Edinburgh Monarchs’ bid to reclaim top spot in the Premier League, to give them first pick of their play-off group opponents, began in earnest at Armadale last night.
Monarchs had to win big against bottom of the table Sheffield Tigers – and they did with consummate ease as they crushed the Yorkshire side 67-27, equalling their highest home score of the season.
This was only Monarchs’ second league fixture in 17 days, however due to a host of guest bookings undertaken by some of the squad during this barren competitive period, there was certainly no sense of track rustiness, just the opposite in fact.
Sheffield arrived following their win over Workington Comets on Thursday, but as has happened so often in the past, they just cannot get to grips with the tight confines of the Lothian Arena circuit.
In truth the Tigers looked more like lambs to the slaughter as Monarchs rattled up the points without any significant challenge from their visitors.
For Monarchs skipper Derek Sneddon it proved a very productive evening as he continued his rise in form of late. Sneddon amassed 13 points from six rides which included a brace of heat wins.
Sneddon was delighted with his substantial haul saying: “I thought I might have been a bit rusty due to our lack of meetings, but I felt fine and was really pleased with how I rode. It was also a great victory for the team as a whole, we knew we had to rack up a big score, and we all stuck to our jobs, and did exactly that.”
Sneddon and Aaron Fox had to take on three of team-mate Stevie Worrall’s rides after he tumbled off in his first race on the fourth bend and his bike careered over the safety fence.
Worrall withdrew from the meeting with a troublesome shoulder but is hoping to ride at Rye House Rockets tonight. Sheffield were 29-13 in arrears after just seven races which prompted them to give young Josh Bates a tactical outing in the next heat.
But Monarchs ace Justin Sedgmen rode a brilliant race to reel the Tiger in for a classy victory and Sheffield were forced to accept a 4-4 advantage which did not help their cause one bit.
The Tigers management then sent out their No.1 Simon for another tactical ride effort in heat 11 in a last-ditch effort to knock Monarchs out of their stride.
But another 4-4 outcome ensued as Sam Masters easily headed home , who was still in a bit of pain after locking up on the first bend in his opening ride which saw Sedgmen also come to grief after he was given nowhere to go. But Sedgmen was unhurt and finished up on nine points with two wins to his credit.
It was Sam Masters who once again underlined just what a hot spell he is enjoying at the moment as he powered to a 14 point paid maximum. Masters was aggressive and stylish at the same time and has taken on the mantle from Craig Cook of looking unbeatable at Armadale.
The Aussie, who wears a perennial smile on his face, was more than happy with his double-figure total. He said: “We won just as easily as the scoreline suggests, but no single race is ever easy.
“Obviously I did not feel that I received much of a challenge from the Sheffield boys who are not used to riding our place. As a team we needed to score heavily to keep everybody’s confidence going until the end of the season.”
Commenting on his consistent scoring Masters added: “It’s a head game, at the start of the season I couldn’t score a maximum at all. Then one week I used a different engine and believed in my mind that it was going to work for me, and it did. I blew that motor up last week and used another, and it has worked well for me, better in fact than my old one.”
Sheffield were frankly very poor and take away ’s ten points and they would have been whitewashed.
His best support came from Bates who finished on six points. Sheffield’s Argentinian signing Nico Covatti made his Armadale debut but really struggled, and only picked up a single point, no comparison to the lively display he produced for Italy in the recent World Cup.
Cook matched Master’s paid maximum feat and looked far more sharper out of the gate, and actually won the first heat, something he has not been doing with any degree of regularity lately.
Monarchs: Masters 14, Cook 13, Sneddon 13, Fricke 11, Sedgmen 9, Fox 7, Worrall 0.
Sheffield: 10, Bates 6, Lanham 5, Wilson 3, Poole 2, Covatti 1