Monarchs tame Panthers and head for Grand Final

Heat13: Craig Cook wheelies over the line to ensure the Monarchs go into the play-off finals. Picture: Ron MacNeill
Heat13: Craig Cook wheelies over the line to ensure the Monarchs go into the play-off finals. Picture: Ron MacNeill
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Reigning title holders Edinburgh Monarchs cruised into the Premier League speedway Grand Final for the third year in a row after toppling Peterborough Panthers 58-32 in last night’s play-off semi-final second leg tie at Armadale Stadium.

Monarchs only had a two-point deficit to overcome and wiped that out easily in the first half to go through 102-78 on aggregate handing them the opportunity of claiming a fifth championship crown in the space of 16 years.

Somerset Rebels defeated Glasgow Tigers 48-42 in their semi final first leg clash at the Oak Tree Arena, the decider takes place at Ashfield tomorrow.

Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess said: “Nothing is ever easy but we were dominant and our heat leaders were all firing.

“It was nice to have a full seven-man team again and Kevin did really well in his first match back.

“Two points gave Peterborough a mountain to climb in trying to defend that slim lead. It feels great to be in the Grand Final again, and it will feel even better if we can go on and win it again, but everyone at the club is very happy.”

Peterborough had talked a good game ahead of the meeting insisting that Monarchs were “worried” based on the fact that the Panthers had already toppled their hosts in the league at the Lothian Arena, albeit by a single point.

However, it was the Panthers who were lost for words this time as Monarchs levelled on aggregate after just two heats following victories by skipper Craig Cook and reserve Max Clegg.

And Monarchs led over the two legs in the very next race when German duo Erik Riss and the returning Kevin Wolbert gated smartly to score a 5-1 over Anders Thomsen and Simon Lambert as the visitors trailed 12-6.

The Panthers were not living up to their own hyperbole and fell further behind, 16-8, thanks to a 4-2 from Sam Masters and Rob Branford in the fourth heat. But a 4-2 from Rohan Tungate and Michael Palm-Toft in heat five signalled a glimmer of hope for them as they cut Monarchs’ lead back to six points, 18-12.

Hpwver, it did not smack of a genuine revival and this was underlined in the very next heat when Cook and Sedgmen grabbed a 4-2 of their own to restore Monarchs’ eight-point advantage, 22-14.

A second victory for Clegg in the seventh race, with Masters finishing third, earned Monarchs another 4-2 verdict to stretch their lead to ten points after Panthers ace Thomsen retired.

And the home side maintained this gap when Sedgmen took the chequered flag in heat eight, the 29-19 scoreline at this stage reflecting Monarchs’ first-half superiority. And they romped further in front with a 4-2 from Wolbert and Riss in heat nine.

The Panthers were toiling a little and not looking likely to replicate that shock league triumph of a few weeks ago, which was now but a misty memory.

And super duo Cook and Sedgmen hammered their superiority again with a 5-1 in heat ten as Monarchs started to coast, leading 38-22.

A 4-2 for the Panthers in the following heat made no real discernible difference to the scoreline and they needed a miracle to deny Monarchs from reaching the finishing post.

Monarchs, surprise, surprise, negated that Panthers 4-2 in the previous race when Wolbert and Branford secured their own 4-2 in heat 12, to lead 44-28.

Another 4-2 for Monarchs followed in quick succession in heat 13. They led 48-30 as the Panthers challenge was by now well and truly spent. And Monarchs smashed through the 50 points in the penultimate heat when Riss and Clegg grabbed a 5-1 against Rafa Konopka and Lambert.

Monarchs rounded things off in style with a 5-1 from unbeaten skipper Cook and Wolbert in heat 15.

Wolbert’s injury comeback was a triumph for the German as he racked up 12 points from his five starts which included two race wins.

Monarchs: Cook 15, Wolbert 12, Masters 9, Sedgmen 7, Riss 7, Clegg 6, Branford 2.

Peterborough: Palm-Toft 9, Barker 8, Tungate 4, Lambert 4, Thomsen 3, Grondal 2, Konopka 2.