Edinburgh Monarchs crushed Glasgow Tigers 55-34 in the first leg of the ‘derby of the century’ League Cup Final.
In a free-scoring contest Monarchs gave their arch rivals a mountain to climb in the return leg at Ashfield tomorrow afternoon.
Monarchs star Sam Masters, speaking on BBC Scotland ahead of last night night’s tie at a packed Armadale Stadium, insisted all the pressure was on Edinburgh to triumph because they are the defending holders.
But Monarchs did not ride with any great burden of expectancy on their shoulders.
Fireworks preceded the start of the meeting and Monarchs produced some pyrotechnics of their own in the opening heat when skipper Craig Cook and partner Justin Sedgmen stormed to a 5-1 advantage to give the home side the ideal start they wanted.
And that four-point lead was maintained in heat two when Monarchs reserve Rob Branford eased to victory over Tigers Swedish star Victor Palovaara.
Monarchs were without their second reserve Max Clegg who was injured in midweek and they brought in Berwick Bandits racer Coty Garcia as his replacement.
A 4-2 from Kevin Wolbert and Erik Riss against Tigers captain Aaron Summers in the next race gave Monarchs a handy 12-6 lead and the Ashfield men were already on the back foot.
Glasgow quickly found themselves in deeper trouble in the fifth race when Riss and Wolbert team-rode superbly for a 5-1, although Wolbert had to work hard to keep Tigers’ No.1 Lawson at bay, but Monarchs were now ten points in front, 20-10, and with no tactical substitues allowed the Tigers were having trouble keeping their hosts on a tight leash.
Cook and Sedgmen grabbed their second 5-1 together in heat six, but the Tigers replied with a 5-1 one of their own in heat seven when Summers and Kauko Nieminen surprisingly relegated Masters to third place, yet the Tigers still trailed by ten, 26-16.
But the Tigers joy was short lived when they surrendered a 4-2 to Sedgmen and Branford in heat eight, as Monarchs increased their lead to 12 points, 30-18. Monarchs were keeping their foot very much on the pedal giving the Tigers little breathing space, and a 4-2 from Wolbert and Riss in heat nine plunged the Tigers further behind, 34-20.
The Tigers’ big hope at the tail-end was Palovaara, especially with Monarchs missing Clegg, but he failed to cash in, despite finishing second in his opening ride and this increased the strain on some of the Tigers’ more illustrious performers.
Cook chalked up his third win in the tenth race and with Sedgmen picking up third place ahead of Nieminen, Monarchs appeared to be siphoning all the gas out of the Tigers tank as they stretched their lead to 16 points, 38-22. Monarchs, who are mere ‘paupers’ compared to the moneybags Glasgow outfit, seemed determined to prove that wads of cash does not guarantee automatic success.
Monarchs were motoring now. A 4-2 from Masters and Garcia in the 11th race followed by a 3-3 in heat 12 saw the Capital side streak in front 45-27 with their arch rivals seemingly powerless as to how to turn the tide in their favour.
A 5-1 from Masters and Cook in heat 13 just piled on the agony for Glasgow as Monarchs hit 50 points. The Tigers will want answers as to why Lawson, who finished last, was so ineffective on such a big evening.
Monarchs, whose top four were immense, finished in style with unbeaten Cook claiming the chequered flag in the heat 15 finale leaving the Tigers’ cup ambitions pretty much buried in the dirt.
Masters commented: “We knew everybody had to get dialled in and that’s exactly what happened. It was a great team effort and we go to Glasgow stoked up.”
Monarchs: Cook 14, Wolbert 11, Masters 10, Sedgmen 8, Riss 5, Branford 4, Garcia 3.
Glasgow: Summers 10, Morris 8, Nieminen 5, Sarjeant 4, Palovaara 3, Lawson 2, Stichauer 2.