Edinburgh Monarchs roared back to the top of the Premier League table following a confidence-boosting 55-39 revenge victory over Somerset Rebels, who displaced the Capital side as leaders in midweek.
Somerset may be under the apprehension that they have become red-hot favourites to successfully defend their championship crown once the play-offs start next month, but Monarchs sent out a clear message at Armadale last night that they are not going away, despite two losses on the road this week.
“It has been suggested that our morale is low. Nothing is further from the truth and we will be there at the end,” declared a defiant Monarchs promoter John Campbell after the win.
Somerset may be masterful round their Oaktree Arena venue, but the belief that they are less effective away from home was borne out as Monarchs, obviously with plenty to prove, always had the upper hand. Their opponents were not able to respond as Monarchs stepped on the gas in the latter stages.
For former Rebels star Sam Masters it was an evening of personal triumph. The Aussie reeled off four wins on the bounce, including a belter of a triumph against Rebels No.1 Nick Morris in heat 13 which took the Armadale roof off.
Masters looked set fair for a 15-point maximum, but he was undone in the heat-15 top-scorers’ race when Morris got his own back by taking the chequered flag. That may have been Masters only defeat of the night, but he was still thrilled with his 14-point tally.
“This was a great win for the boys,” he said. “I don’t think we had anything to prove after our defeat at Somerset on Wednesday, but we needed this victory and we can now hopefully build on this.
“Somerset came here brimming with confidence, but being top of the league now counts for nothing. It’s who wins the play-off Grand Final at the end of the season who will have genuine reason to celebrate.”
Masters was forced to jump on his second bike for the match after his top engine blew up in the warm-up. “That was a really worry”, he revealed. “I wasn’t sure if the engine I was forced to use was going to be quick enough, but it was.”
Masters added: “I wasn’t thinking about getting a maximum and Nick knew where I was all the way in that last race. He is a good rider and is also pretty smart, but at least I beat him in heat 13 – that was a really good duel with him.”
Skipper Derek Sneddon also had plenty to smile about after he picked up nine points from reserve, bringing to an end a run of dismal scores: “I have been struggling of late and nobody is more aware of this than me,” Sneddon, who won two races, said. I felt so much better with my performances and from a team point of view this was a massive victory for us.”
The one Monarch who continues to perplex is Craig Cook, who certainly seems less dominant than he was a year ago. He gets caught up in traffic more often than he would like and even when he is out in front does not look comfortable.
And for the first occasion in a very long time at home he did not feature in the heat-15 showdown, underlining that things are not right with him at the moment.
Although Somerset pulled off a brace of 5-3 tactical advantages, it did little to dent the momentum Monarchs had built up. Leading 37-25 after ten races, a 5-1 from Sneddon and Max Fricke in the 12th race virtually sealed Monarchs success at that stage.
Fricke didn’t win a race and was a bit unlucky to be in the wrong place at the wrong time on a couple of occasions, but team-mate Steve Worrall compensated for Fricke’s shortfall by racking up 12 points from five outings.
Monarchs: Masters 14, Worrall 12, Sneddon 9, Cook 8, Sedgemen 7, Fricke 5, Clegg 0.
Somerset: Morris 14, Aspgren 9, Starke 5, Wright 4, Allen 3, T. Kurtz 3, B. Kurtz 1.