Edinburgh Monarchs begin new season with a bang

Monarchs' Craig Cook (blue helmet) and Sam Masters (red) squeeze out Tigers rider Rusty Harrison. Pic: Ron MacNeill
Monarchs' Craig Cook (blue helmet) and Sam Masters (red) squeeze out Tigers rider Rusty Harrison. Pic: Ron MacNeill
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Edinburgh Monarchs marked the opening of the new speedway season north of the border by defeating rivals Glasgow Tigers 52-38 victory in their Air Fence Challenge first-leg tie at Armadale.

However, on last night’s evidence, the new-look Tigers should give Monarchs a far closer run for their money this year for those all important derby bragging rights.

All eyes were for focused on Monarchs’ new faces, none more so than Aaron Fox. In truth, the American looked a bit hesitant and lacked quite a bit of speed. He suffered a tumble in his opening ride and when he appeared to have broken his duck with a third place in heat ten, his bike spluttered to a halt. Not the start Fox wanted or desired as he ended the night pointless.

“It’s just a question of getting a few things figured out,” he said afterwards. “Sure, I wanted to get some points on the board, but it was my first meeting and there is a long way to go.”

It took Monarchs until the second half before finally seeing off the Tigers. The first six races were all shared until Monarchs broke the deadlock with a 5-1 from Aussie duo Sam Masters and Justin Sedgemen in the seventh heat.

That breakthrough definitely imbued Monarchs with some steely determination as they began to assert themselves over a Glasgow outfit who started to wilt a little.

Masters, who made some quicksilver gates, notably in heat 13 when he blasted around the outside of everybody on the first turn to win the race, finished with ten points from his five outings. He was very satisfied with a double-figure return on his Monarchs debut.

“I’m pretty happy with how I rode to get ten points in my first meeting – I’m pretty stoked with that,” he said. “As the weeks go on, I should get more comfortable with the track and I should be able to get even more points.

“But the only reason I went round the outside in that heat 13 race was because I couldn’t get to the inside. Riding the wide line was no bad thing and there was no need for me to try and cut back inside.”

The only scare Masters had occurred two races earlier when team-mate Sedgemen lost a chain coming out of the second turn. Masters was very lucky to avoid his partner and admitted: “I nearly went over the fence. Once you lose a chain anything can sometimes happen, so I was happy to miss Justin. There was nothing he could do about it anyway – it happens in speedway from time to time.”

Sedgemen, who also showed he can fly from the tapes, picked up six points from reserve, which included a victory over Tigers duo Kasper Lykke and Anders Thomsen in heat two.

“I felt pretty good,” said Sedgemen. “The track was a bit tricky, but I thought I battled hard and was pleased with my points.”

For Monarchs No.1 Craig Cook, it was really a case of business as usual as he stormed to a paid maximum from his five rides. His best win came in heat six against Rusty Harrison.

Cook made a hash of the fourth bend which allowed Harrison to seize control of the race, but the Monarchs star reeled his rival in like a seasoned angler and took the chequered flag to great applause.

The Englishman was delighted that Monarchs as a whole got off to a winning start. “It was awesome, but we did a great job after Glasgow kept the scores tight in the first half,” he said.

For Monarchs skipper Derek Sneddon, it was also a case of a job well done and two wins in his final two rides saw the Falkirk ace end the evening on a personal high.

Said Sneddon: “It was great to grab those two victories. It wasn’t that easy a meeting for us. Glasgow made us fight, but we got the victory we wanted and that is always the most important thing.”

Steve Worrall, Monarchs’ other fresh arrival, was very competitive. He was well worth his seven points from the tail-end.

Glasgow’s top scorer was guest Ricky Wells, who bagged ten points, but former Monarch Theo Pijper, after winning his first ride, tailed off after that and only managed three more points from his next four rides.

Tigers feel they have a good chance of pulling back their deficit at Ashfield tomorrow afternoon. Monarchs, needless to say, have other ideas.

Monarchs: Cook 14, Masters 10, Sneddon 8, Worrall 7, Fricke 7, Sedgemen 6, Fox 0.

Glasgow: Wells 10, Pijper 6, Lemon 6, Harrison 5, Lykke 5, Thomsen 5, Berge 1.