Monarchs cast out Witches – after a wee bit of magic

EVASIVE ACTION: Kevin Wolbert skids off his bike to avoid Ipswich star Danny King in heat 15. Picture: Ron MacNeil
EVASIVE ACTION: Kevin Wolbert skids off his bike to avoid Ipswich star Danny King in heat 15. Picture: Ron MacNeil
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Ipswich Witches have been less than spellbinding this season, their form having nose dived.

But this was not reflected at Armadale last night when the new look Edinburgh Monarchs had to fight hard for their 52-39 Premier League victory which leaves the East Suffolk side in 11th place in the 13-strong division. Ipswich, who had lost at home to Glasgow Tigers just 24 hours earlier did not look like a team who have had the confidence sucked out of them.

Monarchs, despite their triumph, are also in the basement area by virtue of the fact they have ridden fewer meetings than their rivals. But Monarchs now need to win those outstanding fixtures as they play catch up and not bank on the presumption of victory.

But at least this success leaves Monarchs in good heart for their vital trip to Berwick Bandits this evening. Berwick are resurgent right now having accrued six away points last weekend and the Capital outfit know they will have their work cut out around Shielfield Park.

Monarchs blooded their new signing Mark Riss, elder brother of Erik, who took the opportunity of having a practice session in the afternoon ahead of the match.

The German was certainly not disgraced in his first ride, just narrowly missing out on third place behind Witches star Nico Covatti and he did not look short of pace.

Monarchs got off to the perfect start in the opening race with a 5-1 from Sam Masters and Erik Riss after Witches No.1 Danny King slid off on the third bend and was disqualified from the rerun.

The Witches, to be fair, look strong on paper which belies their league standing and after Monarchs opened up a six-point gap after just two races, a 4-2 from Aces duo Morten Risager and Covatti in the next cut Monarchs’ lead to four points, 11-7. And that was maintained when heat four was shared, Witches’ returning star Ben Barker getting the drop on Monarchs’ Californian Ryan Fisher.

But the Witches reduced Monarchs’ lead further with another 4-2 in the fifth race, King taking the chequered flag.

However, Monarchs grabbed their second 5-1 of the night courtesy of Masters and Erik Riss again in heat six to regain their six-point lead, 21-15.

Another 3-3 in heat seven saw Monarchs retain that gap entering the second half.

The eighth race proved a disaster for Ipswich when James Sarjeant and Oliver Greenwood were excluded, leaving Monarchs duo Erik Riss and Dan Bewley to coast round for a 5-0 which opened up healthy 29-18 lead for the home side who then started to turn the screw a little.

Mark Riss gained his first point in heat nine finishing third ahead of Witches reserve Paco Castagna and said: “It was good to get my first point in what was my first meeting for Edinburgh and I just hope I can score more points over the course of the season. I was quite confident but I couldn’t make the starts, but I will get better.”

The Witches, however, were not giving up and a 4-2 in heat 11 put them within nine points of Monarchs who were finding it hard to shake the them off.

Luckily Kevin Wolbert won a tough 12th race to keep the Witches at bay as Monarchs inched nearer the winning post, which loomed in to view when Masters won his third race in heat 13, but disappointingly his partner Fisher trailed in last.

And in the week when Monarchs considered a change at reserve incumbent Max Clegg will feel well satisfied with his six points. He said: “I was pleased with my score andi made some good gates and it was a good team performance.”

Monarchs finished in great style with a brilliant 5-1 from Masters and Wolbert in heat 15 but it wasn’t as easy as the final scoreline suggests.

Monarchs: Masters 14, Wolbert 12, E. Riss 8, Fisher 7, Clegg 6, Bewley 4, M Riss 1.

Ipswich: Barker 9, King 9, Covatti 7, Risager 7, Castagna 3, Greenwood 2, Sarjeant 2.