Rampant Edinburgh Monarchs have all but sealed their place in the Premier League play-off Grand Final after crushing Workington Comets 60-34 in their group section encounter at Armadale last night.
A point from the return tie at Derwent Patk tonight will put Monarchs out of sight. Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess said: “Our aim was to make sure we got all three points against Workington at home and we did that without too much trouble and more importantly without injury. A point is all we need now, if we get more than that, it will be a bonus. It’s in our own hands now we don’t want to be depending on results elsewhere.”
Monarchs, who have become so comfortable round the Lothian Arena in recent weeks, were on cruise control for much of the meeting as the Comets, missed their No.1 Josh Grajczonek, were unable to put the skids under their hosts.
Workington suffered a further blow in heat 12 when Dane Rene Bach ploughed into the safety barrier after Monarchs skipper Derek Sneddon fell in front of him on the third bend, giving him nowhere to go.
Bach, who had scored eight points from his previous three outings, withdrew from the match with a suspected broken nose. Sneddon, who suffered some bruising, said: “I hit an icy bit when I tried to turn on the bend and did a 360 degree spin, and unfortunately Rene was close behind me and had no time to avoid me and sailed into the fence.”
Monarchs powered into gear in a strong first period which saw them lead 24-12 after just six races. Workington handed Bach a tactical outing in heat seven but he could only finish second behind Monarchs star Sam Masters for a shared 4-4 advantage.
Ricky Wells was then sent out for his tactical opportunity in the very next race but he lost out to Justin Sedgmen in a high-class scrap. However with Simon Lambert picking up a point after Sneddon tumbled off, this gave the Comets a 5-3 success. It was a rare moment of triumph as Monarchs shrugged off their rivals with consummate ease over the latter part of the contest to match their endeavours in the first half.
Wells was Comets’ top scorer with 12 points but the lack of solid support in the middle ranks proved to be their downfall. Berwick’s Kevin Doolan, who rattled up 16 points for his own club a week ago, guested for Grajczonek, but never looked like repeating his heroics for a second time and only finished with five points this time.
Meanwhile, Masters, who is now overshadowing Monarchs thrillmaker Craig Cook on a regular basis, was once again very much to the fore. The Aussie reeled off four wins on the bounce and looked odds-on to complete a five-ride full house.
But in the heat 15 top-scorers’ finale, his hopes were dashed by Wells, who outpaced him and team-mate Sedgmen. Sedgmen, who endured a scoring dip at Berwick last weekend, was back on fire and his tigerish efforts enlivened proceedings no end.
He picked up an excellent 12-point haul and said: “I felt pretty good – we all rode pretty well. It was our intention to secure all three points, and we did that without too much trouble. We will be hoping to complete the job at Workington.”
Fellow Aussie Max Fricke had a productive night with 11 points to his credit. After the teenager was a bit lax in allowing Bach to pass him in his first outing, he screwed his head on after that and was unbeaten in his next three outings.
Reserve Aaron Fox also deserves credit for his win over Mason Campton in heat 14.
Workington team manager Tony Jackson said he would welcome Monarchs to Derwent Park, but added: “I don’t honestly know what kind of team I will be able to put out.”
The Comets have been so unlucky with injuries this season, and this latest setback looks like offering Monarchs a golden opportunity to claim their spot in the Grand Final for a second year in a row.
Scunthorpe held off Somerset Rebels 46-44 in their group clash at the Eddie Wright Raceway.