There has hardly been a cigarette paper between Somerset Rebels and Edinburgh Monarchs this season, but last night a yawning chasm opened up as Somerset chopped down Monarchs 58-32 at the Oak Tree Arena in their KO Cup semi-final first-leg replay.
The Rebels’ success puts them within striking distance of going through to face Rye House Rockets in the final.
Monarchs have faltered away from home recently and this latest setback can only be described as one of their poorest displays of the year. Monarchs managed just one heat advantage, a 4-2 from top-scorer Craig Cook and Claus Vissing in heat 13, but apart from Cook, Jozsef Tabaka was the only other Monarch to win a race.
On a track devoid of grip, designed to give the maximum advantage to the home riders, Monarchs failed to match their hosts out of the gate and races were over by the first corner.
Some will deem this excuse as sounding like a stuck record, yet Monarchs team manager John Campbell insisted that conditions were to blame for his side’s collapse. He said: “Somerset had set their track up to be super slick and their riders knew that was going to happen. They were set up to get out of the starts and it was all lover after that.
“It was one of the dullest matches of the season. We were caught out by the track and Somerset were too strong for us on the night. We had not experienced a track like it anywhere this season – it was a unique situation we faced.”
Campbell added: “Everybody, probably even Craig, will be disappointed with their performances and they will work hard for improvement for the second leg [tomorrow]. It is certainly not over, although it is going to be difficult to pull back such a big deficit, but you never know what can happen.”
Monarchs director Mike Hunter said: “We haven’t given up on the cup, but obviously it would take a miracle now to get through, but we did not ride well.”
Somerset head to Armadale for tomorrow night’s second leg privately feeling they have one foot in the final.
Somerset: Doyle 14, Morris 11, Grajczonek 9, Davies 8, Wright 8, Newman 6, Greenwood 2
Monarchs: Cook 12, Tabaka 7, Fricke 5, Vissing 5, Pijper 3, Sneddon 0, Sarjeant 0