Monarchs achieve win target but Panthers run them close

Monarchs top scorer Ricky Wells leads Panthers' top scorer Scott Nicholls. Pic: Ron MacNeill
Monarchs top scorer Ricky Wells leads Panthers' top scorer Scott Nicholls. Pic: Ron MacNeill
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Edinburgh Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess had stressed how important it was to get their home league campaign off to a winning start.

And Monarchs heeded his call by defeating Peterborough Panthers 48-42 in their Championship clash at Armadale Stadium tonight.

But the Panthers snatched a deserved match point and this angered Harkess who said: “We put ourselves under too much pressure especially in the second half. We let Peterborough get too many race points and this kept them in the match.

“We did get our league programme off to winning start but we must stop giving away silly and needless points.”

Erik Riss said: “It was a good team effort but a bad performance from myself. I wasn’t happy with how I rode.”

Peterborough arrived on the back of an away draw at defending league champions Sheffield Tigers on Thursday and harboured genuine hopes of upsetting Monarchs, and, to their credit, nearly did so.

Their big capture of the winter, Scott Nicholls, was making his first return to Armadale in 20 years and it seemed as if he had never been away as he picked up a comfortable second place behind Monarchs ace Ricky Wells in the opening heat. And the former British champion then reeled off two victories by the end of the first half and proved a real thorn in Monarchs’ flesh in the second half as well, racking up 18 points in total from his seven outings.

Monarchs asserted themselves in the second heat. Matt Williamson was an easy winner of the race but his team-mate Josh Pickering had to battle from the back to pick off rival Tom Bacon for second place and this 5-1 eased Monarchs into an early 9-3 lead.

The Panthers were already under the cosh as Mark Riss and Max Ruml grabbed a 4-2 in the next race to give the home side a commanding 13-5 advantage after just three heats.

Peterborough’s Nike Lunna stopped the rot by beating Monarchs captain Erik Riss in the fourth race for a 3-3 share of the spoils and the visitors were mighty glad of this respite after Monarchs’ early dominance.

The Panthers started to purr in the next race when Monarchs ace Mark Riss fell off. Nicholls was leading when the race was awarded and, with his partner Carl Wilkinson in second spot, the resultant 5-1 put them just four points behind their hosts.

However, Monarchs bounced back almost immediately with a 5-1 of their own in heat six.

Wells stormed to his second victory of the night and with Joel Andersson following him over the winning line Monarchs quickly restored their eight-point lead once more.

But back came Peterborough in heat seven with a 4-2 from Nicholls and Lunna to cut their arrears to six points.

Monarchs, acutely aware of the danger the Panthers posed, struck back again in the eighth race with a brilliant 5-1 from Andersson and Pickering which opened up a ten-point gap, 29-19.

Two shared heats followed which maintained Monarchs’ lead but the Panthers struck a blow in heat 11 when Nicholls defeated Erik Riss again and, with Carl Wilkinson claiming the crucial third-place point, this 4-2 reduced the Panthers’ deficit to eight points, 37-29.

Despite Lunna winning heat 12, Pickering and Mark Riss held Bacon out for a another share of the spoils which kept Monarchs eight points in front.

Erik Riss must have been sick of the sight of Nicholls as the Panthers ace headed him and team-mate Wells from the tapes for yet another 3-3 which kept Monarchs in front – but only just.

Yet again the Panthers hit back with a commanding 5-1 in the penultimate race, Michael Palm-Toft and Simon Lambert easily defeating Monarchs pair Pickering and Williamson. This cut Monarchs’ lead to just four points with one race to go. Frantic stuff.

But Wells finally lowered Nicholls’ colours in the last race and, with his partner Erik Riss finishing third, this 4-2 enabled Monarchs to crawl over the winning line with not a lot to spare and still carrying too many passengers.

Monarchs: Wells 13, E Riss 9, Mark Riss 8, Andersson 6, Pickering 6, Williamson 4, Ruml 2.

Peterborough: Nicholls 18, Lunna 11, Palm-Toft 5, Wilkinson 4, Lambert 4, Bacon 0.