Sheffield Tigers 47 Somerset 43: Tigers shock Rebels in challenge match

Todd Kurtz inside Charles Wright and Jake Allen in Heat Three. Photo: Andy Garner
Todd Kurtz inside Charles Wright and Jake Allen in Heat Three. Photo: Andy Garner
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Sheffield stunned top flight outfit Somerset with a hard-fought 47-43 win in front of a huge Owlerton crowd.

The Tigers attracted a massive turnout after offering free admission for their curtain-raiser – and their new-look side rose to the occasion to deliver a sensational victory.

They entered as the underdogs against a Rebels side who have moved up to the revamped SGB Premiership ahead of the 2017 season.

But Simon Stead’s side gained bragging rights for the SGB Championship with a well-deserved success.

Ironically, it was Josh Grajczonek who laid the foundation for the Tigers against another of his clubs.

The Aussie ace doubles up with Somerset but Sheffield were given priority for the challenge match, and he got them off to the perfect start by partnering local lad Josh Bates to a 5-1 in the opening race.

The 27-year-old then held off the fast-charging Patrick Hougaard in a tight heat six to restore a slender advantage after the visitors had drawn level.

And with a tense finale in prospect, skipper Kyle Howarth stepped up to win heat 15 under immense pressure from Hougaard.

Howarth was as reliable as ever in the engine room of the side and came up with a timely race win in heat 11 to double their lead to four points.

Bates also impressed with two race wins, the second of which came when he held his nerve to blast outside Starke in heat eight after a brave dive-bomb from the Somerset man.

Todd Kurtz and Robert Branford roared from the start to strike a pivotal 5-1 in the penultimate race, and with Lasse Bjerre and Jack Parkinson-Blackburn picking up some vital points the Tigers held on for a confidence-boosting win.

It was a big result for Sheffield as they bounced back from an away defeat at Ipswich in their SGB Championship opener and gave themselves some momentum to take into their first competitive home fixture against Berwick next Thursday (7.30).

SHEFFIELD 47: Kyle Howarth 11, Todd Kurtz 9, Josh Grajczonek 8+1, Robert Branford 7+2, Josh Bates 7, Lasse Bjerre 3+1, Jack Parkinson-Blackburn 2+2.

SOMERSET 43: Patrick Hougaard 12+1, Charles Wright 10+1, Rohan Tungate 9, Jan Graversen 5+1, Jake Allen 4+1, Paul Starke 3, Nathan Greaves 0.