EDINBURGH MONARCHS won their first trophy of the season by holding Glasgow Tigers 45-45 at Ashfield to retain their League Cup with a 100-79 victory over two legs.
Monarchs had put one hand on the silverware by sweeping Glasgow aside 55-34 in the first leg at Armadale on Friday evening.
Tigers held a team-bonding session on Saturday. Their squad watched the Swedish Grand Prix over a meal and were sent home to bed early in preparation for yesterday’s deciding tie at a jam-packed Ashfield. However, they still seemed half asleep as Monarchs easily retained their grip on the trophy.
Monarchs may have been guilty of taking their foot off the gas in the second half which allowed their hosts a route back into the match after they were ten points adrift after five races, but team manager Alex Harkess insisted: “There was no pressure on us. We did the graft early on exactly as we had planned and I’m very happy with the outcome. We did the hard work at home on Friday and the lead we had was much bigger than we had anticipated. I wasn’t concerned about winning the second leg as well, we did the job as we set out to do.”
Monarchs – already minus crocked reserve Max Clegg – went into the meeting without former Tiger Kevin Wolbert who took a heavy fall in the German play-offs and has neck, shoulder and hand injuries and is a doubt for the trip to Somerset Rebels tomorrow night for the first leg of the Knockout Cup Final. Monarchs used the rider replacement facility to cover for Wolbert with everybody eligible for an extra ride except captain Craig Cook.
Monarchs had the Tigers on the rack again straight from the off. Cook and Justin Sedgmen romped to a 5-1 in the first heat. And a trio of 4-2s heaped more humiliation on the home side as Monarchs went ahead 20-10.The Tigers were being tortured under the late September sun and, for a side which was constructed with the sole aim of ending Monarchs’ long run of success against them, their failings, for whatever reason, will cause huge consternation among the club’s new owners.
It took the Tigers until the ninth race to record their first heat advantage, Nick Morris defeating Monarchs Aussie speedster Sam Masters. The Tigers followed that 4-2 verdict with another in the next race when Richard Lawson and Kauko Nieminen got the better of Erik Riss and Rob Branford. But this was mere window dressing for the Tigers whose scatter gun scoring merely highlighted the individual inconsistency among some members of their side.
The Tigers racked up their third 4-2 advantage in succession in heat 11 which reduced Monarchs’ lead to 36-30.
Riss and Branford were unable to lay a glove on Tigers duo Victor Palovaara and James Sarjeant in the penultimate race and the resultant 5-1 for the Tigers slashed their deficit to just 43-41 with a chance of pulling off victory, to give them a sliver of pride.
However, victory eluded them but they did snatch a fortunate draw in a dramatic showdown in heat 15. Cook picked up drive on the fourth turn and came across the front of Tigers No.3 Morris who tumbled off and referee Jim McGregor excluded Cook from the rerun despite the consensus there had been no contact between the pair.
And although Masters managed to split Morris and partner Aaron Summers, the Tigers grabbed a last-gasp 4-2 which squared the match 45-45. But it was too little too late as the cup headed east for the second year running. Cook said: “I thought the exclusion was very harsh because I was in front at the time and I did not cause it.”
Glasgow: Summers 14, Morris 11, Palovaara 6, Lawson 5, Nieminen 5, Sarjeant 3, Stichauer 1.
Monarchs: Masters 12, Cook 10, Riss 9, Sedgmen 7, Branford 7, Garcia 0.