Some honest toil and not that much trouble helped Edinburgh Monarchs cast aside Ipswich Witches by 56-34 in their League Cup semi-final first leg clash at a relatively dry and sunnny Armadale Stadium last night which, thankfully, avoided much of the volume of rain that affected other parts of the country yesterday.
Monarchs, reigning cup holders, will feel optimistic about successfully defending their big lead when they travel to Ipswich for the deciding leg early next month which would set up a money-spinning showdown against Glasgow Tigers, who are already through to the final.
The Ipswich team had unndergone so many changes leading up to the match, it was a wonder even their own fans recognised their finalised line-up.
Due to injuries and fixture clashes they were forced to track a trio of guest riders. One of their choices, Richard Lawson, was caught in traffic and missed his opening ride in heat one, in which Monarchs skipper Craig Cook smashed the track record he set last week as he took the chequered flag in a time of 54.0 seconds.
With team-mate Justin Sedgmen coming home in third place, the home side got off to a positive 4-2 start and Monarchs increased that advantage to six points courtesy of a 5-1 by their German duo, Kevin Wolbert and Erik Riss in the third race.
Monarchs repeated the trick three races later when Cook and Sedgmen extracted maximum points against Simon Nielsen and Rohan Tungate to stretch their lead to ten points, 23-13.
The Witches were toiling to find any kind of rhythm and it took them until the eighth heat to provide their first race winner of the match when Richie Worrall was smartly away to defeat Sedgmen and Rob Branford, but it was only a 3-3 share of the spoils for the Witches who now trailed 30-18 following a 4-2 for Monarchs in the previous race. It got worse for them in heat nine when Wolbert and Riss poached their second 5-1 together against Tungate and Nielsen.
The gap was starting to turn into a chasm and Monarchs leaped 35-19 ahead with the witches unable to find an answer to Monarchs’ steamrolling style of scoring at home. This was underlined in the very next heat when Cook and Sedgmen, not to be outdone, grabbed their second 5-1 as a pairing, firing Monarchs in front by 20 points, 40-20, the meeting slowly turning into a nightmare for the depleted Witches.
However, the Witches then hit top gear momentarily when they pulled off their first heat advantage of the evening as Lawson and Worrall headed home Sedgmen in heat 11 to cut the arrears to 16 points, Lawson ruthless in blocking Sedgmen’s run round the outside on the second turn.
But the home side did not let up in heat 14 when Riss and Branford slammed in a big 5-1 to push the Witches back on their heels again as they fell behind 51-33.
Monarchs finished in grandstand style when Cook and Wolbert maintained the misery for the Witches with a 5-1 verdict to clinch a handsome 56-34 victory which should be good enough to seal their place in the final.