Edinburgh Monarchs are still sweating on that final play-off spot after going down to a crushing 58-34 defeat at league leaders Sheffield Tigers at Owlerton last night.
It means Monarchs must win the final derby of the season against Glasgow Tigers at Armadale tonight to make their qualification almost certain. Even then it could come down to what Redcar – Monarchs’ only challengers for fourth spot – do in their final away matches over the next few days.
Monarchs are at Workintgon Comets tomorrow night and a point there would probably be enough.
Monarchs made the worst possible start against Sheffield, losing a 5-1 in the opening heat as Josh Grajczonek and Jan Graversen defeated Monarchs’ skipper Sam Masters – making his comeback from injury – and Josh Pickering. Masters tried hard but couldn’t find a way through.
Monarchs settled down after that setback and managed to share the next two races, Ricky Wells, a former Tiger, winning the third heat by defeating Lasse Bjerre and Lewis Kerr.
Sheffield went six up after the fourth race as reserve George Wood headed home Erik Riss. And with Kyle Howarth claiming third, this was an unexpected 4-2 for the home team. Another 4-2 from Sheffield put them eight points in front after five heats.
Monarchs were beginning to struggle and Erik Riss and Max Clegg succumbed to a second 5-1 by Tigers’ opening pairing Grajczonek and Graversen which stretched the lead to 24-12.
In a bid to claw back Tigers, Monarchs gave Wells a double-points tactical outing in heat seven. Wells finished second behind race winner Kyle Howarth but still gained a 5-3 advantage with Mark Riss third, and this cut Sheffield’s to ten points.
However, the relentless home riders hit back straight away with their third 5-1 of the match courtesy of Graversen and Lewis Kerr over Pickering and Mitchell Davey to lead comfortably 32-18 after eight races.
And the Tigers piled on the agony for Monarchs when Bjerre and Kerr got another 5-1 in heat nine, defeating Erik Riss and partner Clegg. The Tigers were now coasting 37-19 in front.
Mark Riss and Wells got a token 5-1 back for Monarchs in heat ten but Sheffield eventually ran out very easy winners indeed.
Sheffield: Bjerre 11, Graversen 11, Kerr 10, Howarth 9, Grajczonek 9, Wood 7
Monarchs: Wells 15, Masters 7, M Riss 4, E Riss 4, Davey 3, Clegg 1, Pickering 0