Edinburgh Monarchs KO Cup dreams on a knife-edge after narrow first-leg victory

The Edinburgh Monarchs will take a slender four-point lead to the Redcar Bears as their KO Cup final hopes hang in the balance.

The Capital side edged out their opponents 47-43 in an intriguing semi-final first leg at Armadale, the all-important return fixture on Teesside in a fortnight's time.

Skipper and No.1 Sam Masters was back in the saddle for the first time since breaking his right shoulder, and dislocating his left, three weeks ago. He had the broken bone plated in Poland and, after a couple of weeks rest, was 'good to go'.

However, just to add to his woes, the 31-year-old Australian is also currently managing the pain for a broken foot. But Masters' involvement is integral to Monarchs' quest for a league and cup double.

Monarchs duo Kye Thomson (red) and Paco Castagna (blue) get the better of Redcar's guest rider Richard Lawson. Picture: Jack Cupido.

Indeed, it was the captain who shot out of the gate as he took the opening heat win of the night much to the delight of the home supporters. The skipper was back.

Conditions on the fourth bend was giving the riders some problems in the early stages of the meeting, Redcar's Kasper Andersen, in particular, coming to grief in heat three. The Dane was taken from the track in an ambulance and was subsequently withdrawn from the meeting.

With a place in the cup final up for grabs, riders weren't prepared to give an inch. Heat seven needed three attempts to produce a result with the air fence on the second bend also needing replaced.

Monarchs had built up an eight-point lead by the midway point before the Bears laid down a marker with their first 5-1 of the evening courtesy of Jordan Jenkins and Jason Edwards. But Monarchs returned the compliment in the very next race to restore their eight-point advantage.

Josh Pickering produced a remarkable last to first heat 11 win, but anything the 25-year-old Aussie does on the track is now of little surprise. He is simply a joy to watch on a motorbike.

Paco Castagna, who was on top form all night, won a crucial heat 14, but Monarchs were just six in front ahead of a crucial 15.

And when Lewis Kerr and guest Richard Lawson combined for a Bears 4-2, Monarchs must now bring their A-game to Redcar if they are to progress.