Edinburgh Monarchs had been determined to ruin Glasgow Tigers’ big day at their new look Ashfield Stadium yesterday, but the rain did it for them.
On a track that resembled a lake, the Tigers squelched their way to a 36-30 Spring Trophy first-leg victory, the first time they have headed their rivals in 11 meetings.
And while the Tigers might crow about ending Monarchs’ long unbeaten sequence against them, it would be a brave man to suggest that the tide has turned in the home side’s favour given that the horrendous conditions made racing virtually impossible.
The match was abandoned after heat 11 but the result stands and Monarchs won’t be unduly downhearted at their slender deficit ahead of the deciding leg at Armadale on Friday.
Monarchs co-promoter John Campbell today said: “There were special circumstances that meant the match had to go ahead. But there wouldn’t have been many league matches that would have taken place in such conditions. But Glasgow, for obvious reasons, wanted the match on.”
Just how bad it was can be measured by the fact that Monarchs’ new skipper Craig Cook was forced to retire after just two laps in his opening ride. “I couldn’t see a thing a thing,” he said. “I just got completely filled in, it was terrible.”
Cook at least found better visibility to beat Tigers ace Aaron Summers in his next outing in heat five. Campbell will have taken heart from the performances of his new reserves Max Clegg and Rob Branford who scored three points each and were in no way overshadowed by their Glasgow counterparts Victor Palovaara and James Sarjeant who have been touted as one of the strongest tail-end partnerships in the Premier League.
Campbell said: “Rob and Max did well but in all honesty you couldn’t judge anybody because it was just too wet.”
Following his vintage looking leg-trailing style at Saturday’s practice session at Armadale, Monarchs’ German youngster Erik Riss perhaps raised expectations that he had the ability to give the Tigers a bit of a fright. Perhaps he will in drier circumstances but he was forced to retire in his first two rides and was replaced by Branford in his third outing. However, Campbell made it clear beforehand that if Riss failed to score it wouldn’t matter, it’s seeing improvement in him over the coming months that is the most important thing. Said Campbell: “The leg trailing we saw at Armadale wasn’t for Ashfield. Erik was a bit unsettled but he will be fine.”
Cook was certainly impressed with Riss and said: “I have never seen a rider come to Armadale and attack the track the way he did. A round of applause young man, it was class.”
Sam Masters appeared to be the only Monarch at ease with Ashfield’s soggy racing surface and was unbeaten from his first three rides. Masters was the only Monarch to defeat Tigers’ big winter capture Nick Morris.
After losing a 5-1 in the opening heat, Monarchs trailed by just four points, 32-28, after ten heats before the Tigers pulled a 4-2 out of the bag in the following race when Morris got the better of Cook with Palovaara heading Justin Sedgmen for third spot.
Sedgmen did not fancy the conditions one little bit early on but at least chalked up one race win against Dimitri Berge and Sarjeant in heat eight.
Campbell concluded: “We are not unhappy with the result. Glasgow have some good riders and Friday will not be a foregone conclusion.”
Glasgow: Lawson 8, Morris 8, Summers 7, Palovaara 5, Sarjeant 3, Berge 3, Smith 2.
Monarchs: Masters 9, Wolbert 6, Cook 5, Sedgmen 4, Clegg 3, Branford 3, Riss 0.