Monarchs keep Panthers in their sights in Play-off semi-final

Erik Riss, who scored nine points, leads Rafal Konopka and Simon Lambert. Picture: Ron MacNeill

Erik Riss, who scored nine points, leads Rafal Konopka and Simon Lambert. Picture: Ron MacNeill

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Edinburgh Monarchs turned in a robust performance in going down 46-44 against Peterborough Panthers in the first leg of their Play-Off semi-final last night in Cambridgeshire.

And they remain on track to make the Grand Final for the second year in a row.

But Monarchs director Mike Hunter is urging caution ahead of the second leg.

He said:”It was a very good result and we are happy with our performance, although Sam (Masters) is riding poorly and we need him back in form.

“We are probably favourites to go through but we were favourites against Somerset on Friday and look what happened.”

Monarchs, who were desperate to put their Knockout Cup loss to Somerset Rebels behind them, got off to a promising flier in the first race with a 5-1 from opening pairing Justin Sedgmen and skipper Craig Cook.

But after the next two races were shared 3-3, the Panthers levelled the match with a 5-1 from Emil Grondal and Ben Barker in the fifth heat.

Cook and Sedgmen, however, stormed to their second 5-1 together in the next race to restore Monarchs’ lead, 17-13.

Monarchs were still without the injured Kevin Wolbert, whose absence continues to make life difficult for those team-mates charged with covering his rides.

A 4-2 from Panthers guest star Rohan Tungate and Michael Palm-Toft in heat six cut Monarchs’ lead to just two points and, two races later, the sleek Panthers were on level terms thanks to a 4-2 from Palm-Toft and Grondal.

The home side then powered into the lead, 28-26, with a further 4-2 from Anders Thomsen and Simon Lambert in heat nine.

Monarchs, with an eye on Friday’s deciding leg, were keen not to let the Panthers run away with proceedings conscious of the fact that they have already beaten Monarchs at Armadale this season.

And the Panthers maintained that gap despite Erik Riss taking the chequered flag for Monarchs in heat ten, partner Masters unfortunately pulled up at the back despite holding third place for a time, turning a potential advantage into a share of the spoils instead.

But if Monarchs were feeling a degree of pressure it did not show as super-duo Sedgmen and Cook grabbed their third 5-1 of the meeting in heat 11 to push Monarchs in front by two points, 34-32.

Riss then picked up his second win of the meeting in the next race beating Thomsen and keeping his side two points to the good, 37-35, and the young German was in determined mood finishing with nine points overall.

Cook won heat 13 to keep his side in front, 40-38, but Masters finished last for the second time in a row and the Aussie seemed a bit out of sorts as a chance to increase Monarchs’ lead went a begging.

Monarchs got punished in the very next race when Grondal and Lambert scooped a 5-1 against Riss and Branford to put the Panthers ahead 43-41 with one race left, although Lambert was guilty of cutting across Riss which ended his race.

And the Panthers breathed a sight of relief in heat 15 when Thomsen handed Cook his first defeat of the night and that 3-3 nosed the home side over the line 46-44. A narrow lead, but a lead all the same to take to the Lothian Arena on Friday.

Peterborough:-Thomsen 10, Grondal 10,Palm-Toft 7, Barker 7, Tungate 6,Lambert 5, Konopka 1.

Monarchs:- Sedgmen 14, Cook 12, Riss 9, Masters 5, Branford 4, Clegg 0.