Edinburgh Monarchs crashed out of the Premier League Knockout Cup against a Somerset Rebels squad who did the real damage at their own circuit in midweek.
Monarchs were chasing down a hefty 26-point first-leg deficit from that clash and, although they won their own tie narrowly 48-42, their mission impossible was never in any danger of becoming mission accomplished.
The Rebels had an almost carefree air about them such was the size of their advantage and any chance Monarchs had of eating in to that disappeared within the first three races when skipper Derek Sneddon and then Theo Pijper both trailed in last.
It was like a stake through the heart and, although the Capital side did rally to lead 36-24 after ten heats, they tossed away careless advantages to let their rivals off the hook. It always seemed, though, that Somerset had a gear in reserve and could respond if the aggregate scores had become too tight for their liking.
The one bright spot to emerge was an energising display from Monarchs was Hungarian ace Jozsef Tabaka, who has been let down by poor machinery this season. But the second string star looked to be back to his fiery best as he top scored with 13 points which included a trio of race wins.
“I felt really good out there,” he said . “I was happy with how my bike was running and it was so good to get a good score at home again. It was disappointing to go out of the cup but we simply left ourselves with too much to do.” Pijper was bemoaning an engine failure in his third ride when Monarchs were on a 5-1 and wasn’t entirely overjoyed with his eventual five-point tally from four starts.
He said: “These things happen and you just have to get on with it. I think we tried our best, but Somerset turned the screw on us at their place and we could not recover from that.”
Monarchs No. 1 Craig Cook, who has been vocal in his criticism of certain team-mates, racked up 11 points and won his first three rides on the bounce. But a retiral in heat 15 left him annoyed, claiming: “The referee should have called all four of us back because I got blocked and had nowhere to go, but he saw it differently and let the race run.
“I said it was a mission impossible, and so it proved. We did some good work but were simply not good enough to go through overall, and that must be considered disappointing.”
Yet the Rebels were slightly vulnerable and had to bring in Glasgow junior James McBain to replace the injured Lewis Rose at reserve, but this was an avenue that Monarchs were unable to exploit fully enough to their benefit. Rebels team manager Garry May said: “We know Edinburgh are a good team which is why we pulled out all the stops at home in the first leg. We were not concerned about winning at Armadale, we just came to do a containing job on Edinburgh and managed that without too much fuss.”
Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess wore a look of resignation in the pits afterwards and wasn’t entirely satisfied with the performance of his team. He admitted: “Pulling back the huge deficit was never on for us, but we wanted to do well going into to the last few matches of the season because there is still plenty to play for. Ironically, we did quite well tonight. However, we also chucked away silly points as well.
“And that is a real worry. We cannot afford to work hard to climb a hill only to slide back down again. When we got our noses in front as we did by the tenth race, you thought there might be a chance. But we then surrendered some heats to Somerset and you cannot do that on a regular basis.
“All Somerset were worried about was losing 5-1’s to us and, while we got a few, we also gave some away. As long as Somerset were picking up second places they were home and dry. The damage was done on Wednesday and it is disappointing to go out of the tournament as a consequence of that. But we head into the play-offs at Workington tonight and must get some improvement from certain members of the team if we are to stand a chance of winning our section.”
Rebels’ top performer was former Glasgow star Nick Morris who bagged 13 points, but their No. 1 Jason Doyle only won a single race and that was another bonus that Monarchs could not prosper from.
Monarchs: Tabaka 13, Cook 11, Fricke 10, Sneddon 5, Pijper 5, Vissing 3, Sarjeant 1.
Somerset: Morris 13, Grajczonek 8, Doyle 6, Davies 6, Wright 4, Newman 4, McBain 1