Ipswich Witches have all but ended Edinburgh Monarchs’ dream of a third championship crown in a row after storming to a crushing 58-32 victory in their play-off quarter-final first-leg tie in East Suffolk tonight.
It leaves Monarchs, the defending league champions, with an almost impossible task to salvage the situation in the second leg at Armadale next Friday.
However, Monarchs boss John Campbell said: “We are not throwing in the towel but it’s hard to see how we can pull this deficit back.”
Ipswich are the form team in the Premier League at the moment and it was vital Monarchs made a convincing start to the meeting. And this they did by sharing the first two races, but they were a shade fortunate in heat two when the Witches were on a 5-1 until their reserve rider Connor Coles fell while looking comfortable in second place.
Monarchs were unlucky to lose a 5-1 in the third race when German star Erik Riss appeared to have bike problems after leading for a lap.
Monarchs then appeared to fall apart at the seams and lost two further 5-1s in as many races to trail alarmingly 21-9 after just five heats as the Witches underlined just how strong they have become around their Foxhall Heath base in recent weeks.
It was also worrying that Monarchs’ top two, Sam Masters and Ryan Fisher, had to settle for the minor places in that fifth race and couldn’t get near to Witches duo Nico Covatti and Morten Risager.
And it got worse for Monarchs in the very next heat when Kevin Wolbert and Max Clegg surrendered another 5-1 against James Sarjeant and Witches No.1 Danny King who has only lost two races in his last eight home meetings.
Monarchs finally staunched the Ipswich onslaught with a 3-3 verdict in heat seven with Erik and Mark Riss tucking in for second and third places behind Witches race winner Ben Barker. But once again Monarchs were lucky after Barker’s partner Joe Jacobs fell to the back of the race after a misjudgment on track.
It was a get-out-of-jail card for Monarchs who were imprisoned by their own shortcomings at this stage. Their relief was only temporary as Witches claimed a 4-2 in heat eight to surge in front 33-15 and probably had their eyes on the semi-finals already with the Capital side almost impotent.
Monarchs shared the ninth race but they desperately needed heat advantages to slash their arrears and it just wasn’t happening for them.
It was becoming excruciating viewing for Monarchs travelling supporters as the Witches rammed in another 5-1 in heat ten, stretching their lead to twenty two points, 41-19 with no end to their suffering in sight.
Monarchs finally recorded their first victory of the night with a 4-2 from Masters and Fisher in the next race but Ipswich negated that with one of their own in heat 13 as they reached the 50-point mark.
And the Witches ended with a flourish with another 5-1 in the last race over Masters and Mark Riss who fell.
It looks like an early season closedown for Monarchs now.
Ipswich: King 13, Covatti 13, Barker 9, Sarjeant 8, Risager 7, Jacobs 5, Coles 3.
Monarchs: Masters 9, M Riss 6, Wolbert 5, Clegg 3, Hopwood 3, E Riss 2, Fisher 2.