Edinburgh Monarchs added the Knockout Cup to the League Cup they won last week and remain on course for a glorious trophy treble with their target now to overcome Somerset Rebels in the Play-Off Grand Final next weekend.
Monarchs’ crowning at Armadale last night was not perhaps the formality many had predicted. Having won the first leg at Ipswich Witches on Thursday, Monarchs took the deciding tie 52-38 or a 105-75 triumph on aggregate to pick up the trophy for the first time since 1999.
But the Witches, who had obviously been given a dressing down of sorts, were an almost transformed side. They rode with a fair degree of aggression and some of the action was fairly tasty, to say the least.
Witches’ Aussie ace Cameron Heeps was a tigerish performer. After picking up a third and a second place from his opening two outings he suddenly burst into life and reeled off three victories on the bounce and topped his side’s scorechart with 12 points.
And with team-mate Richie Worrall far more effective than he was around his own track, picking up 11 points, which included two wins, the Witches did a superb job of containing Monarchs early on, and only trailed by four points, 26-22, after eight races.
However, a 5-1 from Craig Cook and Justin Sedgmen in heat ten, stretched Monarchs’ lead to eight points.
But with Sam Masters not having things all his own way, Ipswich hit back with a 4-2 from Rohan Tungate and Heeps in the very next race. This however, was Ipswich’s final heat advantage and Monarchs had ten points in hand before the heat 15 top scorers race which saw Cook and Masters roar to victory over Richie Worrall and Heeps which gave the final scoreline a degree of gloss.
While the Monarchs squad, who were without skipper Derek Sneddon and Stevie Worrall, were delighted at securing their second piece of silverware, they made a point of underlining that the league championship showdown is the big prize they all covet.
Cook was unhappy at his gating and said: “At least I managed to get out of the start in that last race. It’s great to win the Knockout Cup but the league is the main thing for us.”
Team-mate Sedgmen, whose father was over from Australia to watch his son in action, said: “This has been an awesome season for us so far, and we have an opportunity to make it even better if we beat Somerset.
“I was under a bit pressure to do well because my dad was watching me. I think I rode ok, and it feels really good to win our second trophy.” Fellow countryman Max Fricke, who piled up 12 points from his five starts which encompassed a trio of race wins added: “It’s just fantastic to be part of such a great team and winning the KO Cup underlines just how well we have ridden all year.”
Masters, who had some tough battles on track, notably against Worrall, maintained his sunny disposition and commented: “Joining this Edinburgh side has been awesome for me and I personally have had a pretty good year.
“I’m pretty happy most of the time, my mechanic Robbie keeps me that way, and that is good because I don’t like getting serious, otherwise I foul up! It feels good to have bagged another trophy but the league is the big one for us and I think we’ll do well against Somerset.”
For reserve Aaron Fox this latest silverware success reaffirmed his view that he has no regrets whatsoever by signing in 2014.
“I have had a ball, but it’s been quite tough as well for me, simply because I had never seen a lot of tracks in the Premier League before.
“But I just keep plugging away and look to get better and better. I always want to contribute points for the team, and to finish off with the league championship title would be a dream come true for me.”
Monarchs co-promoter John Campbell has never disguised his determination to win the Knockout Cup again. He says Monarchs have had good teams in the past but have fallen by the wayside in this particular competition.
This current side have never displayed any such inclination and were something of a stick-on to end the long spell in the wilderness without lifting the KO Cup. It’s safely in the Armadale trophy cabinet now and Campbell hopes 15 years won’t elapse until they win it again.
Monarchs: Cook 13, Fricke 12, Masters 11, Sedgmen 10, Fox 6, Jacobs 0.
Ipswich: Heeps 12, Worrall 11, Ellis 8, Hawkins 4, Tungate 3, Risager 0.