EDINBURGH MONARCHS raced their first home match in five weeks at Armadale last night, and while there was no significant rainfall to speak of, Monarchs still dampened the spirits of Glasgow Tigers as they bundled them out of the Premier League Knockout Cup.
Monarchs 52-38 quarter-final second-leg triumph has earned them a semi-final clash with Ipswich Witches. Monarchs had done the hard graft by winning Sunday’s first tie at Ashfield 46-44 and their 98-82 aggregate success underlined their superiority over the two meetings.
Monarchs, however, were not allowed to relax in a cagey first half as the Tigers made it clear they were not going to be cannon fodder. Indeed, Monarchs only led 26-22 after eight races and only pulled clear with some determined riding over the last few races.
Monarchs opened up with a 5-1 from Derek Sneddon and Craig Cook over Joe Screen and Chris Mills in the first race, but got stuck in first gear after that when the next two heats were shared.
Heat four, however, produced probably one of the best races seen at Armadale in a long time and it was Andrew Tully who garnered all the plaudits. Tully burst through the tapes at the first time of asking and had to start from 15 metres back in the rerun. The Edinburgh ace picked off Tiger reserve Mason Campton before overhauling James Grieves in sensational style to take the chequered flag to earn a share of the race spoils.
Moreover, Tully’s heroics were not complete, as he pulled out a top drawer ride to defeat Tigers captain Screen in a heat-11 thriller.
Monarchs other top performers Theo Pijper and Craig Cook also enjoyed a productive evening. Their combined scoring firepower proved too much for a Tigers outfit who found Screen and Grieves wanting. Only Josh Grajczonek, who has had some up and down meetings at Armadale, finally lived up to his status as he hit ten points from his five starts.
No. 1 Cook powered his way to a paid maximum and capped things off in style by winning the heat 15 top-scorers race in some style.
He said: “I enjoyed myself. It was a good meeting, track conditions were a bit tricky, but we all got stuck in and finished off the job we started at Ashfield.”
Tully didn’t put himself forward for the last race finale, explaining: “My bike is due for a service and my back was also killing me, so I decided just to sit it out. This was a good win for us and it was nice to get a meeting on at home after so many washouts.”
Pijper said: “We knew we had to complete the job against Glasgow and while they kept the scores close in the first part of the match, we proved too strong in the end for them.”
The meeting marked the debut of Monarchs new German signing Marcel Helfer and the Monarchs management seemed pleased with his efforts, even though he failed to score.
Helfer slid off in his first but commented: “I enjoyed my first match for Edinburgh and just wished I had scored something.”
Monarchs racked up five heat advantages as they homed in on the winning line, their only black mark coming in heat 14 when skipper Matthew Wethers and Micky Dyer surrendered a soft 5-1 to Tigers pair Filip Sitera and Campton.
Wethers should have been able to defeat his opponents with masses to spare, though to be fair Campton is riding well just now and was the only other Tiger to record double figures.
Tigers team boss Stewart Dickson was glad his side put up a decent fight and said: “We didn’t roll over to Monarchs and that was the important thing.
“But our top two didn’t score that well, and in contrast Edinburgh’s top three were invincible and this made it very tough for us.”
Monarchs: Cook 14, Pijper 13, Tully 11, Sneddon 6, Dyer 5, Wethers 3, Helfer 0.
Tigers: Grajczonek 10, Campton 10, Grieves 7, Screen 5, Sitera 3, O’Malley 0.