First blood to Tigers over Edinburgh Monarchs

Max Clegg leads Danny Ayres and Monarchs rookie Dan Bewley in the season-opening clash. Picture: Ron MacNeill
Max Clegg leads Danny Ayres and Monarchs rookie Dan Bewley in the season-opening clash. Picture: Ron MacNeill
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Edinburgh Monarchs and Glasgow Tigers bosses have not been on speaking terms since last year, but the Tigers did plenty of talking on the track at Ashfield Stadium as they easily overcame their oldest rivals 56-37 in their opening League Cup qualifying group clash.

This was Monarchs’ first competitive action of 2016 and it showed on occasions against a Tigers squad who are the favourites to deny Monarchs a third championship crown in a row this season.

Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess said he was disappointed at the result, adding: ”Sam (Masters) did exceptionally well for us but the rest of the team struggled a bit especially early on when the track was heavy.

“Too many of our riders were unable to mix it with the bottom end of Glasgow’s team but I suspect that was down to some of them struggling to get their bike set-ups right.

“Jye (Etheridge) for instance should have scored points in his last two races but probably did not have the speed, but it’s a steep learning curve for him.

“Other than passing our riders who did nothing, there was very little passing all day. It was all down to the gate which Sam proved, the Tigers could not catch him when he got away.

“Tigers were always in control and getting a match point was never on. But next time we will be better prepared I’m sure of that.”

Monarchs endured a torrid opening spell and were ten points down after just four heats. Etheridge slid off in the opening heat and was excluded, but his skipper Masters, who was second at the first time of asking, made no mistake in the rerun winning from the gate and earning Monarchs a share of the spoils.

Monarchs then conceded two 5-1s when Max Clegg, who gated in heat two, was passed before he had negotiated the second bend, handing an easy victory to Tigers duo Fernando Garcia and Danny Ayres.

And the Tigers bared their claws again in the next race, Richie Worrall and Ben Barker taking maximum points over Monarchs’ German duo Kevin Wolbert and Erik Riss.

In a bid to stem the points tide enveloping them, Monarchs handed Masters a tactical outing in the fifth race, and the Aussie bagged a double six-point haul by taking the chequered flag, but unfortunately Etheridge, who had not seen Ashfield before, finished last. However, Monarchs’ resultant 6-3 advantage at least reduced their arrears to seven points 20-13.

But Monarchs’ returning Californian Ryan Fisher was on the wrong end of a Tigers 4-2 for the second time in three races, and the Capital outfit slipped nine points behind, 27-18 after seven heats.

In a cracking eighth heat Tigers reserve Danny Ayres and team-mate Nike Lunna grabbed a third 5-1 of the meeting for their side against Clegg and Etheridge, who fell on the final two bends impeding Lunna, and the race was awarded to Glasgow.

Tigers were in their pomp now, leading 32-19 and it did not get easier for Monarchs in the ninth race when Fisher touched the tapes and had to start from 15 metres back, and this allowed Worrall and Barker to help themselves to their second 5-1 of the match which increased Tigers’ lead to 37-20.

Monarchs then managed their first advantage of the afternoon when Wolbert and Riss sneaked a 4-2 against Tigers No.1 Richard Lawson and Lunna in heat ten to temporarily apply the brakes to their rampant hosts.

But there was no way the Tigers were going to take their foot off the gas and a brace of 4-2s in heats 11 and 12 stretched their advantage to 47-28 with Monarchs simply unable to respond on a circuit that they have done so well at in recent times.

Masters, who was Monarchs’ best performer by some way by racking up 17 points from five starts, at least had the satisfaction of spoiling Tigers’ star Aaron Summers’ maximum hopes by heading his rival home in heat 13 after Fisher suffered an engine failure.

Monarchs new boys Etheridge and Daniel Bewley failed to score which was not entirely unexpected, but the Tigers have sent a very strong message to Monarchs that they are going to be after them every step of the way in the battle for the 2016 Premier League title.

Glasgow: Summers 13, Worrall 11, Lawson 8, Barker 7, Ayres 7, Garcia 6, Lunna 4.

Edinburgh: Masters 17, Wolbert 8, Riss 5, Fisher 5, Clegg 2, Bewley 0, Etheridge 0.