Unbeaten Edinburgh Monarchs are setting a blistering pace in their League Cup qualifying section after a superb 47-43 victory at Berwick Bandits on Saturday.
The Border side, who were crushed by 30 points at Armadale the night before, were fully expected to avenge that drubbing but were found wanting in front of their home fans.
Monarchs are top of the group on six points and have thrown down the gauntlet to Workington Comets, who visit Armadale this week, and are considered hot favourites to make the semi-finals – but perhaps not any more.
Monarchs’ new-look squad has knitted together quickly and better than anybody could have imagined given the new season is less than a month old. And they seem to possess more than a modicum of character which was exemplified in the manner they fought back from a six-point deficit in the second half, which heralded a brilliant 5-1 from unbeaten Craig Cook, and his partner Sam Masters, to seal the meeting in the last race after the scores were tied 42-42 in the penultimate heat.
The Bandits were undone once more at reserve with Liam Carr and Steen Jensen never able to get to grips with their Monarchs counterparts Steve Worrall and Justin Sedgemen.
Worrall is sprinkling gold dust all over his tail-end berth after ending up with ten points from his six outings. He hinted it wouldn’t bother him if he remained at reserve for the whole season – and if he keeps up this level of performance, the Monarchs management won’t raise any objections either.
But Max Fricke found the going a bit tougher and wasn’t over enamoured with his four points, although the 18 year-old Aussie emphasised from a collective point of view, it was a fine result for the whole team.
Fricke said: “I did not have a great match and I’ve never really had a good meeting at Berwick in the past either. I would have liked to have scored more than I did, however I struggled. I also took a knock and bent my bike and that certainly didn’t help.
“There is definitely room for improvement. There are other tracks like Berwick that I haven’t gone well at, and it’s my aim this year to improve at those places. But we all worked hard and everyone is getting on really well, there is a great atmosphere in the pits and this is helping us to a huge degree in getting through meetings. If one of us needs a hand there is always someone there to help.
“We had gone down planning to win but I think we would have settled for just keeping the scores close. It’s still very early days and Berwick, like ourselves, have new faces in their team, so it’s hard to tell how well other teams are going right now.”
Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess is keeping his feet firmly on the ground but acknowledged that if Workington are to deny Monarchs a place in the last four, they will have to ride at the top of their game.
“There is still a long way to go but we have made the start to our campaign that we wanted. The pleasing thing about our win was the way everybody chipped in with something, and that is the type of squad we have at the moment, they are all working for each other.”
Not surprisingly Aaron Fox, who broke his scoring duck in the first match on Friday, toiled to begin with around the vast Berwick bowl and finished with a single point, but Harkess added: “By his third ride he was doing an awful lot better and he’ll have no fears about going back there again.”
Berwick: Wethers 10, Vissing 10, Bellego 8, Doolan 7, Kus 6, Jensen 2, Carr 0.
Monarchs: Cook 15, Worrall 10, Masters 9, Sneddon 5, Fricke 4, Sedgemen 3, Fox 1.