EDINBURGH MONARCHS’ Hungarian star Jozsef Tabaka faces at least a three-month lay-off from racing following his horror pile-up against Somerset Rebels in Friday’s Play-off Grand Final first leg tie at Armadale.
The Monarchs scraped home in that tie 45-43 – a wafer-thin lead they will attempt to defend in tonight’s difficult return leg at Somerset’s Oaktree Arena.
Tabaka was sent flying over the safety fence after Rebels young Australian ace Nick Morris recklessly ploughed in to his back wheel on the third bend of their heat nine confrontation, a move which saw Morris disqualified from the rerun for dangerous riding. Many supporters felt he should have been excluded from the meeting altogether, a punishment resisted by referee Stuart Wilson.
Tabaka was taken to Monklands Hospital where tests revealed he had sustained a compound fracture of his tibia shin bone. An operation to pin his left leg was successfully carried out on Saturday.
Tabaka is expected to be released sometime this week and will return home where he is due to marry his fiance Klaudie in two weeks time.
Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess said the loss of Tabaka took the shine off Friday’s match: “I think it will be January before Jozsef is up and about again. It was such a shame. You don’t want to see any rider getting hurt at all, let alone an injury of the severity which Jozsef has suffered.”
It was noticeable that there was a distinct air of physicality about Somerset who are desperate to win the league for the first time in their history. However, Harkess refused to condemn their strong arm tactics which many deemed bordered on the zealous. “I don’t want to get in to that argument,” he said, “but certainly it was very hard to take at times.”
Without Tabaka, who has had some good races at Somerset, Monarchs are facing a mountainous task to thwart the Rebels’ championship ambitions, yet Harkess also conceded that the Capital side under-performed in their home leg and were almost philanthropic in gifting points to the opposition.
He added: “It is difficult at Armadale if you get the outside gate position and we had three of them in the first four races. Somerset rode very hard and our guys, who were on the outside, got pushed out to the fence. We had the opportunity to build a bigger lead and were six points to the good at one stage. It was disappointing that we lost a 5-1 in heat eight. That was a crucial loss, as was the 5-1 we gave away in the second last race.
“Somerset have three very good heat leaders, but the rest of their team were allowed to score too many points.
“Too many of our riders did not ride as well as we had hoped for. Craig [Cook] was exceptional as always and only dropped one point when he was beaten by Jason Doyle in the first race.”
One young man to escape admonishment was teenager Liam Carr who guested at reserve and scored three points, which included a 5-1 with skipper Derek Sneddon in heat two, one of only three heat advantages Monarchs secured on the night.
“Liam was very good and was exceptional in that second race, there is no criticism of him at all.” Harkess added. “But Somerset are now in the driving seat and I would feel the same if I was in their position.
“We have got to make sure we make things difficult for them and the first four races will be absolutely vital. We did not cash in on their weaknesses in the first leg, they cashed in on ours, and that cannot happen again, but nobody should discount our chances because we have won at Somerset already this season.”
Somerset team manager Garry May is cautious about taking things for granted, saying: “Our boys rode superbly at Armadale as they have done throughout the season.
“We are only at the halfway mark of affairs and there is no reason why Edinburgh can’t do as well at our place as we did at theirs.
“So we certainly cannot afford to let any complacency set in.”
• SHOULD tonight’s match be rained off, it will be restaged tomorrow evening.