Monarchs lose unbeaten record at Armadale as Sheffield Tigers go top

Captain Sam Masters, red, gets the better of Sheffield's Chris Harris in heat one, but it was the Yorkshire men who prevailed. Picture: Ron MacNeill
Captain Sam Masters, red, gets the better of Sheffield's Chris Harris in heat one, but it was the Yorkshire men who prevailed. Picture: Ron MacNeill
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Sheffield Tigers smashed Edinburgh Monarchs’ unbeaten record at Armadale tonight with a thoroughly deserved 51-39 victory which takes Sheffield to the top of the Championship table.

It means the fine work Monarchs had done in winning at Ipswich Witches and earning a match point at Newcastle Diamonds has now been undone and those four points will have to be somehow recouped. It was a crushing defeat for the Capital side to take when they had led by six points early in the match.

Sheffield star Josh Bates said: “I knew we were going to win it, I just had this feeling. We had a great No. 1 in Chris Harris who rode fantastically well.

“We’re top of the league I just hope we can stay there now.”

On their previous two visits to Armadale this season the Tigers have run Monarchs pretty close. They only lost by four points in their KO Cup clash and when they returned for their first league encounter in May, they lost by five points.

The Tigers used Chris ‘Bomber’ Harris as a guest for the absent Josh Grajczonek and he had Monarchs skipper Sam Masters in his sights in the opening heat.

But Australian Masters is no sitting duck and quickly fended off the challenge from Harris, with Theo Pijper finishing in third spot this 4-2 got Monarchs off to a flying start.

A fine victory by reserve Josh Pickering in heat two earned the home side a share of the spoils. Ricky Wells took the chequered flag for Monarchs in heat three for another 3-3 but with Max Clegg trailing home in last place, Monarchs couldn’t add to their tally.

But all that changed in the fourth race with an unlikely 5-1 from race winner Erik Riss and Mitchell Davey who breathlessly held out Kyle Howarth for second place after the Tigers star was forced to start off 15 metres after touching the tapes.

This opened up a six-point lead for Monarchs 15-9, but the Tigers looked lively. And the impressive looking Wells stormed to his second win of the match in heat five to maintain Monarchs six-point advantage.

But, Howarth struck for the Tigers in heat six beating Masters comfortably and this earned the Tigers a 3-3 to keep them well in touch at this stage.

Another shared heat occurred in heat seven, Riss storming to an easy win over Howarth, but Monarchs couldn’t shake their Yorkshire rivals off. It was clear Sheffield still fancied their chances of success and were digging in for the second half. Monarchs, for their part, were carrying too many passengers.

Howarth, who was getting better for the Tigers as the meeting wore on, ruined Wells’ maximum hopes by heading him home in heat nine. But it was yet another shared race and the gap remained the same Monarchs leading by six.

An engine failure in the tenth race for Masters handed Sheffield a shock 4-2 closing the gap on Monarchs to just four points now, 32-28.

And heat 11 produced a real shock as Kurtz and Harris produced a 5-1 over the unbeaten Riss and this result allowed the Tigers to level the match score 33-33.

The Tigers were rampant now and grabbed a 4-2 from Bates and Jan Graversen in heat 12 to take the lead for the first time 37-35 with just three races left.

And in a further blow for Monarchs, Masters was disqualified in heat 13 for colliding with Howarth. The rerun saw Harris and Howarth storm to a 5-1 to put the Tigers 42-36 in front. Monarchs needed a miracle now.

And a 4-2 from Bates and Graversen in the penultimate race clinched an astonishing win for the Tigers who finished off in style with a 5-1 from Harris and Howarth.

Monarchs: Wells 10, Riss 9, Pijper 6, Masters 5, Pickering 5, Davey 3, Clegg 1.

Sheffield: Howarth 13, Bates 12, Harris 12, Kurtz 8, Graversen 5, Wood 1.