There is a feeling of inevitability that Edinburgh Monarchs and Somerset Rebels are destined to meet each other again in the play-off Grand Final to decide the 2014 Premier League speedway championship.
Somerset served notice at the Oak Tree Arena last night that they are not prepared to surrender the crown they won a year ago without an almighty fight.
They crushed Monarchs 57-35 in a pretty one-sided league encounter, a result which saw them assume joint leadership at the top of the table alongside Monarchs, who had been out on their own for so long.
Their visit to Armadale tomorrow will be Monarchs’ stiffest home test of the season. The Rebels are imperious round their own track and ride the place flat out and with no fear.
They grabbed the match by the throat from the off and never really gave Monarchs an inch. They led 36-24 after ten heats and were in cruise control for much of the night.
Monarchs tried hard to keep pace with their hosts, but it was a thankless task. The Capital outfit’s No. 1 Craig Cook came out for a tactical ride in heat 11 but lifted at the start and the talented Rebels rider Olly Allen took the chequered flag with ease.
Monarchs still gained a 5-3 as Cook finished second, but it was a rare heat success. Their only other advantage was a 5-1 from Cook and Justin Sedgemen in the fifth race.
The normally reliable Cook had a night he will want to forget in a hurry. He scored just seven points, trailing in last in his opening race before suffering an engine failure at the start of heat 13.
The Cumbrian was downbeat own afterwards. He said: “I could not have put in any more effort than I did. But I did not get the results I wanted. All the boys felt the same, we had to fight like crazy for every point we got.”
Teammate Sam Masters was also keen to impress at his former track, but the Aussie struggled and his six-point effort was way below his personal expectation. Fellow countryman Sedgmen was Monarchs’ best performer with a hard-earned eight-point tally
With Aaron Fox sidelined following his heavy crash at Berwick, Cradley’s Nathan Greaves guested and scored one point at reserve.
Monarchs co-promoter John Campbell knew Somerset would come at his team full of vigour. He said: “We saw a huge amount of effort from our side and we did not get the points we deserved. Somerset get on to the right racing lines all the time and they have a very good home advantage.
“Our scores may have seemed patchy but the effort exerted to get better scores was not. We competed for everything but we also lost points on the last lap or the last bend on a few occasions.”
Asked if Monarchs had perhaps lost some of their focus since their 24-match unbeaten run came to an end, Campbell replied: “Absolutely not. Somerset was never going to be easy for us, just as Berwick proved to be a difficult fixture for us on Tuesday. Somerset are brimming with confidence and that is what wins you matches. We don’t get many tough matches at Armadale but tomorrow’s will definitely be tough.
“If Somerset ride Armadale the same way as they tackle their own circuit, I’m not sure if they will be quite so effective – we’ll have to wait and see.”
Monarchs head for Sheffield Tigers tonight, but the Yorkshiremen have recently beefed up their line-up, so another exacting challenge seems likely.
Somerset: Morris 12, B. Kurtz 12, Allen 12, Wright 7, Aspgren 6, T. Kurtz 4, Starke 4.
Monarchs: Sedgmen 8, Fricke 7, Cook 7, Masters 6, Worrall 4, Sneddon 2, Greaves 1.