Edinburgh Monarchs and Somerset Rebels will have to replay their Knockout Cup semi-final after the scores were tied on aggregate following a dramatic second-leg clash at Armadale Stadium last night.
Monarchs triumphed 49-41, reversing the same scoreline at the Oak Tree Arena on Tuesday, but fitting in both legs again with the play-offs imminent won’t be easy. Monarchs came within a whisker of going through and needed a 5-1 in the last heat to do so. But while Craig Cook won the race, partner Theo Pijper was stranded at the back, ensuring both teams will have to do it all again.
On a night when Monarchs simply could not afford to squander needless points, they did, notably from former Somerset ace Claus Vissing. Vissing and teammate Liam Carr surrendered a 5-1 in heat 11 which was a huge blow. Vissing then failed to score in heat 13 and once again this was a critical factor in denying the Capital side outright aggregate success.
However, skipper Derek Sneddon and Jozsef Tabak merit praise for producing a massive 5-1 in heat 14 which kept Monarchs in the competition. The pressure is building on Vissing to start making his mark around Armadale. Even allowing for the fact he was not 100 per cent fit, he is unreliable in certain races, and his performances simply haven’t been good enough.
The other factor which changed the dynamics of the meeting was another horror smash in heat eight which was caused by Rebels reserve star Charles Wright, who leant into Sneddon, causing a domino effect on the first bend as he in turn leant into Kyle Newman, who then took Monarchs’ young Aussie, Max Fricke, through the safety boards in spectacular fashion. Newman suffered a shoulder injury and Fricke a badly bruised and battered back which has put him out of Monarchs’ vital league trip to Leicester Lions tonight.
Rebels No.1 Jason Doyle,while not winning a race, was a key performer for his side and isn’t daunted by the prospect of a cup rerun. He said: “It will cause some fixture problems for the management teams, but it means more money for the riders! I thought it would be tough in the second leg at Armadale because Monarchs are such a good side at home, but something will have to separate us to get a decisive result.”
Pijper had clutch problems in his first ride, and the last-place finish he suffered as a consequence hurt Monarchs badly. Pijper said: “I wasn’t happy with that ride one little bit and had to sort my bike out as soon as I got back to the pits. The points I lost could have made all the difference, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. In the last heat I tried every single line to get past Doyle but could not manage it and he turned left on me which was a bit unfair.
“Given everything that happened it was perhaps a fair result. Hopefully Claus will score some good points when we go back to Somerset.”
Monarchs drafted in Liam Carr to replace Josh Bates and the youngster did superbly, picking up four points which included a fantastic win over Wright in the rerun heat-eight race. “I was pretty pleased with how I rode,” said Carr. “The race I won was really good and I’m glad I played my part in helping Monarchs earn a replay.”
Cook scored 14 points from his five outings and but for hitting some dirt on the fourth bend in his second ride, which saw him finish second behind useful Rebels rider Nick Morris, he would have grabbed a maximum.
“The track was pretty greasy and slimy,” said Cook. “That was because of the rain we had. I just picked up some drive which shot me out to the fence and I lost my position to Morris. We are still in the cup, though, and must get ourselves ready to do it all over again.”
Rebels team manager Garry May said: “When we got maximum points in heat 11, I thought we might go on and win. But Monarchs’ 5-1 in the penultimate heat was a killer blow and we could do nothing about it.
“But it was another great meeting and I say bring it on for the replay. It will be tight again, though, simply because Edinburgh go well at our place and we ride Armadale just as well. I would not like to predict the eventual winners.”
Monarchs: Cook 14, Sneddon 11, Pijper 8, Tabaka 7, Vissing 4, Carr 4, Fricke 1.
Somerset: Morris 12, Doyle 9, Wright 9, Grajczonek 8, Davies 3, Newman 0, Rose 0.