Edinburgh Monarchs displayed scant mercy to Sheffield Tigers and bared their claws to run out comfortable 54-36 winners in their Championship League clash at Armadale Stadium last night to keep alive their play-off hopes.
And Monarchs will definitely see the return trip to Sheffield on Thursday as a golden chance to secure that one extra away victory they see as necessary to cement their qualification spot.
Sheffield arrived on the back of a heavy 55-35 home defeat by Newcastle Diamonds 24 hoursearlier – the latest in series of setbacks at Owlerton which have plunged the defending league champions down to bottom position in the table alongside Redcar Bears.
And the Tigers didn’t get off to the best of starts at Armadale when No.1 Mason Campton was excluded under the two-minute rule in the first heat and had to be replaced by reserve James Shanes.
Monarchs’ opening pairing Ricky Wells and Victor Palovaara took full advantage romping to a 5-1 advantage which was a perfect begining to the match for the home side. Wells’ victory saw him exceed the 700-points-scored milestone since joining Monarchs.
All eyes were on the second heat as it marked William Lawson’s comeback for Monarchs after an eight-year absence. The Perth rider claimed third spot behind his team-mate Joel Andersson but neither could stop Shanes from winning, gaining Sheffield a shared 3-3 race.
Sheffield star Broc Nicol was excluded in the third heat for coming down, leaving Monarchs duo Richie Worrall and Josh Pickering to clean up against Sheffield’s new signing Kasper Andersen for Monarchs’ second 5-1 of the meeting and they now led 13-5.
Skipper Erik Riss won the fourth race and in doing so he too passed a personal record of 600 points scored for the blue-and-gold brigade. It was a good race with Riss having to fight his way to the front against Kyle Howarth and Shanes to rescue a 3-3 for Monarchs.
The Tigers were making a fight of it and not just rolling over. Worrall won heat four but Campton and Todd Kurtz kept Pickering in last place for another 3-3, Monarchs in front 19-11.
But Palovaara and Wells scooped their second 5-1 of the night in the next race to ease Monarchs further ahead 24-12. And what a productive pairing these two Monarchs are turning out to be.
Riss notched up his second win of the meeting in the seventh race but partner Lawson found it difficult to get among the points and finished last.
Lawson at least realises now how it difficult it is going to be to make his mark at reserve after being out of the saddle for so long.
Sheffield then produced a shock 5-1 of their own in heat eight when Shanes and Kurtz easily outpaced Monarchs pair Palovaara and Joel Andersson which reduced the Tigers arrears to eight points, 28-20.
But Worrall and Pickering hit back almost immediately with another 5-1 for Monarch in heat nine. It was Worrall’s third race win and a supreme victory at that, and also extended Monarchs’ lead once more to 33-21.
Worrall said: I’m enjoying riding for Monarchs and there is no pressure on me. I have a great bunch of lads behind me. I just hope we can qualify for the play-offs – that would be a big boost to the whole club. I feel I’m really at home now with Monarchs.”
Andersen won heat ten for the Tigers but Wells and Palovaara filled the remaining places for a Monarchs 3-3 which maintained their 12-point lead.
Riss won his third race of the night in heat 11 and, with Lawson claiming third place, this 4-2 placed Monarchs comfortably in front 40-26 and overall victory was now in sight.
But the Tigers were still fighting and Andersen and Shanes picked up a 4-2 in heat 12 ahead of Andersson, who was second for Monarchs. And Shanes proved an excellent reserve rider for Tigers and was rewarded for his efforts by coming out in the top scorers race.
But unbeaten Riss and Wells grabbed Monarchs’ fifth 5-1 of the meeting in heat 13 which clinched the match points for Monarchs.
And Worrall celebrated a five-ride 15-point maxmum in heat 15 and, with Riss in third, this 4-2 for Monarchs gave them a comfortable 18-point victory and another step towards the play-offs. Andersen was second and Shanes last but he did well overall.
Riss said: “This was another good team performance and we must try and keep this level of performance up in our remaining matches.”
Monarchs: Worrall 15, Riss 13, Wells 9, Palovaara 7, Pickering 4, Andersson 4, Lawson 2.
Sheffield: Andersen 13, Shanes 10, Kurtz 7, Howarth 4, Campton 2, Nicol 1, Lawlor 0.