Rocket men shootdown Monarchs – but they gain vital point

Kevin Wolbert won the last heat and was followed by Sam Masters for a crucial 5-1. Picture: Ron MacNeill
Kevin Wolbert won the last heat and was followed by Sam Masters for a crucial 5-1. Picture: Ron MacNeill
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Edinburgh Monarchs were grounded by Rye House Rockets in their Premier League speedway clash in Hertfordshire last night.

The Rockets posted 47-42 victory but Monarchs, who pushed their rivals all the way, snatched a match point with a superb last-heat maximum points win.

Star of the evening was Rockets reserve ace Ben Morley who picked up ten points and was his side’s match winner.

Monarchs boss John Campbell said: “We were doing well until the interval and I thought we might actually win, but their two reserves won the next two races which gave us a bit of a kick, so in the end I was pleased we came away with a point.”

Monarchs missed a golden chance to seize maximum points in the opening race when skipper Sam Masters and Erik Riss were on a 5-1 until Riss’s bike packed up on the second bend of the third lap forcing them to settle for a 3-2 instead.

But the Rockets then grabbed a 5-1 of their own in heat three when Cameron Heeps and Leigh Lanham held out Monarchs star Kevin Wolbert to take the lead 10-7.

However, Masters and Riss were fully in tune two races later when they did complete the 5-1 they deserved to trail their hosts by a single point, 15-14 in a match which was swinging one way then another.

A 4-2 from Rockets No.1 Edward Kennett and Kasper Lykke in heat six against second placed Wolbert pushed the home side in front 19-16. But a fine win for Monarchs reserve Max Clegg with team-mate Ryan Fisher finishing third earned a useful 4-2 in the ninth race, reducing their arrears to a single point, 27-26 on a track which was pretty much devoid of dirt, the last thing Monarchs wanted or are used to.

And that slender gap was maintained in the next race when Wolbert headed home Kennett, passing his rival on the last lap, and Lykke. Clegg replaced Jye Etheridge in this race but trailed in last.

Etheridge continues to struggle and the Australian’s travails are starting to hurt Monarchs in the scoring stakes. It’s now a growing concern, nor did it help that Etheridge slid off whilst at the back in heat seven.

Even Monarchs’ promising reserve star Dan Bewley found it hard going, failing to score in his first three outings. However, Monarchs’ top four were keeping their side in with a fighting chance of victory.

But Monarchs suffered a slight setback after the interval in heat 11 when Rockets tailender Peter Karger sped from the favourable gate four position to thwart Masters. With team-mate Stuart Robson pinching third, the Rockets inched three points clear.

And tellingly it was Rockets’ other reserve rider Ben Morley who dealt Monarchs a further blow in heat 12 by taking the chequered flag against Wolbert, and with partner Heeps following him home the Rockets secured a big 5-1 at a vital stage in proceedings to open up a seven-point gap, 39-32. Morley was also off the productive outside gate giving Wolbert no chance of catching him.

Monarchs slipped further behind in the next race after surrendering a 4-2 to Kennett and Robson after Masters lifted on the first lap and dropped to the back leaving partner Fisher to split the home pairing.

There was then a big crash in heat 14 with all four riders coming down on the first bend. The race had been called back at the first time of asking after Monarchs reserve Clegg was deemed to have got a flier from the tapes.

An ambulance was called for Lanham and three air fence panels were deflated by the pile-up. Lanham, who did not have to go to hospital, was replaced in the second rerun by Morley who won the race from Clegg and Etheridge to seal the points for the Rockets.

But Monarchs then produced a brilliant 5-1 from Wolbert and Masters in the last race to earn a well deserved match point, their second in succession on the road.

Rye House: Morley 10, Kennett 8, Lykke 7, Robson 7, Heeps 5, Lanham 5, Karger 5.

Monarchs: Wolbert 11, Masters 10, Clegg 8, Fisher 7, Riss 5, Etheridge 1, Bewley 0.