It may not have been exactly Saturday night speedway fever, but holders Edinburgh Monarchs sailed through to the Premier League Knockout semi-finals after crushing a patched up and uncompetitive Redcar Bears side 61-29 (96-66 on aggregate) in their quarter final second-leg tie at Armadale, a meeting few will recall as memorable.
But don’t blame the lack of excitement on Monarchs, who can only defeat the opposition placed in front of them. However, the last few weeks have seen a succession of visiting teams arrive at the Lothian Arena devoid of fight and unable to match Monarchs in their own backyard.
And the sky-high wage bill Monarchs are incurring for crashing through the 60-point barrier again is doing nothing to ease their financial woes. Despite winning the abandoned first leg on Teesside 37-35, Redcar had little hope of defending that wafer-thin lead and fears they would succumb to a heavy mauling proved to be bang on the money.
In fact, Monarchs had wiped out their arrears after just two heats and by the halfway mark they were cantering 34-14. For the Bears, and you have to sympathise with their current injury plight, simply unable to produce any semblance of resistance to halt Monarchs progress into the last four of the competition.
Redcar won just two races in heats 11 and 15, underlining the chasm which separated the sides in terms of class. Only Bears guest star Aaron Summers and top-scorer Matej Kus prevented a whitewash.
Kus at least had the consolation of defeating Monarchs No.2 Justin Sedgmen in the final heat, ruining his rival’s dream of a paid six-ride maximum. But Kus conceded afterwards that the Bears could do nothing to stop the flying Capital side’s runaway victory.
He said: “It was a very disappointing result for us, but Edinburgh are top of the Premier League and very strong at home.
“A lot of our team are injured at the moment and that made it very tough for us.
“We celebrated after winning the first match, but I don’t really know why, because we really needed thirty points to take to Edinburgh to have given any chance of success.”
Sedgmen, meanwhile, commented: “It would have been nice to have scored another home maximum, but Kus gated well and I just couldn’t catch the guy.”
The one Monarch who was unbeaten was German Kevin Wolbert, who scored a full 15-point maximum which he preserved by not coming out in the heat 15 nominated riders finale.
At the other end of the scale, Monarchs reserve Rob Branford enjoyed a productive evening and looked less buccaneering than normal, winning his opening ride to finish on an eight point total.
The 21-year old admitted things had gone pretty much to plan for Monarchs. “You have got to go into every meeting open-minded,” he said, “but Redcar struggled and if you come to Armadale thinking you are going to get an easy night, then you’ll get a pretty big shock.
“Redcar did the best they could under difficult circumstances and fair play to them. But even although they beat us 37-35 at their place – which we were all pretty disappointed about – we were pretty confident about pulling those two points back.”
Branford added he felt some degree of satisfaction in his own display, saying: “I enjoyed myself and the track and me got on pretty well, but my last couple of rides weren’t as good as I had wanted, but I still rode better than I have been doing at Armadale.
“But it’s great to make the semi-finals. It means more meetings for me and the team. And the more matches I do before I head back home in October, the better.”
Monarchs: Sedgmen 16, Wolbert 15, Cook 11,Branford 8, Clegg 6, Riss 5.
Redcar: Kus 11, Summers 8, Andersen 5, Carr 2, Shuttleworth 2, Berge 1.