Edinburgh MONARCHS took a big 27-point cushion down to Leicester Lions for their Premier League Knockout Cup second leg clash on Saturday, but skipper Derek Sneddon today admitted his team were “worried” at one stage that they were on the brink of blowing that huge lead.
Monarchs got off to a rocky start and trailed their hosts 37-23 after just ten races, which caused jitters in the Capital side’s camp. However, a strong second-half performance by Monarchs saw them go down by just 46-44 in the end and were perhaps unlucky not to snatch a draw on the night.
Monarchs sailed through 102-77 on aggregate and will face either Newcastle Diamonds or Plymouth Devils in the quarter finals.
Sneddon said: “We were worried because every time I looked Leicester were getting a 5-1, but we eventually turned things around and went through pretty comfortably after our big win at Armadale on Friday.”
Leicester came out fighting and stunned Monarchs by grabbing a trio of 5-1 advantages within the first six races, and when they added a 4-2 in the next race after Monarchs’ young Aussie Max Fricke was forced to lay down his bike after being taken wide by Lions star Magnus Karlsson, a comeback which Hibs would have admired looked a distinct possibility. Monarchs lagged 27-15 at this point, but typically it was Sneddon who managed to stop the Leicester points tide by winning heat eight following a terrific scrap with Lions ace Jan Graversen.
This crucial victory by Sneddon seemed to galvanise his teammates and sparked a revival which left the Lions squad pretty well cowed. Leading the Monarchs charge was Dane Claus Vissing who defeated Kevin Doolan in heat nine, but critically partner Marcel Helfer picked up a third place point.
This 4-2 cut Leicester’s lead to ten, 32-22, but just as Monarchs were breathing a collective sigh of relief, the Lions pulled out a maximum advantage, Graversen and captain Kauko Nieminen defeating Monarchs’ Dutch ace Theo Pijper.
Suddenly Monarchs were 14 points in arrears and could see their first leg lead melting away. However, a 4-2 courtesy of Craig Cook and Sneddon in heat 11 put Monarchs back on the rails for a second time.
And they didn’t waver after this. Jozsef Tabaka and Pijper snatched a 5-1 in heat 12, Cook and Vissing repeated the trick against Karlsson and Nieminen in the following heat and from there it was plain sailing.
Monarchs’ League Cup tie at Glasgow Tigers yesterday was postponed.
Leicester: Nieminen 10, Doolan 10, Karlsson 8, Graversen 7, Bjerre 6, Nielsen 3, Blackbird 2.
Monarchs: Cook 13, Vissing 9, Tabaka 8, Sneddon 5, Pijper 5, Fricke 3, Helfer 1.