Edinburgh Monarchs tame Leicester Lions – by a whisker
Edinburgh Monarchs ended Leicester Lions’ unbeaten league record with a thoroughly deserved, if nail-biting, 45-44 Championship win at Armadale tonight.
The result is a huge morale booster for Monarchs and team manager Alex Harkess said: “It was very close, probably too close, but we got over the line in the end and everybody played their part in the win.”
Leicester boss Stewart Dickson was relieved to snatch a match point and said: “It’s always good to leave Armadale with a point because it is always a hard place to come to in search of points. I’m pleased by how we rode and we might have won the meeting with a bit of luck.”
Leicester were almost back to full strength with Ryan Douglas and Josh Bates returning from injury, only reserve Jack Thomas is still sidelined with a dislocated shoulder and Newcastle’s Danny Phillips guested for him.
Leicester’s No.1 Scott Nicholls showed Monarchs’ top pairing of Ricky Wells and Justin Sedgmen a clean pair of heels in the very first heat to earn a share of the spoils for the visitors, an indication perhaps of just how tough a night it was going to be for Monarchs. Nicholls hit the first corner in front and increased his lead over the four laps for what was a comfortable victory.
But Monarchs won the reserves’ race in heat two, Luke Ruddick and William Lawson easily defeating Danny Philips and Ellis Perks for a 5-1 which put them four points ahead at this early stage. And Monarchs increased their advantage in the next heat when race winner Josh Pickering and Joel Andersson grabbed a 4-2 over Ryan Douglas and Josh Bates putting them now 12-6 in front.
However, the Lions roared back in the following heat when Richie Worrall, no stranger to Armadale having ridden for Monarchs in 2018, stormed to a convincing win over Cameron Heeps, and with Perks in third place, the Lions extracted a 4-2 verdict to close the gap to four points, 14-10.
And Nicholls easily won his second race on the trot for the Lions in the fifth heat for a 3-3, and it must be said Nicholls was looking unbeatable.
Worrall broke the tapes in heat six and started from 15 metres back and Monarchs took full advantage with Wells and Sedgmen recording Monarchs’ second 5-1 of the meeting and opening up an eight-point lead 22-14.
Nicholls was brought out as a tactical substitute by Leicester in heat seven and it paid off, Nicholls took the chequered flag against Heeps, but with Bates finishing in third spot the Lions’ 4-2 success cut Monarchs’ lead to just six points, 22-18.
Nicholls said: “I just go out and try my best, I like the Armadale track, it’s a bit technical which suits me. It was important I won that seventh-heat race because it got Leicester back in the game after we fell behind.”
And Sedgmen won a critical heat eight for Monarchs, and with Ruddick claiming third, this 4-2 extended their lead again to 28-20, but the match was far from over.
Worrall won heat nine for the Lions but Pickering and Andersson kept Phillips at the back for a 3-3 to maintain Monarchs’ eight-point lead.
And another 4-2 from Wells and Sedgmen in the tenth race saw Monarchs open up a gap of ten points. Nicholls and Perks grabbed a 4-2 against Heeps and a struggling Lawson in heat 11 which saw the Lions close the gap once more to 37-29. And a 4-2 from Worrall and Nicholls in heat 13 clawed back their deficit to just seven points 42-35 with two races to go.
The Lions repeated the trick in the penultimate race and closed the gap to 44-39 but Monarchs squeezed home with a race to go.
In the final heat Leicester grabbed a last gasp 5-1 to earn a match point thanks to big guns Worrall and Nicholls, the latter notching 15 points from six rides.
Monarchs: Heeps 9, Pickering 9, Sedgmen 8, Wells 7, Andersson 6, Ruddick 4, Lawson 2.
Leicester: Nicholls 15, Worrall 13, Douglas 7, Perks 7, Bates 1, Phillips 1, Mountain 0.