Monarchs put down a marker for Cup semi-final

Justin Sedgmen leads Danny King, with Kevin Wolbert ahead of Gino Manzares. Picture: Ron MacNeill
Justin Sedgmen leads Danny King, with Kevin Wolbert ahead of Gino Manzares. Picture: Ron MacNeill
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After the bore-fest against Workington Comets, a speedway match actually broke out at Armadale last night as Ipswich Witches pushed Edinburgh Monarchs pretty hard in their Premier League clash.

Monarchs prevailed 53-37 to preserve their unbeaten home record and claim all three match points which lifts them back into third position in the championship.

This was a warm up for Monarchs’ forthcoming League Cup semi-final clash against the Witches and on this evidence Monarchs are not going to get things all their own way over the two legs. Witches gave Monarchs something of a scare in the opening heat when Danny King and Gino Manzares grabbed a 5-1 as Monarchs’ 
No. 1 Sam Masters was left chasing, and this was the third week in a row that Masters has failed to win his first ride.

However, Monarchs quickly settled down after that setback and a 5-1 from Justin Sedgmen and Kevin Wolbert in the third heat edged Monarchs in front 10-8. And the home side increased their lead further in heat five with a 4-2 from Sedgmen and Wolbert. This was the best scrap of the evening as Sedgmen had to fend off a fierce challenge from King who was right up Sedgmen’s exhaust pipe, but the Aussie held firm for a superb and deserved victory.

Monarchs’ young reserve ace Rob Branford moved into the team proper swapping places with Erik Riss who dropped to reserve. But Branford looked all at sea at times and collected just a single point from his three outings.

Monarchs were 24-18 ahead before heat eight and it was a no brainer to replace Branford with Riss but team manager Alex Harkess showed faith Branford. However, the decision proved to be costly as Witches duo Manzares and Josh Bates wiped the floor with their Monarchs opponents for a 5-1 advantage which suddenly slashed the lead to just two points, 25-23.

Luckily for Harkess and Monarchs Wolbert and Sedgmen rode to the rescue with a 5-1 over Rohan Tungate and Bates in the very next race to stretch six points in front once more. Sedgmen and Wolbert are now a productive pairing which wasn’t the case a few weeks ago.

Monarchs, however, still made life difficult for themselves in the second half and looked unconvincing at times. But they were ten points to the good with once race remaining and a 5-1 from Sedgmen and Craig Cook gave the Monarchs scoreline a degree of gloss which was only just merited.

Sedgmen powered his way to a splendid paid 15 point maximum and looked the most energised of the home riders.

Masters finished with eight points from his four outings and without doubt has gone off the boil a bit at home. Perhaps he is spreading himself too thinly right now with all his globetrotting – he is now racing in Poland.

Ipswich team manager Phil Hilton said: “I thought we rode pretty well and had hoped to have scored 40 points.”

Sedgmen said: “Ipswich are a very good side with some good individual riders so we knew it was not going to be easy. So it was pleasing to stay unbeaten and collect all three meeting points.”

Monarchs’ reserve Max Clegg was on a bit of a downer after struggling and scoring just two points from his four outings. “It was a tough night for me, it wasn’t easy, but I have just got to move on to the next meeting.”

Branford confessed: “I didn’t get going at all, but Ipswich are a strong side who gave us a pretty tough match.”

Riss scored seven points from his new reserve spot.

The best performers for Ipswich were Nico Covatti who picked up ten points and Tungate, who had one of his best nights at Armadale as he collected nine points. The one disappointment for the Witches was perhaps their No.1 and Team GB star Danny King who only managed one win from his four starts.

Monarchs: Sedgmen 13, Cook 12, Wolbert 10, Masters 8, Riss 7, Clegg 2, Branford 1.

Ipswich: Covatti 10, Tungate 9, King 7, Manzares 6, Bates 5, Hawkins 0.