Edinburgh Monarchs formally clinched their place in this year’s Premier League play-off Grand Final after crushing Ipswich Witches 53-37 in last night’s final Group B match at Armadale.
Monarchs ended their campaign on 11 points, totally eclipsing early front-runners Workington Comets who ended up three points worse off than the Capital outfit who must sweat it out for now before finding out who they will face in the showdown for the league championship crown.
Having won at Ipswich on Thursday, Monarchs wanted to finish the job off in style at home and this they did. Ipswich, who have been hit hard with injuries over the last seven days, almost raised the white flag in surrender, and had it not been for their excellent guest Steve Worrall who bagged 12 points from reserve, they might easily have ended up on the wrong end of a cricket score.
One can sympathise to a degree with the Suffolk side who will end the season with no major silverware. On the other hand, a lot of people don’t have much time for them. Since they dropped down from the Elite League they have exuded a swagger which can rub rival clubs up the wrong way. So Monarchs supporters were more than enthusiastic to see them topple to a second defeat in the space of just 48 hours.
Monarchs in fact had proceedings well sewn up at the halfway mark as they led 30-18 and with some of the Ipswich side less than bewitching on track, a shock to reverse Thursday’s dramatic loss at Foxhall Heath was never on the cards.
Worrall ruined Jozsef Tabaka’s four-ride maximum hopes by winning heat 14, although Tabaka also finished in third place in the heat 15 top scorers finale after failing to overhaul Morten Risager who claimed second spot behind Craig Cook.
Maximums are becoming almost routine for Cook and it looked for all the world as if he would clock up one of his more easier five-ride full houses, but a blip in what was an unlucky heat 13, saw him beaten by Risager to the chequered flag.
Not that Cook was cutting himself up about it. “I didn’t too too badly,” he said, “The track was a bit slick but it was easy to ride. It was a no pressure match for us really and I tested out a few things over the course of the evening. As for doing the job in style, it was a meeting to go out and enjoy before the real intensity of the Grand Final, it’s the calm before the storm if you like. We don’t know who we are facing yet, but it looks as if it could well be Somerset Rebels.
“And if that’s the case the pressure will all be on them. They will be expected to beat us with the team they have got. But we will just go out and do our best and hopefully end up with a smile on our faces when the season ends.”
Asked if he was annoyed at dropping a point to Risager, Cook replied: “No, not really. I had taken a tooth out of my sprocket before the race and it didn’t work because the bike was spinning too much, so I changed it back again when I returned to the pits. I just gave myself a little bit too much to do and couldn’t catch him.”
Tabaka was well satisfied with his eventual 11-point haul and said: “I rode pretty good and to win my first three races on the spin gave me a bit of a lift. I was a bit disappointed to finish off with third places in my final two outings, but we had already won the match by then.”
It was a pretty solid scoring exhibition by Monarchs with even Claus Vissing displaying an aggression into the turns which hitherto had been latent within him. “I rode quite well,” he said, “I would have liked to have won a race, but I felt I was competitive, and to get such a good win over Ipswich at home was very satisfying.”
Worrall admitted that he used this guest booking as a shop window for next season, explaining: “I dropped out of Premier League speedway this year and I want to get back into that division in 2014, and this performance I think will alert clubs to my availability. I enjoyed myself tonight and to score 12 points was fantastic. I made some good starts which is essential at a track like Armadale. I had lost some of my confidence this year, but I feel I have got it back now, and this certainly helped me.”
Cook added: “Steve is a quality rider who has had a bit of a tough time this year. And I would be more than happy to see him at Edinburgh next season.”
That’s a recommendation and a half.
Monarchs: Cook 14, Tabaka 11, Pijper 7, Fricke 7, Sneddon 7, Vissing 6, Carr 1.
Ipswich: Worrall 12, Risager 10, Wethers 7, Heeps 4, Klindt 4, MacDonald 0.