The 2012 play-off final: the full story
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2012…
MASTERS-STROKE BY SCORPIONS
HENDERSON INSURANCE Scunthorpe Scorpions have booked Poole’s Sam Masters as a guest for both legs of the Premier League Play-Off Grand Final against the Somerset Rebels.
Masters has an identical average (6.42) to the injured Thomas Jorgensen, and will guest for the Dane at both Somerset’s Oak Tree Arena on Friday (7.30pm) and the Eddie Wright Raceway on Sunday afternoon (4pm).
Meanwhile, the Scorpions are set to use rider replacement for David Howe.
Ironically, Masters was a member of the Somerset Rebels until late August, when he was surprisingly dropped when Claus Vissing returned from injury. The Rebels retained Jesper B. Monberg (initially signed as a temporary replacement for Vissing) and instead released Masters.
Masters won the 2011 Premier League Riders’ Championship at Sheffield. He guested for the injury-hit Scorpions in their play-off group matches at Edinburgh and Workington in the first week of October, top scoring on both occasions, with returns of 14+1 and 11+1.
Although Masters has accepted the guest booking for both meetings, his appearance at Somerset on Friday is conditional on the Poole Pirates not requiring him at Coventry’s Brandon Stadium in the Elite League Knockout Cup Final on the same night.
The Pirates must first overcome Peterborough in the semi-final, with meetings at Poole on Wednesday and Peterborough on Thursday. If the Pirates did reach the final, they would have the choice in using Masters or Sweden’s Ludvig Lindgren at Brandon.
Scorpions’ team manager Richard Hollingsworth: “We’re delighted to have secured the services of Sam Masters for both legs of the final, although obviously his participation at Somerset depends on whether Poole will need him that night or not.
“Sam put in 100% when he guested for us at both Edinburgh and Workington, and fitted in very well within our set-up. From those matches onwards, we wanted him as a guest should we reach the final.
“Should he prove to be unavailable for Somerset, we do have a couple of irons in the fire as a possible replacement.”
BIGGEST DAY IN 41 YEARS OF SCUNTHORPE SPEEDWAY
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 28TH, 2012 is the biggest day in the history of Scunthorpe Speedway, as the Eddie Wright Raceway plays host to the conclusion of the Premier League season.
The action starts at 4pm for the second leg of the Premier League Play-Off Grand Final. By around 6pm, the Premier League Champions will be known, and it will be either the Scunthorpe Scorpions or the Somerset Rebels.
2012 already marks the end of Scunthorpe’s most successful season at second tier level, surpassing the fifth place achieved back in 1983.
A brief history of Scunthorpe Speedway in the second tier:
Location: Quibell Park. Team nickname: Saints.
1971: Open meetings only.
1972: British League Division Two – 17th out of 17.
1973: British League Division Two – 16th out of 18.
1974: British League Division Two – 17th out of 19.
1975: New National League – 13th out of 20.
1976: National League – 17th out of 18.
1977: National League – 14th out of 19.
1978: National League – 19th out of 20.
Location: Ashby Ville. Team nickname: Stags.
1979: National League – 19th out of 19.
1980: National League – 13th out of 20.
1981: National League – 17th out of 19.
1982: National League – 17th out of 19.
1983: National League – 5th out of 18.
1984: National League – 10th out of 16.
1985: National League – withdrew after 9 matches.
Location: Eddie Wright Raceway, Normanby Road. Team nickname: Scorpions.
2005-2007: Conference League (third tier) racing.
2008: Premier League – 10th out of 16.
2009: Premier League – 10th out of 14.
2010: Premier League – 9th out of 14.
2011: Premier League – 7th out of 14.
2012: Premier League – 2nd out of 13; qualified for play-offs and won play-off group.
NB: Scunthorpe have been league champions at third-tier level on three occasions – 2006, 2007 and 2011 (third-tier racing has been held in conjunction with second-tier racing at the Eddie Wright Raceway since 2008).
WOFFINDEN TAKES GRAND PRIX SLOT IN 2013
SCUNTHORPE-BORN Tai Woffinden will be Britain’s sole representative in the 2013 World Championship Grand Prix series.
Woffinden has been granted one of the four permanent seeded slots in the 2013 series, alongside Poland’s Jarek Hampel, Slovakian Martin Vaculik, and Australian Darcy Ward.
Woffinden grew up in Australia, but is of British parentage. His father, Rob Woffinden, rode for Scunthorpe between 1978 and 1985.
Tai made his British debut for the Scorpions in early 2006, and was part of the side that swept the board in the Conference League in both 2006 and 2007.
Woffinden previously rode in the Grand Prix series in 2010, but it came just after the death of his father from cancer and came too early in his career. He is expected to have substantial sponsorship behind him for next year’s series.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2012…
REBELS DECLINE TACTICAL OFFER
AN OFFER by the management of the Henderson Insurance Scunthorpe Scorpions to dispense with the Tactical Ride over the course of the two legs of the Premier League Play-Off Final has been rejected by opponents Somerset Rebels.
The tactical ride allows a rider to go for double points when a team is 10 or more points behind. A second tactical ride (with a different rider) can be used if a team subsequently falls 12 or more points behind.
Scunthorpe promoter Rob Godfrey said: “We made the offer to Somerset to dispense with the tactical ride over the two legs of the final.
“Arguably it has no place in a two-legged tie which is being decided on aggregate, and can distort the scoreline.
“Also, we wanted not to use the tactical ride in the final as a fan-pleasing move, as we know quite a few supporters are not very keen on it.
“Looking at our line-up and that of Somerset, it’s hard to judge who would do better out of the use of the tactical ride, and therefore we felt it was a fair offer to the Rebels.
“However, they have turned us down on that. I guess it would now be quite ironic if we ended up winning the final due to a successful tactical ride.”
Godfrey has called for the tactical ride not to be allowed in future finals.
“We don’t use it in two-legged ties in the Knockout Cup, but we do allow it in the two-legged play-off final, so that seems a bit of an inconsistency.
“It’s not quite right if one team gets a chance to use them in one leg, but then the other team doesn’t get a chance in the return fixture”, Godfrey concluded.
PRICING STRUCTURE FOR PLAY-OFF FINAL
THE Scunthorpe management have revealed the pricing structure for the second leg of the Premier League Play-Off Final at the Eddie Wright Raceway on Sunday (October 28th, 4pm).
Prices for the Grand Final are as follows:
Child (10 – 16): £5.00
Child (0 – 9) Free (accompanied by paying adult)
Family Ticket £37 (2 adults, 2 Children 10-16)
Promoter Rob Godfrey said: “Fans will notice that there is a modest increase of £2 for all the adult admission prices, although we have kept the child admission prices the same because it’s never our intention to hit families too hard.
“It’s been a tough year financially across the whole of the Premier League, and we’re no exception. The weather has certainly taken its toll this season.
“I still believe £16 represents excellent value for the concluding leg of the final. We have amongst the cheapest regular admission prices in the league, and this takes us up to the level that some clubs charge every week for their standard league meetings.
“It does seem to be the norm to raise prices for a meeting of this status. For instance, both Poole and Swindon raised their admission prices to £20 for the Elite League Final – an increase of £4 for Poole and £3 for Swindon. And our fellow finalists Somerset are also raising their prices from £14 to £16 for their leg.
“I’m sure our regular fans won’t mind too much paying an extra £2 on Sunday, knowing that all those two pounds will add up and help safeguard the future of this club.”
• It’s a busy weekend at the Eddie Wright Raceway. In addition to the Premier League Play-Off Final on Sunday, there is also an Autograss (Midget Car) event taking place on Saturday, with around 200 drivers taking part. Practice starts at 2pm, with racing commencing at 3.30pm and then continuing for much of the afternoon and early evening.
• Tom Belton, one of the main sponsors of the Scunthorpe Scorpions and their riders, is jetting back from Mauritius to watch the Scorpions in action in the play-off final.
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2012
THIS IS IT!
QUITE SIMPLY, they don’t come any bigger than this!
The Eddie Wright Raceway plays host to its most-important ever meeting on Sunday (4pm), as the Henderson Insurance Scunthorpe Scorpions take on the Somerset Rebels in the concluding leg of the play-off final, with the Premier League title at stake.
It is the culmination of the whole Premier League season, which has seen 13 teams from Glasgow and Edinburgh in Scotland, down to Plymouth in the south-west, doing battle for the league title. After 156 regular Premier League meetings and 12 scheduled play-off group matches, it all comes down to two meetings – at Somerset on Friday and Scunthorpe on Sunday.
It would represent a first league title at this level for either club.
The current incarnation of Scunthorpe Speedway is one of the Premier League’s newest members.
Current promoter Rob Godfrey brought speedway back to the town of Scunthorpe in 2005 after an absence of twenty years. A new-purpose built stadium, the Eddie Wright Raceway, was constructed in Normanby Road.
He initially entered the club into the Conference League (the sport’s third tier). With the late Kenny Smith as team manager, the Scorpions won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007, with a fantastic team of youngsters including Tai Woffinden, Josh Auty, Andrew Tully and Richie Dennis.
Scunthorpe were elevated to the Premier League in 2008. Up until this season, the Scorpions were a solid mid-table team.
Rob Godfrey says: “I had a feeling right from the off that the 2012 Scorpions were something a bit special, and could make a genuine Premier League title challenge.
“It’s certainly not been easy, and we’ve had lows as well as highs. But we’ve come through and reached the final.”
Injuries are sadly part and parcel of speedway, and the Scorpions have had their fare of share of these, with skipper David Howe (No 1 at Scunthorpe from 2009 to 2011) having competed in just nine official fixtures for the club in 2012 after a series of injury woes.
At one stage during May and June, the Scorpions suffered eight successive defeats as their League Cup and Knockout Cup hopes came grinding to a halt.
However, the mid-season signings of Nick Morris and Gary Irving turned the Scorpions into a very strong side from 1-to-7, and they won 13 out of last 16 regular league matches to finish second in the table, a single point behind Newcastle.
That momentum was taken into the play-off group stages where crushing home wins against Edinburgh and Workington, plus a priceless away point at Edinburgh were enough to clinch a place in the final.
Godfrey adds: “To me there’s no pressure on the side at the weekend. I consider us to be the underdogs.
“All the pressure is on Somerset, because all the pre-season predictions had them to be up there. We were predicted to finish somewhere in the middle.
“However, we are more than capable of going out there and beating Somerset over two legs. Make no mistakes we want to win the final and take some Premier League silverware.
“It would be fantastic to win the Premier League in just our fifth season at this level.”
There’s no doubt that the two meetings over the weekend are the most important in Scunthorpe’s history, but team manager Richard Hollingsworth insists the approach will be to treat them as normal meetings.
Hollingsworth explains: “We’re not going to change our approach now and put any pressure on the riders.
“We’re just going to treat it like another couple of meetings.
“The riders have been doing a great job for around the last three months, so we don’t need to change anything.
“The lads just have to go out there and race for 30 heats, and then at the end of it, we’ll see if we’ve got more points than Somerset.
“If there’s any luck kicking around, I hope we get our fair share of that.”
Meanwhile, Hollingsworth insists that the club is not satisfied with just reaching the final.
He says: “I wouldn’t be that happy with second place.
“For a long time, Scunthorpe Speedway had the Cinderella tag attached to it. In our previous existence between 1971 and 1985, during which I became a fan, we were nearly always the whipping boys of the league.
“We’ve never finished above fifth (in 1983) at this level before, so expectations tend to be set quite low. But I want to see Scunthorpe to become a force to be reckoned with on a regular basis.
“We’ll be going into the final very much to win it; it won’t be a case of ‘We’re Scunthorpe, so second will be fine.’ We want to win”, Hollingsworth stresses.
He also believes that the Premier League title would be a fitting reward for many at the club; the riders, the supporters, the management and the back-room team.
“To be crowned league champions would be the stuff of dreams, and would be the prize for eight years of hard work by everyone at the club.
“And what would make it even more special, in my book, is that we have not bought the league in any way.
“Rob (Godfrey) runs Scunthorpe Speedway on a sensible budget; we have never broken the bank to try to bring success to the club. It’s just been a lot of hard work.”
Both teams are without two regular riders on Sunday. The Scunthorpe utilise rider replacement for David Howe, while Sam Masters will guest for injured Dane Thomas Jorgensen. Masters rode for Somerset until late August, when he was released by the Rebels, and may have a point to prove to his old club.
With No 1 Jason Doyle ruled out, the Rebels have a fine replacement in Premier League Riders’ Champion Craig Cook. Tom Perry was injured at Dudley on Tuesday, so Lewis Kerr comes into their side at No 7.
Teams for Sunday (English unless stated):
Henderson Insurance Scunthorpe Scorpions: 1. Josh Auty, 2. David Howe R/R, 3. Sam Masters (Australia – guest), 4. Ashley Birks, 5. Nick Morris (Australia), 6. Michael Palm Toft (Denmark), 7. Gary Irving.
Somerset Rebels: 1. Craig Cook (guest), 2. Alex Davies (Australia), 3. Jesper B Monberg (Denmark), 4. James Wright, 5. Claus Vissing (Denmark), 6. Kyle Newman, 7. Lewis Kerr.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2012…
MELLGREN IN FOR SCORPIONS
ANDERS MELLGREN will step in to guest for the Henderson Insurance Scunthorpe Scorpions in tonight’s (Friday) first leg of the Premier League Play-Off Final at Somerset’s Oak Tree Arena.
Original guest choice Sam Masters is unavailable, as he will be riding for the Poole Pirates in the Elite League Knockout Cup at Coventry tonight. The Pirates qualified for the final, after completing a 94-89 aggregate win over Peterborough in their semi-final last night.
Mellgren rides for the Rye House Rockets and recently finished a fine second in the Premier League Riders’ Championship at Sheffield. The Swede had a spell riding for the Somerset Rebels in 2011.
He will guest for David Howe, with rider replacement operating for Thomas Jorgensen.
Scorpions’ team manager Richard Hollingsworth said: “We’re sure that Anders can do a good job for us in tonight’s meeting at Somerset.
“He scored 14+1 for Rye House at Somerset in June, including two wins over Jason Doyle. That caught our eye, when it came to potential guests to use at the Oak Tree Arena.
“I want our riders to enjoy tonight’s meeting. We will fight for every point, but that’s what we always tend to do.
“I am confident of getting the result we need tonight, so that when the two teams return to Scunthorpe on Sunday, we have an excellent chance of clinching the aggregate victory and winning the Premier League title in front of our own fans”, Hollingsworth concluded.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2012…
SCORPIONS KEEP IT TIGHT
SOMERSET REBELS 49 SCUNTHORPE SCORPIONS 44 (PREMIER LEAGUE PLAY-OFF FINAL, 1ST LEG)
HENDERSON INSURANCE Scunthorpe Scorpions put in a great effort at Somerset’s Oak Tree Arena last night (Friday) in the first leg of the Premier League Play-Off Final.
Watched by around 200 travelling Scunthorpe fans who made the four-hour trip, the Scorpions eventually lost 44-49. But they have put themselves into a healthy position heading into Sunday’s second leg at the Eddie Wright Raceway.
With a little luck, the Scorpions could have won the meeting. Michael Palm Toft dropped a primary chain while leading Heat 6 and a 5-1 was lost. Toft lost another primary chain in Heat 12, losing a further point, while guest Anders Mellgren was also plagued by machinery problems, and also lost a chain while second in Heat 5.
In a meeting of fluctuating fortunes, the Scorpions took a 4-2 in Heat 1, and again took the lead after a win for Gary Irving in Heat 4. Nick Morris team-rode with Irving in this race, but as a consequence, Morris himself was caught at the death by Claus Vissing.
On a bitterly cold night, the Somerset track was unusually slick. However, there was plenty of drama and also some good racing.
The double chain breaks of Heats 5 & 6 ruined Scunthorpe’s chance of consolidating their lead, and then the Rebels came on strong over the next four heats to move into a 35-25 lead.
Scunthorpe No 1 Josh Auty donned the black & white helmet colour as a Tactical Ride in Heat 11, and Mellgren put his previous mechanical problems behind him to race past Vissing to join Auty for an 8-1 that reduced the deficit to just three points.
That deficit looked like it may come down to one point in Heat 12, as Ashley Birks shot past Jesper B Monberg into the lead. But, simultaneously, Monberg re-passed Birks and Toft lost his second chain, as the Rebels took a 4-2.
A 5-1 to Somerset in Heat 13 took the score to 45-36 and left the large contingent of Scunthorpe fans looking anxiously at the line-ups of the last two races.
They needn’t have worried as Birks and Toft took a fine 5-1 in Heat 14, and then Morris won the final race, as the Scorpions ended the match just five points in arrears.
All six Scorpions won a race at some point of proceedings. Although the tie and therefore the destination of the Premier League remains in the balance, the Scorpions are likely to be the happier of the two teams with this result.
All roads lead to the Eddie Wright Raceway on Sunday (4pm) for what is bound to be a cracking deciding leg.
Nick Morris –
“I’m happy with that. It’s a pretty good effort to keep within five points of Somerset; we should be able to pull that back on Sunday.
“I struggled to find the set-up in a couple of races, but when I found it, I felt pretty quick. I got it right for Heat 15, it was good to go out and win that one, and make sure we took a 3-3 from that race.”
Michael Palm Toft –
“The track was quite slick, but I liked it.
“It was a shame I had a few problems with the bike. I haven’t snapped a primary chain for two seasons, but tonight they went twice. I think something happened on the bike after the first one snapped, which caused the second one. It’s just bad luck for that to happen tonight.
“The 5-1 in Heat 14 was nice to get and could prove to be really important.
“When we’re at home on Sunday, we have to keep our heads up and believe in ourselves, because it’s not going to be an easy meeting. The Somerset boys are going to be on the gas as well, and they will make us fight for it.”
Richard Hollingsworth (Scorpions’ team manager) –
“We’d have settled for a five-point deficit before we started tonight.
“Three shed chains didn’t help us at all. It looked a bit dicey with a couple of races to go. The 5-1 in Heat 14 was a blessing, and then Nick popped out in Heat 15 and won that one.
“It was a difficult night to predict. We had six riders capable of winning races, but also it was very easy to run a last out there because the track was slick.
“It was a satisfactory result for us. We now have to race 15 more heats at the Eddie Wright Raceway on Sunday, and hopefully we will race them well.”
Rob Godfrey (Scunthorpe promoter) –
“The whole thing is in the balance and it should be an absolutely cracking meeting on Sunday.
“We haven’t left ourselves a massive mountain to climb. By the same token, we could have won the meeting tonight and built up quite a nice lead, had it not been for bad luck.
“Hopefully that’s all our bad luck used up, because I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much misfortune with chains in one meeting.
“We dropped behind at one point, so there was a little bit of relief when we got the 8-1 and also when we pulled it back a bit at the end.
“We’re just five points down going into our home meeting at the Eddie Wright Raceway, which is not a bad place to be. However, we are not – and never will be – complacent. It could still go down to Heat 15 at Scunny; we just don’t know.
“It was great to see all the fans who had travelled down from Scunthorpe and got right behind the boys. I’ve never seen so many Scunthorpe fans at an away meeting. The fans know how much it means to me, and I know how much it means to them.”
Somerset Rebels 49 – Craig Cook (guest) 7+1 (4), Alex Davies 7+2 (4), Jesper B Monberg 9+1 (5), James Wright 8 (4), Claus Vissing 10+1 (5), Kyle Newman 7+1 (5), Lewis Kerr (guest) 1 (3).
Henderson Insurance Scunthorpe Scorpions 44 – Josh Auty 9 (5) (incl. 6-point tactical ride), Anders Mellgren (guest) 5+1 (4), Thomas Jorgensen R/R, Ashley Birks 7 (5), Nick Morris 10 (5), Michael Palm Toft 9+1 (7), Gary Irving 4+1 (4).
1: Mellgren, Davies, Auty, Cook (ret), 59.60 (2-4) (2-4).
2: Newman, Toft, Irving, Kerr, 59.78 (3-3) (5-7).
3: Wright, Toft, Monberg, Birks, 59.31 (4-2) (9-9).
4: Irving, Vissing, Morris, Newman, 59.90 (2-4) (11-13).
5: Wright, Auty, Monberg, Mellgren (ret), 58.97 (4-2) (15-15).
6: Morris, Cook, Davies, Toft (ret), 58.85 (3-3) (18-18).
7: Newman, Vissing, Birks, Irving, 59.47 (5-1) (23-19).
8: Toft, Davies, Newman, Mellgren (ret), 58.78 (3-3) (26-22).
9: Monberg, Morris, Wright, Toft, 59.47 (4-2) (30-24).
10: Cook, Davies, Birks, Irving, Mellgren (excluded, two minutes), 59.25 (5-1) (35-25).
11: AUTY (TR), Mellgren, Vissing, Kerr, 60.07 (1-8) (36-33).
12: Monberg, Birks, Kerr, Toft (ret), 60.09 (4-2) (40-35).
13: Vissing, Cook, Morris, Auty, 59.34 (5-1) (45-36).
14: Birks, Toft, Wright, Newman, 60.16 (1-5) (46-41).
15: Morris, Vissing, Monberg, Auty, 59.32 (3-3) (49-44).
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 27, 2012…
SCUNTHORPE ARE 15 RACES AWAY FROM MAJOR HONOUR FOR TOWN
HENDERSON INSURANCE Scunthorpe Scorpions can clinch the Premier League title by defeating the Somerset Rebels by six points or more in the second leg of the Grand Final of the play-offs at the Eddie Wright Raceway tomorrow (Sunday, 4pm).
If the Scorpions can win the league tomorrow, it will be one of the biggest-ever sporting triumphs for the town of Scunthorpe. Arguably it would rank alongside the achievement of football club Scunthorpe United winning the League One Championship in 2006-2007 and the Division Three North Championship in 1957-1958.
The Scorpions trail 44-49 after the first leg at Somerset on Friday night. But for three broken chains plus other mechanical mishaps, the Scorpions could have taken a lead into their home leg.
Promoter Rob Godfrey said: “The whole tie in the balance. We would have settled for a five-point deficit from Somerset before the meeting there, but actually we probably deserved more than that. We had some bad luck, but that’s speedway.
“Nothing is settled yet. Some people would now mark us as favourites, but personally I’m taking nothing for granted – a lot can happen within 15 speedway races. There will be no complacency from us; we still have a job to do.
“We had a great atmosphere at the Eddie Wright Raceway for our play-off semi-final against Workington, and the riders really responded to the crowd.
“It was the same at the first leg of the final at Somerset. A good number of Scunthorpe supporters made the long trip down, and the noise they made matched the home crowd, and inspired our lads. That’s why we went onto the Somerset centre green after the meeting and went over to thank our supporters on the third bend.
“Tomorrow (Sunday) is the biggest ever meeting at the Eddie Wright Raceway. We’ve never, ever been involved in anything like this before. I hope that we can get as many people as possible along from the town and the rest of North Lincolnshire, because this is very special. We want a big crowd that makes a massive noise, to roar the lads onto what we hope is the Premier League Championship.”
The riders representing the Scunthorpe Scorpions tomorrow are as follows:
A double British Under-15 Champion, he made his debut for Scunthorpe in 2005, not long after his 15th birthday. Helped the club to numerous honours at Conference League level in 2006 and 2007. Returned “home” to Scunthorpe in 2012, and has taken over from the injured David Howe as the club’s No 1.
The 2011 Premier League Riders’ Champion, but the young Australian was surprisingly released by the Somerset Rebels in late August. Guested for an injury-hit Scunthorpe in play-off matches at Edinburgh and Workington in the first week of October and top scored on both occasions. Has accepted another guest booking for the Scorpions – and may have a point to prove to the Rebels.
ASHLEY BIRKS (CAPTAIN)
A product of the excellent youth policy at Scunthorpe, having progressed via the club’s amateur meetings and National League side, the Scunthorpe Saints. Won the play-offs with the Saints in 2011, and 12 months later, is hoping to repeat this feat with the senior side. The 2012 National League Riders’ Champion.
A mid-season signing, who also rides for Elite League Swindon. The 18-year-old is incredibly looking for a FOURTH league title – having previously won with Buxton (2010, National League), Glasgow (2011, Premier League) and Swindon (2012, Elite League).
MICHAEL PALM TOFT
The stuff of fairytales from the Dane. Nearly dropped at the time of the introduction of Morris, but has transformed his form. Scored a paid 21 seven-ride maximum in the play-off semi-final match against Workington – the first ever seven-ride maximum to be scored by a Scorpion at Premier League level,
The second product of the Scunthorpe Saints National League team – and part of the Saints’ title-winning side of 2011. Released by Premier League rivals Workington Comets in mid-season, but then signed up very quickly by his parent club Scunthorpe. At 23 years old, he is the ‘old man’ of the six riders competing for the Scorpions tomorrow.
Scorpions’ team manager Richard Hollingsworth said: “All our riders have done a marvellous job for us this season. That doesn’t only include those riding for the Scorpions in the final, but also all those others from earlier in the season, including, of course, the two members of our 1-7 who are currently injured, Thomas Jorgensen and David Howe.
“We just ask that our riders go out and give their best for the club one more time tomorrow, and we’ll see where that takes us.”
Teams for tomorrow (English unless stated):
Henderson Insurance Scunthorpe Scorpions: 1. Josh Auty, 2. David Howe R/R, 3. Sam Masters (Australia – guest), 4. Ashley Birks, 5. Nick Morris (Australia), 6. Michael Palm Toft (Denmark), 7. Gary Irving.
Somerset Rebels: 1. Craig Cook (guest), 2. Alex Davies (Australia), 3. Jesper B Monberg (Denmark), 4. James Wright, 5. Claus Vissing (Denmark), 6. Kyle Newman, 7. Lewis Kerr (guest).
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2012…
ALL SYSTEMS GO FOR SCORPIONS FOR MASSIVE MEETING!
A MUCH IMPROVED weather forecast means all systems are go for this afternoon’s (Sunday, 4pm) concluding leg of the final of the Premier League play-offs – the biggest-ever meeting held at the Eddie Wright Raceway in Normanby Road.
The Henderson Insurance Scunthorpe Scorpions are looking to overturn a five-point deficit against the Somerset Rebels – after a narrow 44-49 defeat at Somerset in the first leg on Friday. The aggregate winners will be crowned Premier League Champions this afternoon.
Scunthorpe promoter Rob Godfrey said: “The atmosphere for the Workington match here three weeks ago was fantastic, but this afternoon, we want it taken to a whole new level.
“There has never been a speedway meeting in Scunthorpe as important as this one. We urge people to come along this afternoon and be involved in what we hope will be a momentous sporting occasion for Scunthorpe. It’s one not to be missed.
“Our lads really want to win this. We’re taking nothing for granted, because Somerset are a good side themselves, but with the crowd behind us, we can do it.”
The postcode for the Eddie Wright Raceway stadium for first time visitors is DN15 8QZ.
There is a late change to the Somerset Rebels side. Guest Craig Cook aggravated an injury at Berwick last night, and he is replaced by Richard Hall.
Henderson Insurance Scunthorpe Scorpions: 1. Josh Auty, 2. David Howe R/R, 3. Sam Masters (guest), 4. Ashley Birks, 5. Nick Morris, 6. Michael Palm Toft, 7. Gary Irving.
Somerset Rebels: 1. Richard Hall (guest), 2. Alex Davies, 3. Jesper B Monberg, 4. James Wright, 5. Claus Vissing, 6. Kyle Newman, 7. Lewis Kerr (guest).
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2012…
SECOND TIME LUCKY
PLAY-OFF GRAND FINAL NOW TOMORROW!
After a summer blighted by the rain the weather gods once again conspired against the Henderson Insurance Scunthorpe Scorpions this afternoon as they hoped to clinch the Premier League championship at the Eddie Wright Raceway. After a reasonable morning it was much heavier than expected rain, less than an hour and a half before the scheduled start, which rendered the track un-raceable. With a dry day forecast the title decider will now take place at 7.30pm tomorrow evening (29th October).
A very disappointed Rob Godfrey (Scunthorpe promoter) reflected on Sunday’s events. “I’m just devastated about today. The main thing I wanted this weekend was decent weather so we could get this meeting on in front of a big crowd. The forecasts suggested we weren’t going to get much rain and then it would clear in plenty of time but they were wrong. The rain just didn’t go past like it was meant to and it got heavier. Despite us working hard with dry shale to improve the track it just didn’t stop in time and we were left with no other decision to make.
“I feel so bad for the fans that travelled but if the forecast had been anything like accurate we would have been okay. At least we’re not due any rain at all tomorrow so people can travel in absolute certainty that the meeting will be on. How many times have we been able to say that this year?
“Now we must re-focus and try and take this opportunity that we have created. We made it into the playoffs and then advanced to the final. Then we were pretty impressive on Friday at Somerset so we just have to keep it going for one more meeting and we can be crowned the 2012 Premier League Champions. I really want us to bring some glory to the town and you never know it might be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Hopefully with the forecast so good and no Scorpions action for nearly five months we can still get a big crowd to try and cheer us to victory”.
With guest rider Sam Masters having to jet off to Argentina for the final two rounds of the World Under-21 Championship the Scorpions have called on Rye House’s Jason Bunyan to cover for the injured Thomas Jørgensen whilst Richard Hall will once again provide the cover for Somerset’s number one, Jason Doyle. Bunyan has guested twice before for the Scorpions at the Eddie Wright Raceway and impressed whilst he recorded a full 15-point maximum for Rye House today in their defeat of Berwick in the Premier Challenge Trophy Final.
Henderson Insurance Scunthorpe Scorpions: 1. Josh Auty, 2. David Howe R/R, 3. Jason Bunyan (guest), 4. Ashley Birks, 5. Nick Morris, 6. Michael Palm Toft, 7. Gary Irving.
Somerset Rebels: 1. Richard Hall (guest), 2. Alex Davies, 3. Jesper B Monberg, 4. James Wright, 5. Claus Vissing, 6. Kyle Newman, 7. Lewis Kerr (guest).
MONDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2012…
WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS!
ROB GODFREY: “IT’S A DREAM FULFILED”
HENDERSON INSURANCE Scunthorpe Scorpions promoter Rob Godfrey was on cloud nine after seeing his team triumph 92-91 on aggregate to win the Premier League Championship for the first time in their history.
The Scorpions beat the Somerset Rebels 48-42 in the second leg of the Premier League Play-Off Final last night (Monday) at the Eddie Wright Raceway, and therefore overcame the five-point deficit they faced from the first leg by the narrowest of margins.
Josh Auty & Nick Morris combined in Heat 15 (or rather Heat 30) to keep the charging Richard Hall at the back to take a championship-winning 3-3, after a night of unforgettable and dramatic action.
Speaking minutes after the final race last night, an ecstatic and emotional Godfrey said: “One point! That was all that separated the two teams – just one single point!!
“It’s still hard to take it all in.
“We had lots of dramas with bikes at Somerset, with chain breaks and everything else, while tonight there was so much going on, and the aggregate lead seemed to be changing with every race.
“Every single one of our riders gave it their absolute all. They were fantastic – heroes the lot of them.
“We had Ash (Birks) picking himself up from the floor to continue in the meeting; Michael (Palm Toft) recover from a couple of knocks to win Heat 14 by half a lap; Gary (Irving) beat Jesper B Monberg from behind; our guest Jason (Bunyan) scored a couple of points when we really needed him to; and Josh and Nick combined in Heat 15 to see us home.
“Hats off to Somerset. They came to the Eddie Wright Raceway, rode it better than they ever had before, and pushed us all the way.
“We’re the two best teams in the league, so it was always going to be a top meeting tonight, and so it proved.
“We put out in a press release that it could go down to the final race. I never thought it actually would, but that’s happened.
“It wasn’t decided until the last lap, because Richard Hall was all over our lads. It’s also fantastic for British Speedway, because meetings like this one give the sport a shot in the arm.”
Godfrey also praised the track staff who made sure the meeting went ahead, after unexpected rain earlier in the day threatened to scupper the match for the second day in succession.
He said: “All those who have worked on the track for the last couple of days have done a just amazing job. To produce such a good racetrack after all the rain is fantastic.”
Godfrey concluded by looking at the progress made by the club, over the last eight seasons.
“If you look at it, we’ve moved forward every single season. This is actually only our fifth season of Premier League. To win the Premier League title is a dream fulfilled.
“Now we’ve won it, we want to stay up there and be competitive every season.
“But this will be a night we’ll never forget. One point in it, can you believe it? One point!!”
MONDAY, OCTOBER 29, 2012…
SCORPIONS 2012 PREMIER LEAGUE CHAMPIONS AFTER THRILLER
SCUNTHORPE SCORPIONS 48 SOMERSET REBELS 42 (SCORPIONS WIN ON AGGREGATE 92-91)
THE HENDERSON INSURANCE Scunthorpe Scorpions clinched the Premier League title last night in the very last race of a tense encounter at the Scorpions’ Eddie Wright Raceway. With the Scorpions unable to extend the lead they held for most of the meeting a six-point lead on the night going into the last race meant they were ahead by just one solitary point. With Somerset’s Jesper B. Monberg racing away it left the Scorpions pair of Josh Auty and Nick Morris to fend off a strong challenge from former Scorpions skipper Richard Hall for four laps. Hall tried everything to get past but the Scorpions duo just managed to keep him at bay and clinch the league title.
The meeting started well for the Scorpions with Josh Auty winning heat 1 before the reserve pairing of Michael Palm Toft and Gary Irving recorded a 5-1 in heat 2. However, there was a shock in heat 3 when Ashley Birks and Jason Bunyan conceded a 5-1. Birks recovered with a heat win before Auty and Toft claimed a 5-1 in heat 6 to, once again, give the Scorpions a four point lead on the night.
The lead was extended to six in heat 7 with a 4-2 from Gary Irving and Nick Morris but it could have been more if the race hadn’t have been awarded when Lewis Kerr fell. Worse followed in heat eight when Ashley Birks was hit by Kyle Newman and a likely heat advantage became a 3-3 in the re-run.
Worse than the loss of a heat advantage was the loss of Birks. An injury sustained in heat 8 meant he wasn’t able to take his programmed ride in heat 9 and the Rebels claimed a 5-1 against the Scorpions’ reserves. It cut the gap to six points but consecutive 4-2s extended the lead back to six and the aggregate lead with four races to go.
Heat 12 saw the Scorpions squander a 3-3 when Toft crashed out but Mick Morris and Josh Auty recorded a 4-2 in heat 13 to see the Scorpions claim the aggregate lead once more. With Ashley Birks surprisingly fit to ride again he looked to be on a 3-3 with Toft but he tried to round Kyle Newman and fell heavily. In the re-run the Scorpions had a stroke of luck when Newman hit the tapes and had to go from the 15-metre mark. The advantage was enough for Toft who won the race with ease.
It all meant the Scorpions needed a 3-3 in the deciding race but when Monberg got away it became a real three way battle for the minor placings. Although it was touch and go at times Nick Morris and Josh Auty kept Richard Hall at bay for four laps to ensure the Scorpions won the league title by the narrowest of margins – just one race point.
The end of the race signalled the start of some wild celebrations before the league championship trophy was presented to captain Ashley Birks.
After the meeting an emotional Richard Hollingsworth (Scorpions’ Team Manager) explained: “It is a dream come true and the culmination of eight and a half years hard work. It was just so dramatic though. We had drama with the rain earlier in the day and the track staff just worked wonders this afternoon to give us a race track. Then for it to go down to the last lap of the last race was more than nerves could take. I was okay until Ashley crashed in heat 14. I was confident we would win but from that point I knew that one engine failure could decide the league title.
“You have to take your hat off to the Rebels for putting up a great fight and you have to feel for them because they must be hurting having come so close.
“However, we do have a special team. We’ve had problems thrown at us all season long and they continued tonight but as always we dug deep, battled on and came through in the end. I’m so very proud of the riders and delighted for everyone involved with the club. Premier League Champions! It certainly sounds very nice indeed”
Henderson Insurance Scunthorpe Scorpions 48 – Josh Auty 11+1 (5), Jason Bunyan 2 (3), Ashley Birks 5+1 (4), Nick Morris 11+1 (6), Michael Palm Toft 12 (7), Gary Irving 7+2 (5)
Somerset Rebels 42 – Richard Hall 5+1 (5), Alex Davies 8+1 (4), Jesper B Monberg 10+1 (5), James Wright 7 (4), Claus Vissing 7 (4), Kyle Newman 5+2 (6), Lewis Kerr 0 (3)
1: Auty, Davies, Hall, Irving, 56.37 (3-3).
2: Toft, Irving, Newman, Kerr, 56.16 (5-1) (8-4).
3: Wright, Monberg, Birks, Bunyan, 58.25 (1-5) (9-9).
4: Vissing, Morris, Irving, Kerr, 57.78 (3-3) (12-12).
5: Birks, Hall, Davies, Bunyan, 58.53 (3-3) (15-15).
6: Toft, Auty, Newman, Vissing, 58.72 (5-1) (20-16).
7: Irving, Monberg, Morris, Kerr (fell, excluded), Wright (excluded tapes offence), awarded (4-2) (24-18).
8: (re-run) Davies, Toft, Birks, Newman (fell, excluded), 58.50 (3-3) (27-21).
9: Vissing, Newman, Irving, Toft (retired), (1-5) (28-26).
10: Auty, Wright, Morris, Monberg, 59.18 (4-2) (32-28).
11: Morris, Davies, Toft, Hall (retired), 59.56 (4-2) (36-30).
12: (re-run) Monberg, Bunyan, Newman, Toft (fell, excluded), 59.69 (2-4) (38-34).
13: Morris, Hall, Auty, Vissing, 59.78 (4-2) (42-36).
14: (re-run) Toft, Wright, Newman (from 15m, tapes offence), Birks (fell, excluded), 60.12 (3-3) (45-39).
15: Monberg, Auty, Morris, Hall, 60.69 (3-3) (48-42).
Aggregate score: Scunthorpe 92 Somerset 91
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2012…
RIDER REACTION TO SCORPIONS’ PREMIER LEAGUE GLORY
IT IS A COUPLE OF DAYS since the Henderson Insurance Scunthorpe Scorpions clinched the Premier League Championship in such unforgettable style – edging out the Somerset Rebels 92-91 on aggregate in the Play-Off Final after a 48-42 win in the second leg at the Eddie Wright Raceway on Monday.
The heroes on the night were the six riders representing the Scorpions. Every single point that was fought over and won proved to be vital in the final reckoning.
Below are interviews with four Scorpions on the night of triumph.
JOSH AUTY (scored paid 12, and involved in the last race 3-3 that secured the title):
“We just couldn’t have scripted anything like that. One point in it; a last-heat decider. It hasn’t really sunk in yet.
“Collectively, as a team, I think we deserve it. Overall we’ve been very, very good this season, and it’s no less than we deserve to win the title.
“We have had a very young team, since David (Howe) has been out. Going into Heat 15, I did have one thought at the back of my mind, which was maybe lack of experience could cost us. But Nick (Morris) and myself pulled it out of the bag.
“We could hear Richard Hall – we knew where he was. Fortunately he didn’t come through.
“It’s fabulous for the fans. We did it for them, the sponsors and the promotion. We can’t thank the supporters enough for coming each week and cheering us on. This was for them… and it’s nothing more than they deserve as well.
“It’s awesome to win a league title in my first year back at Scunthorpe. We’ve known we could do it from the start of the season. Plans don’t always come to fruition, but fortunately for us, it all came together.
“Scunthorpe does have a special place in my heart. I started my career here and we won countless trophies (at National League level).
“To win the league again at senior level, while established as the club’s No 1, is a massive thing for me and makes it even more satisfying.”
GARY IRVING (scored paid nine and passed Jesper B Monberg to win Heat 7):
“That’s two years on the trot that I’ve been involved in a Scunthorpe team that has won a league title by a point on aggregate – last year, it was the Saints in the National League, and this year with the Scorpions. You couldn’t make it up!
“Everybody’s nerves are wrecked! Somerset came along and pushed us so close, so well done to them. That’s the closest that anyone has pushed us here over the last few months.
“It was two very good teams, and whoever won it, deserved it.
“In Heat 1, I didn’t really attack the track enough. It was much grippier than I expected. I made a couple of changes and then started to score decent points.
“I had a race win in both legs, so I was pleased with that. Everyone contributed – it was a proper team effort.
“I must thank Rusty Harrison for lending me an engine for the final. It went like a bomb, so Rusty, cheers mate!”
MICHAEL PALM TOFT (top scorer for the Scorpions with 12 points and won a vital Heat 14):
“That was such a hard meeting, but a good one.
“I had two offs during the night – I was pushed out in one of those. It’s a tough game, especially in the final. Somerset were up for it, just like us.
“In Heat 14, we knew we could win it with a 5-1. But Ash fell off, so I was told I had to win the re-run, no matter what. I made the gate and that was that.
“I had crossed fingers during that last race, and was screaming. Richard Hall nearly got around and it was so nerve-wracking to watch.
“I’ve been through a lot this season. I was nearly sacked at one point, and then got my stuff changed and started doing much better. It’s been a rollercoaster, but I ended the last few months going really well, and I want to take that into the start of next year.”
ASHLEY BIRKS (captain, scored paid six and rode through the pain barrier):
“It wasn’t a perfect night for myself, but it’s all about the team.
“I got hit from behind in Heat 8 and was taken off. That spoilt my night – I was sore from then on.
“But I’m not using that as an excuse for my fall in Heat 14. I chucked points away there, but luckily Michael went out and won the re-run and got the 3-3, which was the position we were in when I fell. So it worked out OK.
“I feel really winded and sore. I hurt my left scaphoid, my other arm, my ribs, just about everything aches, but fingers crossed I’ll be OK. I’ll be feeling it tomorrow, but I’ll just pick myself up and get into gym, get fit again, and do some work in the winter.
“It was fantastic to hold that trophy aloft. I only started riding speedway around three years ago and soon became a Scunthorpe asset.
“To be involved in championship-winning sides in the National League last year and then the Premier League this year, it’s been just brilliant, you can’t ask for any better than that.
“I might be the captain of the side, but really we don’t need a captain, because everyone is so enthusiastic.
“I have full respect for David Howe (skipper of the Scorpions until his injuries). He’s been to every meeting here, and he also went to Somerset the other night. I can ask him any question that I need to.
“As a team, we just enjoy ourselves. As long as whoever comes in for us next year is as enthusiastic as the rest of us, I can’t see why we can’t repeat what we’ve done this year next year as well.”
SOMERSET V SCUNTHORPE: HEAT-BY-HEAT
IT’S been just over a week since that that incredible meeting at the Eddie Wright Raceway that saw the Henderson Insurance Scunthorpe Scorpions crowned as Premier League Champions.
The below is a heat-by-heat report of the first leg at Somerset’s Oak Tree Arena.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26TH, 2012
SOMERSET REBELS V HENDERSON INSURANCE SCUNTHORPE SCORPIONS
PREMIER LEAGUE PLAY-OFF FINAL, 1ST LEG
SOMERSET REBELS 49
1. Craig Cook (Guest) R 2 3 2′ (7+1) (4)
2. Alex Davies 2 1′ 2 2′ (7+2) (4)
3. Jesper B Monberg 1 1 3 3 1′ (9+1) (5)
4. James Wright 3 3 1 1 (8) (4)
5. Claus Vissing 2 2′ 1 3 2 (10+1) (5)
6. Kyle Newman 3 0 3 1′ 0 (7+1) (5)
7. Lewis Kerr (Guest) 0 0 1 (1) (3)
Team managers: Steve Bishop & Garry May
HENDERSON INSURANCE SCUNTHORPE SCORPIONS 44
1. Josh Auty 1 2 6# 0 0 (9) (5)
2. Anders Mellgren (Guest) 3 R R MX 2′ = 5+1 (4)
3. Thomas Jorgensen R/R – scored 4 (4)
4. Ashley Birks 0 1 1 2 3 (7) (5)
5. Nick Morris 1 3 2 1 3 (10) (5)
6. Michael Palm Toft 2 2 R 3 0 R 2′ (9+1) (7)
7. Gary Irving 1′ 3 0 0 (4+1) (4)
# = tactical ride
Team manager: Richard Hollingsworth
Referee: Darren Hartley
REBELS V SCORPIONS: HEAT-BY-HEAT
Somerset win toss, and choose gates 1 & 3 for Heat 1.
1: A start sharp from Mellgren ahead of Davies, while Auty roars under Cook on the third bend of the first lap. Auty catches up leading two, with Mellgren, Davies and Auty all in close proximity, but without any further change of position. Cook (scorer of 15-point maximum for Somerset at Ipswich 24 hours earlier) is surprisingly tailed off at the back, and pulls into the pits on the final circuit.
Mellgren (gate 2), Davies (1), Auty (4), Cook (3) (ret), 59.60 (2-4) (2-4).
2: Toft & Irving seem to have the edge from the tapes, but Newman cuts to the inside and comes out of the second bend in front. Toft keeps Newman on his toes thereafter.
Newman (2), Toft (1), Irving (3), Kerr (4), 59.78 (3-3) (5-7).
3: Toft takes the R/R ride. A similar story to Heat 2, with the Scorpions sharper from the tapes, but the Rebels using the inside of the opening bends to their advantage. Wright leads from the second bend from Toft, Monberg and Birks. Birks inside Monberg into third on the back straight, but Monberg roars back under Birks on the fourth bend. Second-placed Toft then doesn’t allow race leader Wright to relax. The Rebels level the scores with a 4-2.
Wright (1), Toft (2), Monberg (3), Birks (4), 59.31 (4-2) (9-9).
4: Newman takes reserve ride for Kerr. Irving gates, and Morris charges around Newman on the back straight to join Irving at the front. Vissing moves into third, while Morris attempts to shepherd home Irving as Vissing closes in. Vissing goes for the big blast around the outside on the final bend, passes Morris and almost passes Irving as well, as the Scorpions are denied a 5-1 at the death. Hard luck on Morris, who lost points through team-riding.
Irving (2), Vissing (3), Morris (4), Newman (1), 59.90 (2-4) (11-13).
5: It’s a 3-3 out of the gate, with Wright in the lead, but Mellgren sheds a chain halfway around the opening bends (momentarily blocking Monberg), and the Rebels take a 4-2.
Wright (4), Auty (3), Monberg (2), Mellgren (1) (ret), 58.97 (4-2) (15-15).
6: Morris leads Cook and Toft from the tapes; then a beautiful move from Toft around the outside on the back straight takes him from third to first. It looks like a sure-fire 5-1 to the Scorpions. But race-leader Toft sheds a chain at the start of the final lap, and the Rebels are gifted a lucky 3-3.
Morris (2), Cook (1), Davies (3), Toft (4) (ret), 58.85 (3-3) (18-18).
7: Irving takes the R/R ride. Irving is the first to show from the start, but Newman rounds him on the third bend of lap 1, and then Vissing follows suit on the back straight of the second lap. Irving then drops behind team-mate Birks. A 5-1 to the Rebels, who take the lead for the first time on the night.
Newman (4), Vissing (2), Birks (3), Irving (1), 59.47 (5-1) (23-19).
8: Newman takes reserve ride for Kerr. With the time ticking down, Toft also comes in as a reserve – for Irving. A tapes-to-flag win for Toft. Mellgren is plagued by clutch problems, and pulls up from fourth bend on the second lap.
Toft (1), Davies (4), Newman (2), Mellgren (3) (ret), 58.78 (3-3) (26-22).
9: The Rebels are quickest from the tapes, but Morris passes Wright on the opening bends into second place. Two-races-in-one then develop. Toft is level on the outside of Wright after two laps, but Wright holds on. Meanwhile, at the front, Monberg withstands a late challenge from Morris, as Somerset edge further in front.
Monberg (4), Morris (1), Wright (2), Toft (3), 59.47 (4-2) (30-24).
10: Mellgren takes the R/R ride, but still has to resolve his clutch problems, and is excluded under the two-minute time allowance. Irving takes his place. Birks surges up the inside on the second bend into the lead, but Cook powers around him after a lap, and then Davies moves inside Birks on the second bend of lap two, to join Cook for a 5-1, as the Scorpions drop ten points behind – into tactical territory!
Cook (4), Davies (2), Birks (1), Irving (3), Mellgren (excluded, two minutes), 59.25 (5-1) (35-25).
11: Auty takes tactical ride. Kerr takes reserve ride for Newman. Auty gates, and leads from Vissing. Auty pulls a slight locker, causing Vissing to lose momentum, and Mellgren moves inside Vissing on the second bend of lap 2. Mellgren is flying and actually moves ahead of Auty on the second bend of the final lap. He allows TR Auty back in front, while keeping Vissing behind. A big 8-1 to the Scorpions, who reduce the deficit from 10 to 3 in a single stroke.
AUTY (TR) (2), Mellgren (4), Vissing (1), Kerr (3), 60.07 (1-8) (36-33).
12: Birks takes the R/R ride. Monberg leads, but Birks goes around him after a lap in fine style. However, the race changes from a 4-2 to the Scorpions to a 4-2 to the Rebels in an instant. Toft sheds his second chain of the evening on the fourth bend of lap 3 (thus gifting a point to Kerr), just as Monberg regains the lead by going back around Birks. The momentum shifts back in the favour of the Rebels.
Monberg (1), Birks (4), Kerr (3), Toft (2) (ret), 60.09 (4-2) (40-35).
13: Cook & Vissing are first away from tapes, but Vissing goes wide into the dirt on the first bend. The Scorpions move briefly into second and third, but Vissing bombs around Morris on the exit of the second bend, before also shooting around Auty and Cook on the third and fourth turns, to complete a last-to-first swoop. A 5-1 to the Rebels, who move nine points ahead.
Vissing (4), Cook (2), Morris (3), Auty (1), 59.34 (5-1) (45-36).
14: Toft takes reserve ride for Irving. Birks is quickest away, and then Toft moves around Newman into second place on the back straight. Wright moves into third, and does close in at one point on Toft, who has settled into second place behind Birks. However, the Scorpions hold on to what could be a crucial 5-1 – much to the delight of the vocal travelling support.
Birks (2), Toft (4), Wright (3), Newman (1), 60.06 (1-5) (46-41).
Scunthorpe choose gates 2 & 4 for Heat 15.
15: Auty and Morris are the automatic choices for the Scorpions, while the Rebels spring a minor surprise by naming Monberg to partner Vissing, rather than Cook. Morris gates, and then pulls away, while the Rebels combine to keep Auty at the back. Auty is far not away at the end, but there’s no way through. A 3-3 to end the evening and leave things intriguingly poised for the second leg at the Eddie Wright Raceway.
Morris (2), Vissing (3), Monberg (1), Auty (4), 59.32 (3-3) (49-44).
The Scorpions’ riders, promoter Rob Godfrey and team manager Richard Hollingsworth head onto the centre green, and go over to thank the large contingent of Scunthorpe fans congregated on the third bend.
TRACK: Slightly slicker than usual for the Oak Tree Arena, with neither indifferent weather in previous days or cold temperatures on the night helping the cause. But the track still served up some decent racing during the course of the night, as you’d expect from one of the better tracks in the UK.
REFEREE: Darren Hartley – didn’t really have a decision to make all night!
TRAVELLING SUPPORT: Large and very vocal!
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 9/10. The importance of the occasion meant it was impossible to take your eyes off the action and was enough to banish the cold.
Gate 1: 3 wins, 4 seconds, 3 thirds, 5 lasts/unplaced, 20+1 points
Gate 2: 7 wins (incl. TR), 4 seconds, 3 thirds, 1 last/unplaced, 35+4 points
(The only unplaced rider from Gate 2 was Michael Palm Toft in Heat 12, who lost a chain while third)
Gate 3: 0 wins, 3 seconds, 7 thirds, 5 lasts/unplaced, 13+2 points
Gate 4: 5 wins, 4 seconds, 2 thirds, 4 lasts/unplaced, 25+2 points
GATES 2 & 4 RULE AT SOMERSET
During the Premier League Pairs at Somerset in August, it became clear that whichever team has gates 2 & 4 in a particular heat at the Oak Tree Arena has a distinct advantage. The 15 heats in the play-off final scored as follows (scores with gates 2 & 4 first):
4-2, 3-3, 2-4, 4-2, 4-2, 3-3, 5-1, 3-3, 4-2, 5-1, 8-1, 2-4, 5-1, 5-1, 3-3
Gates 2 & 4 scored 60 points, compared to a meagre 33 points from gates 1 & 3.
NO LUCK FOR SCORPIONS
The Scorpions were unlucky – let’s take the mechanical failures in scoring positions away and see what the score would have been. Had the chain breaks not occurred in Heats 5 & 6, the Scorpions would have shared Heat 5 as a 3-3 and then gained a 5-1 in Heat 6, thus putting them 21-15 ahead. The 8-1 in Heat 11 would only have been a 5-1, so the scores after this race would have been 33-33. Without Toft’s second chain break in Heat 12 that race would have been a 3-3, and the final score would have been 45-45. This is assuming Mellgren as a non-scorer in Heats 8 & 10. With a working clutch, he may have scored in these races (he looked handy enough in the two races he finished), and then we’re looking at a Scorpions win.
SOMERSET’S USE OF THEIR RESERVES
The Rebels use of their reserves was unusual, in that Lewis Kerr (their weaker reserve) did not take a second outing until Heat 11, when it is usual to use up the rides of the weaker reserve early on, and then come on strong with the better reserve in the closing stages. So did it cost the Rebels? Let’s hypothesise what would have happened had Kerr had been in Heats 4 & 8, and Newman in Heats 11 & 12. Heat 4 would have stayed as a 4-2 to the Scorpions, as Newman finished last and Kerr is unlikely to have bettered that. Likewise the result of Heat 8 would have been unaffected, with Kerr scoring a point just as Newman did, due to the engine failure of Mellgren. So the score would have still been 35-25 going in Heat 11, but arguably could it have changed from here? With Newman in Heat 11, would Mellgren still have come through into second place, or could Vissing and Newman shut out Mellgren at the back? Likewise would Monberg and Newman have taken a 5-1 from Heat 12? It seems likely that the Rebels would have scored at least one more point; possibly even another three. Of course, it’s all a matter of conjecture, and there could well have been very valid reasons for Kerr’s rides coming later in the meeting (e.g. mechanical issues).
HEAT WINNERS GALORE!
No fewer than 11 riders won a race during this meeting, including all six Scunthorpe Scorpions! A 12th rider, Alex Davies, took a paid win in Heat 10. Only Somerset guest Lewis Kerr failed to either win a race or take a paid win.
KEY RACE OF THE EVENING
Birks and Toft combining for the 5-1 in Heat 14. Going into this race, Wright had scored 7 points (from 3 rides) and Newman 7+1 (4), against Toft 7 (6) and Birks 4 (4). The race seemed to favour the Rebels and a 5-1 would have given them a handy lead for the second leg. But instead the maximum heat advantage went the way of the Scorpions. A hugely important race.
VERDICT: Both teams would have been semi-satisfied with the result of this meeting. The Somerset Rebels for winning the match, and the Scunthorpe Scorpions for reducing the Somerset lead in the final five races. By the same token, Somerset would have been disappointed for not ramming home their advantage, while the Scorpions would have been reflecting on the possible score with Mellgren and Toft’s mechanical issues. In short, a meeting that left everything still to race for in the second leg.
(This report is a little more opinionated than usual. Any opinions are solely those of the author – Rob Peasley – and do not necessarily reflect the views of Scunthorpe Speedway).
SCUNTHORPE V SOMERSET: HEAT-BY-HEAT
IT WAS one of the most astonishing meetings that many of us have ever witnessed, as the Scorpions edged out the Somerset Rebels in a truly classic encounter at the Eddie Wright Raceway.
The below is a heat-by-heat report of that play-off final second leg encounter that resulted in Scunthorpe winning in a historic first-ever Premier League title.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 29TH, 2012
HENDERSON INSURANCE SCUNTHORPE SCORPIONS V SOMERSET REBELS
PREMIER LEAGUE PLAY-OFF FINAL, 2ND LEG
HENDERSON INSURANCE SCUNTHORPE SCORPIONS 48
1. Josh Auty 3 2* 3 1 2 (11+1) (5)
2. David Howe R/R – scored 5+1 (4)
3. Jason Bunyan (Guest) 0 0 2 (2) (3)
4, Ashley Birks 1 3 1* FX (5+1) (4)
5. Nick Morris 2 1 1 3 3 1* (11+1) (6)
6. Michael Palm Toft 3 3 2 R 1 FX 3 (12) (7)
7. Gary Irving 0 2* 1* 3 1 (7+2) (5)
Team manager: Richard Hollingsworth
SOMERSET REBELS 42
1. Richard Hall (Guest) 1* 2 R 2 0 (5+1) (5)
2. Alex Davies 2 1* 3 2 (8+1) (4)
3. Jesper B Monberg 2* 2 0 3 3 (10+1) (5)
4. James Wright 3 TX 2 2 (7) (4)
5. Claus Vissing 3 1 3 0 (7) (4)
6. Kyle Newman 1 0 FX 2* 1 1* (5+2) (6)
7. Lewis Kerr (Guest) 0 0 FX (0) (3)
Team managers: Steve Bishop & Garry May
Referee: Dave Dowling
Scunthorpe win 92-91 on aggregate
SCORPIONS V REBELS: HEAT-BY-HEAT
Somerset win toss, and choose gates 2 & 4 for Heat 1.
1: Irving takes the R/R ride. Irving & Auty seem to have the edge from the gate, but the race is quickly halted as an unsatisfactory start. In the re-run, it’s all change on the opening bend, as Auty, having missed the gate, comes out of the second bend in front, while Irving – after a good start – finds himself last. Irving changes under Hall on the fourth bend of lap 1 take third place. But just as it is looking settled as a 4-2 to the Scorpions, Hall bombs past Irving coming off the final bend, and the race is shared 3-3.
(Re-run) Auty (gate 3), Davies (2), Hall (4), Irving (1), 56.37 (3-3) (3-3) (Agg 47-52).
2: Toft & Irving from the gate and take a straight-forward 5-1. Once again, the all-round strength of the Scorpions looks set to pay dividends.
Toft (2), Irving (4), Newman (1), Kerr (3), 56.16 (5-1) (8-4) (Agg 52-53).
3: The Scorpions are brought back to earth with a bump. Birks makes a good start from the inside, but he’s beaten out of the second corner by Wright. Monberg thrusts inside Birks on the third bend, with Birks manfully chasing for the rest of the race, but Monberg holds him off. Bunyan trailing after a very slow start. A maximum for the Rebels – this isn’t going to be easy!
Wright (4), Monberg (2), Birks (1), Bunyan (3), 58.28 (1-5) (9-9) (Agg 53-58).
4: Irving fast away from the inside, but Vissing has too much momentum around the opening bends and moves into the lead. Morris then chasing Vissing in vain.
Vissing (4), Morris (3), Irving (1), Kerr (2), 57.78 (3-3) (12-12) (Agg 56-61).
5: Captain Birks makes it a hat-trick of wins from the outside gate. Meanwhile, Bunyan again has his lunch at the starting tapes. He chases Davies, gets level on the inside of Davies on the final bend, but the Australian holds on.
Birks (4), Hall (3), Davies (1), Bunyan (2), 58.52 (3-3) (15-15) (Agg 59-64).
6: Toft takes the R/R ride. Auty fast away from the inside, while Toft joins him after flying around Vissing on the second bend. The Scorpions pair are untroubled after that.
Toft (3), Auty (1), Vissing (2), Newman (4), 58.72 (5-1) (20-16) (Agg 64-65).
7: Irving takes reserve ride for Toft. Wright hits the tapes, and Kerr replaces him (thus using up Kerr’s third and final ride). In the re-run, Monberg (gate 1) is fastest from the tapes, but Irving is buzzing just behind him, and in his trademark move, cuts back to the inside on the fourth bend to move ahead of Monberg. Third-placed Morris moves in on Monberg, but then the trailed-off Kerr falls on the second bend of the third lap. With Morris right up with Monberg, the race is stopped. With the race far from settled, referee Dave Dowling has the discretion to order a re-run, even though Irving was just moving onto the final lap at the time of stoppage. However, it is awarded as a 4-2 to the Scorpions, to the consternation of the Scunthorpe camp, who felt they had a good chance of a 5-1 (although maybe Monberg would have got clear and won the re-run, who knows?). Scunny move ahead on aggregate by a solitary point.
(Re-run) Irving (4), Monberg (1), Morris (2), Kerr (3) (fell, excluded), Wright (3) (excluded, tape touching), awarded – no time (4-2) (24-18) (Agg 68-67).
8: Birks takes the R/R ride, Toft takes reserve ride for Irving, and Newman takes reserve ride for Kerr. Birks traps, with Newman and Toft in close attention. Newman almost under Birks on the second lap, before Toft propels himself under Newman after two laps – as the Scorpions move into a 5-1 position. But Newman (now third) finds unexpected drive on the second bend of the third lap and ploughs into the back of race-leader Birks. It looks nasty, but a battered Birks gets to his feet. With so much at stake, tempers flare briefly and there’s a bit of a fracas in the pits. Newman is excluded, while the referee orders a re-run, even though Davies was trailed off at the time of the stoppage. Birks is first away in the re-run, but clearly is feeling a bit second-hand, and Davies moves inside him on the third bend. Toft is then chasing Davies, but is unable to get through. A fortunate 3-3 to the Rebels, although had the ref awarded a 5-1, it would have been tactical ride territory in Heat 9.
(Re-run) Davies (3), Toft (2), Birks (4), Newman (1) (fell, excluded), 58.50 (3-3) (27-21) (Agg 71-70).
9: With Bunyan off form and Birks struggling for fitness, Scunthorpe team manager Richard Hollingsworth places both Scorpions reserves into the race. Toft makes a flying start from the outside, but fourth-placed Newman takes a fall on the opening bends. It’s a 4-2 to the Scorpions at the time of stoppage, with the ref allowing all four riders in the re-run. In the re-run, Vissing makes a better start, and he blocks Toft’s outside charge. Toft runs out of room and clouts the fence. Again, the referee allows all four riders back. At the third time of asking, it’s the Rebels who get away. Irving chases Newman, but to no avail. Toft pulls up, with his bike having been damaged in the fall. Are things slipping away from the Scorpions?
(Re-run twice) Vissing (1), Newman (3), Irving (2), Toft (4) (ret), 59.51 (1-5) (28-26) (Agg 72-75)
10: Morris takes the R/R ride. A closely contested first lap sees Wright briefly into the lead on the third turn, but Auty moves back inside him on the fourth bend, with Morris under Monberg into third at the same time. Morris starts to chase Wright, but he goes wide on the fourth bend of lap two and loses too much ground.
Auty (4), Wright (1), Morris (2), Monberg (3), 59.18 (4-2) (32-28) (Agg 75-76)
11: Morris gates ahead of the Somerset pair, but Hall’s bike grinds to a halt on the fourth bend of the opening lap. Toft inherits third, challenges Davies, but is unable to dislodge Davies from second place. The Scorpions edge back in front on aggregate by a point.
Morris (1), Davies (4), Toft (3), Hall (2) (ret), 59.56 (4-2) (36-30) (Agg 80-79)
12: Toft takes reserve ride for Irving. All very close on the opening lap. Bunyan briefly into the lead, only for Monberg to find a way back through. Newman also close on Toft, when Toft misjudges the first corner of the second lap, and takes a tumble. Toft excluded from the race. In the re-run, all settled from the gate, with Bunyan splitting the Somerset pair.
(Re-run) Monberg (4), Bunyan (1), Newman (2), Toft (3) (fell, excluded), 59.69 (2-4) (38-34) (Agg 82-83).
13: Morris gates, but Auty is last away. Auty fights inside Vissing on the third bend, before blasting around Hall after a lap. But Hall responds by charging around Auty on the second bend of lap 2 to regain second place. Auty in contention for the rest of the race, but Hall holds him off. The overall aggregate lead changes hands for the third time in three heats.
Morris (4), Hall (1), Auty (2), Vissing (3), 59.78 (4-2) (42-36) (Agg 86-85)
14: Newman takes reserve ride for Kerr. A surprise – Ashley Birks is ready to resume racing! With Birks having declared himself fit again, Scunthorpe team manager Richard Hollingsworth has a dilemma of who to use between Birks, Toft and Irving. In the end, he goes for Birks & Toft. Newman gets out in front, with Birks and Toft in second and third. But then – DISASTER! Birks gets a little too close to Newman on the fourth bend of lap 2, loses control and smashes into the fence. His bike bounces back across the track, but fortunately it is missed by the other riders. A sore and shaken Birks, who has given absolutely everything, is assisted from the track – he’s excluded from the re-run. The noisy Scunthorpe fans are suddenly very quiet – has the final just been lost? But then the pendulum swings the other way. Just as the riders are waiting for the green light for the re-run, Newman moves early… straight into the tapes. He’s already a replacement for Kerr, so the only option for the Rebels management is to place Newman off 15 metres for the second re-run. With only two riders at the tapes, Toft (gate 1) beats Wright to the first turn, and then pulls away to win by a large margin. The Scorpions remain one point in front going into the final race.
(Re-run twice) Toft (1), Wright (2), Newman (4) (penalised 15m for starting offence), Birks (3) (fell, excluded), (3-3) (45-39) (Agg 89-88)
Scunthorpe take gates 2 & 4 for Heat 15.
15: The maths are very simple – a shared race or a Scorpions heat advantage and Scunthorpe are league champions. A 4-2 or a 5-1 to Somerset and they snatch the title. Scunthorpe team manager Richard Hollingsworth has an easy choice in Auty and Morris. His Rebels counterpart Steve Bishop has a much tougher choice, with all his top five having been pretty much on a par. He plumps for Monberg and Hall, the latter no doubt picked because of his defeat of Auty in Heat 13. The tension is almost unbearable. Monberg gates, and for one dreadful moment, it looks like Hall might join him at the front. But Morris blocks his route around the outside down the back straight, and Hall momentarily drops ground to the Scorpions pair. Morris and Auty decide not to go for any heroics and settle for the 3-3. However, Hall is getting wider and wider and faster and faster riding what Rob Godfrey calls the ‘suicide line’ around the Eddie Wright Raceway. Both the Scorpions can hear Hall somewhere on their outside, getting closer and closer. On the second bend of the last lap, Hall seems to have the momentum to roar around the outside of both Scorpions. But Morris is having none of it, and moves over to stop Hall coming though. For one moment, it’s mightily close, but Hall does loses a little of his speed. From then on, it’s just a case that both Scorpions keeping going to the flag. They do, crossing the line almost together in second and third. THE SCORPIONS ARE THE PREMIER LEAGUE CHAMPIONS – BY A SINGLE POINT. Richard Hollingsworth leaps into the air in joy, while Rob Godfrey sinks to his knees, overcome by sheer emotion and relief. There are similar reactions on the terraces – some fans react by celebrating wildly, while others shed a tear or two. What an incredible end to the Premier League season.
Monberg (1), Auty (2), Morris (4), Hall (3), (3-3) (48-42) (Agg 92-91).
And then the celebrations and presentations begin. Rob Godfrey interviews both sets of riders on the centre green. TT racer John McGuinness is on hand to present the medals to the riders, and also hand the Premier League trophy to the winning captain, Ashley Birks. The champagne is soon flowing, and then, in a nice touch, the Scorpions head over to greet the jubilant fans. Forty years after the Scunthorpe Saints entered the 1972 National League (the equivalent of the Premier League), the club have finally won a trophy at this level – and what a trophy to win!
THE TRACK TEAM PERFORM A MINOR MIRACLE
As everyone turned up at the Eddie Wright Raceway on Monday evening, it was clear that there had been some (unforecasted) heavy rain during the day. Personally my heart sank; I couldn’t believe our bad luck because I knew, from my drive up from Oxford, that just a few miles away from Scunthorpe, it was dry. But unlike Sunday, people were paying to get in, so that added an element of hope. After noting the amount of water around the pit area, I then glimpsed the track, and could hardly believe my eyes – because it looked almost perfect. The track team had done an absolutely brilliant job. Not only did they provide a track that could be ridden, they provided a circuit that could be raced. I’ve noticed a combination of two things over the season – Rob Godfrey has the necessary track equipment at the Eddie Wright Raceway (something missing from so many British tracks). And he also has a team, headed by track curators Graham Trollope and John Priestley, who really know what they are doing. It’s a combination that allowed this meeting to go-ahead.
TRACK: See above!
REFEREE: Dave Dowling – a few Scunthorpe fans may disagree with his decisions not to re-run Heat 7 and then not award Heat 8, but the vastly experienced referee from Bradford handled a meeting of huge importance very well.
TRAVELLING SUPPORT: A shame that only a few of the Rebels supporters were able to stay around for the Monday re-staging; but they made their presence felt, and acted with great dignity. They were a credit to their club.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: 10/10. Speedway does not get any better than this. I thought my head was going to explode by the time of Heat 15. Great drama.
Gate 1: 4 wins, 5 seconds, 4 thirds, 2 lasts/unplaced, 26+3 points
Gate 2: 1 win, 5 seconds, 6 thirds, 3 last/unplaced, 19+1 points
Gate 3: 3 wins, 3 seconds, 1 third, 8 lasts/unplaced, 16+1 points
Gate 4: 7 wins, 2 seconds, 4 thirds, 2 lasts/unplaced, 29+5 points
A TACTICAL RIDE DECIDES THE FINAL
How the Somerset management must have been wishing that they have accepted Rob Godfrey’s offer for tactical rides to be dispensed over the course of the two legs of the final. Instead they turned it down. Scunthorpe gained three points from using Josh Auty as a tactical ride in Heat 11 of the leg at Somerset; the Rebels had no such opportunity at the Eddie Wright Raceway in the second leg. Take away Auty’s three extra points and the aggregate score would be 91-89 to the Rebels.
A NIGHT OF RE-RUNS
The first leg at the Oak Tree Arena did not contain a single re-run. The second leg at the Eddie Wright Raceway containing eight re-runs, with both Heats 9 & 14 requiring three starts. A sign of a highly-tense, closely-fourth match.
The all-round strength of the Scorpions had been the cornerstone of their success in 2012. It proved to be the case yet again, with the Scorpions scoring 19+2 at reserve, compared to 5+2 for the Rebels.
KEY RACE OF THE EVENING
Michael Palm Toft winning the third attempt to stage Heat 14. It made such a difference to be going into the last race a point in front, rather than trailing.
VERDICT: The Scorpions did it… but it was mightily close. Most fans were hoping for the Scorpions to pull ahead in the mid-to-end part of the meeting, which has happened so many times at the Eddie Wright Raceway this year. It did look like the Scorpions might be ready to hit another gear after outscoring the Rebels 9-3 in Heats 6 & 7, but then came crunching falls for Ashley Birks and Michael Palm Toft, and suddenly it looked like the Somerset Rebels had the advantage. Fair play to the Rebels, who fought over every point. It takes two teams to produce a classic final. Somerset came to Scunthorpe determined to pull off the result they needed, and only just fell short. The tension was almost unbearable for the last two races, with margin between winning and losing being so small. Richard Hall gave his absolute all in Heat 15, and for a moment, it really looked like he had spoilt the party with that outside swoop on the second bend of the final lap. A truly epic, memorable night; that encompassed all that is good about speedway.
(This report is a little more opinionated than usual. Any opinions are solely those of the author – Rob Peasley – and do not necessarily reflect the views of Scunthorpe Speedway).
PHOTO: Alex Summerfield.
REPORTS: Rob Peasley and Richard Hollingsworth.
More photos here