Edinburgh Monarchs appear to have one foot in the Premier League Knockout Cup semi-finals after going down 37-35 against Redcar Bears in their quarter-final first-leg tie on Teeside last night.
But the match was abandoned after heat 13 after Monarchs guest rider Richie Worrall crashed out, the second major incident of the match. However, the result stands.
The Bears, who have won their last four home meetings on the trot and are on something off a roll right now, made the best possible start to the match when they seized a 5-1 advantage in the first race when their No.1 Lasse Bjerre and partner Jan Graversen outpaced Monarchs guest star Richie Worrall and Justin Sedgmen from the gate.
But just as Monarchs supporters were digesting that shock opening, the Capital side hit back in fine style in the next race when reserve ace Rob Branford, who was making his Premier league return for Monarchs after being sidelined for over a month with a shoulder injury, and partner Max Clegg got the better of Bears rivals’ Adam Roynon and Ben Morley for a 5-1 to tie the scores, 6-6, after just two heats.
However, Redcar made it clear they had no intention of rolling over against the defending cup holders and pulled out another 5-1 in heat three when Matej Kus and Jonas B Andersen relegated Monarchs experienced German star Kevin Wolbert to fourth position which edged the home side in front once more 11-7.
But in what was already turning into a captivating clash Monarchs skipper Craig Cook and Branford gained a 4-2 in the fourth heat to trail by just two points. The Monarchs pair actually gated in a 5-1 position but Branford appeared to catch Cook’s back wheel causing the youngster to wobble, allowing allowed Bears star Stuart Robson to come through and separate them.
The one downside for Monarchs at this stage was Justin Sedgmen’s failure to score from his first two rides, but Redcar refused to be lulled into a false sense of security which was just as well because Monarchs drew level, 21-21 in heat seven when Wolbert, who atoned for his last place in his opening ride, and Erik Riss team rode to snatch a 5-1 beating Robson and Morley, Wolbert taking the chequered flag after lying second.
Monarchs then suffered a bit of a jolt in heat nine when Cook surprisingly trailed in third behind Bears duo Kus and Andersen ,a result which edged the Bears in front again 29-25, with seemingly everything to play for.
The Bears, however, suffered a blow in the tenth race when Jan Graversen, who had scored five points from three starts, crashed into the air fence and had to be taken to hospital causing a 40 minute delay to the match.
In the rerun, Bjerre held off Monarchs German pairing of Wolbert and Riss to maintain the Bears’ slender four point lead. Sedgmen then found his form for Monarchs winning successive heats with his victory in the eleventh race, helping Monarchs close the gap to just two points on their Teesside rivals.
And although the match was abandoned before heat 13 could be rerun, Monarchs will be happy at holding the in-form Bears to a slender two point win and will be confident of overturning that deficit in the second leg at Armadale a week on Saturday.
The Bears top rider was Kus with three wins. Cook and Wolbert both bagged seven for Monarchs before the stoppage.