be a thorn in their side with a stunning solo show to notch 14+1 and he partnered Rory Schlein for a matchwinning 5-1 in the decider.

After Somerset took the lead in the first heat Birmingham bounced back immediately.

Reserves Paco Castagna and James Shanes outclassed teenagers Anders Rowe and Henry Atkins in the next to hand Birmingham the lead. Shanes edged past Rowe in the early stages with a smart move.

And when Danish duo Ulrich Ostergaard and Tobias Thomsen teamed up for a Brummies 5-1 in Heat 6 there was hope for the home side at 20-16. Thomsen battled brilliantly to edge out visiting guest Aaron Summers, in for the injured ex-Grand Prix star Chris Harris.

Somerset came back into it before Birmingham hit a purple patch in Heats 11 and 12 to set up a grandstand finish.

Castagna was in the points again with a classy display to win 11 and he was joined by team mate Kyle Newman who edged out Rory Schlein on the line in a stunning finish.

They followed this with a 4-2 and going into the interval Birmingham were 39-33 ahead and in the driving seat.
Schlein and Summers then got Somerset back into it with a Heat 13 maximum to slash the home advantage to two with two tense heats to come.

That man Covatti jumped out to win the penultimate race but with the Brummies packing the minor placings a last heat decider was on the cards.

Schlein and Covatti did their thing with Castagna and Newman trailing – and the Rebels duly completed a smash and grab raid.

Team boss Laurence Rogers said: “For me there were a lot of positives to take out of this once again.

“Some riders continued their good starts to the season while there were a lot more points coming from riders who have been struggling a bit in the first few meetings.

“We know we’re still a few points missing, but we’ll get there I’m sure of that.

“The boys gave it a real good go against a strong Somerset side tonight and I felt it was a good performance.

“It was a thrilling contest, the racing was excellent and I’m sure everyone in the stadium had a really enjoyable night even if the final result didn’t go our way.”

Birmingham are back at Perry Barr next Wednesday, April 24, when they face one of the title favourites Leicester - but before that they travel to Eastbourne on Good Friday (3pm) for the first leg of their Knockout Cup tie.

BIRMINGHAM 44: Paco Castagna 10+1, Kyle Newman 8+1, Ulrich Ostergaard 7, Asley Morris 6+2, Zach Wajtknecht 6+1, James Shanes 5+1, Tobias Thomsen 2+1
SOMERSET 46: Nico Covatti 14+1, Rory Schlein 13, Aaron Summers 8+1, Todd Kurtz 5, Valentin Grobauer 3, Henry Atkins 2+1, Anders Rowe 1
Championship Shield points: Birmingham 0 Somerset 3

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