Edinburgh Monarchs pulled off a great escape amid high drama at Armadale Stadium tonight.
After losing Mark Riss with a hand injury in heat six, Monarchs were battling to stay in this Championship clash but managed to triumph against the odds.
The result leaves Ipswich wondering how they lost this encounter. They have a stellar top five and may at long last be about to deliver on the promise they have shown in previous seasons since dropping down from the top flight. They certainly took the fight to Monarchs during the early heats on a track made rather tricky by some persistent drizzle two hours before start time.
The first two races were shared before Monarchs took the lead with a 4-2 from Erik Riss and Max Clegg after Ipswich star Justin Sedgmen retired from the race with mechanical problems.
The action was a bit spread out and processional, although Erik Riss made a smart gate and was away like the wind. But in the next race Monarchs star Ricky Wells suffered a costly engine failure and this handed a 5-1 to Witches pair Rory Schlein and reserve star Nathan Greaves to give them the lead 13-11. Monarchs cannot afford to gift points and Mitchell Davey failed to get started in heat two; it’s happened too often this season already.
Further disaster befell the home side in the sixth heat when skipper Sam Masters lost control on the fourth turn and was disqualified from the rerun. Mark Riss tried to avoid the stricken Masters and hit the safety fence on the home straight. The meeting was delayed as Riss required medical treatment and withdrew from the meeting. An ambulance was called to take the young German to hospital having broken some fingers on his right hand.
Masters said: “I’m all right but I’m more concerned about Mark. We’ve had two mechanical breakdowns in the early stages we just have to try and battle on now. I’m no good to the rest of the team if I’m lying on the ground myself.”
When the rerun of heat six got underway it was Ipswich duo Schlein and Connor Mountain who grabbed a 4-2 to stretch their advantage to four points, 20-16. The delay certainly didn’t take any momentum away from Ipswich who scored another 4-2 in the next race to lead by six points. And Monarchs faced an uphill battle to turn this match around given everything that had happened.
By the halfway mark, however, Monarchs had reduced their arrears to just a single point, 24-23 thanks to a 5-0 from Max Clegg and Josh Pickering after Kyle Newman was disqualified and Nathan Greaves retired in heat eight. It was a miracle Monarchs were just a point down at this stage.
Monarchs then regained the lead with a 4-2 from Erik Riss and Clegg in heat nine. And Masters pulled a sensational pass to overhaul Sedgmen for a share of the spoils in heat ten to keep Monarchs in front 30-29.
Wells won heat 11 by a comfortable margin to keep Monarchs in front by that one point. But the Witches had not given up and a 4-2 from Sedgmen and Mountain in heat 12 against the unbeaten Erik Riss allowed the Witches to regain the lead 36-35. It was all up for grabs now.
Heat 13 proved to be pivotal when Witches No.1 Danny King was disqualified after coming down on the third bend. Wells and Masters capitalised on this and stormed away for a 5-1 for a 40-37 lead with two races to run.
Then, in heat 14, both Ipswich riders Cameron Heeps and Nathan Greaves were disqualified after falling leaving Monarchs duo Clegg and Pickering to coast round for a 5-0 to clinch the match points with a race to spare.
Monarchs finished off in style when Wells won the top scorers’ race in heat 15.
Monarchs: E Riss 11, Wells 11, Pickering 9, Clegg 8, Masters 8, Davey 1, M Riss 0.
Ipswich: Sedgmen 9, Schlein 9, King 6, Greaves 6, Heeps 4, Newman 3, Mountain 3.