Edinburgh MONARCHS are on the brink of a Knockout Cup semi-final clash against Ipswich Witches after virtually eliminating Glasgow Tigers in yesterday’s re-arranged quarter-final first-leg tie at Ashfield Stadium.
Given that Monarchs have hardly ridden in over a month, not even their most fervent of fans would have predicted that they would stun the Tigers with a 46-44 win, making the return leg, which Monarchs are hoping to restage on Friday at Armadale, almost academic.
Monarchs’ chief aim was to contain the Tigers and this they did, but to actually triumph on a track which has caused them untold headaches in the past was a real bonus and underlines the rewards which can be wrought from a side who produce a solid scoring performance.
Nine of the 15 races were shared, but critically Monarchs didn’t have a charge sheet levelled against them containing a litany of last places.
Even a couple of refereeing decisions went their way, notably in the first race when Craig Cook thundered under Tigers’ Chris Mills, causing him to slide off on the fourth bend, but Cook was allowed to keep his third place point.
And in heat seven Theo Pijper and James Grieves tangled on the first bend and no-one would have been surprised had Pijper been penalised, but match official Stuart Wilson called it right in adjudging that Grieves was the primary cause of the stoppage and disqualified the Tigers heat leader.
You had a sense then that this was perhaps going to be Monarchs day. Monarchs riders claimed some pivotal race wins. Andrew Tully’s victory over Josh Grajczonek in heat 9 and Cook heading home Grieves two races later, were big moments, but Monarchs made their decisive move in heat 14 when they trailed by just two points, 40-38.
Matthew Wethers and Charles Wright conjured up a 5-1 over Tigers’ Mason Campton and second string ace Filip Sitera. Wright flew from the tapes and Wethers, to his credit, settled in behind his team-mate, protecting him for all four laps.
Monarchs now led 43-41 and when Cook handed Tigers captain Joe Screen his only defeat of the meeting in heat 15, this was the signal for the Monarchs’ travelling support to start the celebrations.
Pijper was like a rock in the first half with a brace of wins and he added a third to his scorechart when he defeated Grajczonek and Campton in heat 12. “It was a great result,” said Pijper. “Everybody chipped in with something. We all rode hard because we hadn’t raced for a month and we deserved the win.
“I wouldn’t say it was a bonus we won the match, we go everywhere to win.”
Tigers gaffer Stewart Dickson all but conceded his side are out of the competition.
He said afterwards: “It looks that way, we had a lot of race winners, but our second strings (Sitera and Chris Mills) were woeful.
“They take up 11 points in our team averages and only scored one point between them, that’s where the real damage was done.
“Edinburgh rode well and deserved to win, they kept picking up second and third places when we had a race winner and this made it very difficult to gain any sort of advantage.
“If I was an Edinburgh promoter I’d certainly be the happier man.”
Skipper Wethers lauded his Monarchs squad, saying: “This was a very good win and a very good team effort, that’s what we aimed for and we made it happen.
“But we need to score as many points as we can in the second leg We all need the money after so many rain-offs.”
Charles Wright, whose team place is allegedly under threat with Monarchs eyeing German rider Marcel Heffer as a possible replacement, scored four points from his five outings.
Glasgow: Screen 14, Campton 13, Grajczonek 10, Grieves 5, O’Malley 1, Mills 1, Sitera 0.
Monarchs: Pijper 11, Cook 11, Wethers 6, Tully 6, Sneddon 5, Wright 4, Dyer 3.