Sheffield Tigers have not started the season as also-rans and on that basis it was hoped they would run holders Edinburgh Monarchs close in the second leg of their Premier League Knockout Cup tie at Armadale last night.
But Sheffield, who are big track specialists, reverted to their default setting around the tight confines of the Lothian Arena and were brushed aside 59-31 as Monarchs cruised into the quarter-finals where they will face Redcar Bears.
But the Tigers did succeed in giving their hosts something of a scare in the very first race when Lasse Bjerre and Stevie Worrall grabbed a shock 5-1 over Sam Masters and Erik Riss.
And the race had an even more explosive ending when Masters and Bjerre tumbled off on the slow-down. Masters got up and stormed over to his rival who was still down and started raining punches into his body.
Masters was aggrieved that Bjerre had taken his leg away during the race and vented his anger in astonishing fashion. It was totally out of character for the laid back Masters who could now face a Speedway Control Bureau investigation over his conduct.
This incident seemed to spur the Tigers on, who despite the final scoreline, did make a match of it during that first half and indeed were only six points down after six races, following their 46-44 win at Owlerton on Thursday night.
But in what was an overlong and untidy meeting, Monarchs recovered from that first heat setback and put their foot on the gas in the second half and pulled away from the Tigers in a convincing manner which has been the usual outcome for Monarchs against the Tigers in years gone by.
Skipper Craig Cook and Kevin Wolbert were the two Monarchs stars who galvanised their team. Wolbert, such a changed rider from a year ago, picked up 14 points from his five outings and was beaten just once by Bjerre in the fifth heat.
Cook was on fire and roared to a paid 15 point maximum. His gating wasn’t always top notch but that mattered little. In fact, all of the Monarchs were a little sluggish from the tapes early on and had they been up against a stronger side, they could have been punished.
Erik Riss, Wolbert’s young fellow German, looked very able and once he is out in front, looks very stylish indeed. The 19-year-old pulled off a notable victory against Worrall in heat eight which can only enhance his confidence further as he scored six points from his four starts.
And reserve Rob Branford, despite some cavalier moments which can have hearts in mouths at times, enjoyed some good spells and collected six points overall. His partner Max Clegg was almost as productive scoring five points.
Sheffield lost Ashley Birks after his second ride when he took a heavy fall and this really compounded the injury problems which has beset them already this year.
Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess always thought his side were in control saying: “Apart from that first heat we were in control and it was really pretty easy for us after that.”
Tigers’ top performer was Jason Garrity with ten points but unfortunately lacked any decent support.
Monarchs: Cook 14, Wolbert 14, Masters 8, Sedgmen 6, Branford 6, Riss 6, Clegg 5.
Sheffield: Garrity 10, Bjerre 7, Bates 5, Worrall 5, Sissis 3, Birks 1.