Chastened by their KO Cup humiliation by Glasgow Tigers, Edinburgh Monarchs looked far less comatose but not exactly impressive last night as they toiled to subdue a fiery Rye House Rockets.
But eventually they won their Premier League speedway tussle at Armadale Stadium.
Monarchs triumphed 45-44 after a real fright which lifts them into fourth place in the table and in contention for one of the end-of-season play-off positions and the opportunity of claiming a third championship crown in a row although some additional away points are still required to make absolutely sure of their qualification and they might come their way at Peterborough Panthers tomorrow.
Monarchs struck the front early on with a 5-1 in heat two from reserves Max Clegg and Dan Bewley who were the stars of last week’s victory over Sheffield, but then suffered a scare in the next race when Ryan Fisher lost control on the first bend and careered into the path of team-mate Erik Riss, sending both of them into the safety fence, both of their bikes write-offs.
But the pair thankfully escaped unhurt and came out for the rerun which was won by Rockets’ Aussie star Cameron Heeps. However, this share of the spoils kept Monarchs four points in front, 11-7 after three heats.
The match was then interrupted by a couple of heavy showers which prompted the riders to request a track grade and, after the skies cleared the meeting was given the green light by match official Jim McGregor to continue.
The Rockets gained their first heat advantage in the fourth race with a 4-2 from Stuart Robson and Ben Morley against Bewley after Kevin Wolbert retired with engine trouble on the third lap which slashed Monarchs’ lead to just two points, 13-11. And when Rockets No.1 Edward Kennett pipped Fisher to the winning post in the next race, the visitors kept the pressure on Monarchs.
Skipper Sam Masters chalked up his second win in heat six but the Capital side were struggling to pull clear as the Rockets refused to be grounded.
Wolbert atoned for his mechanical failure earlier on by stylishly winning the seventh race and with Clegg stepping up a gear to claim second spot, this 5-1, their second of the meeting, gave Monarchs some much needed breathing space as they edged 24-18 in front.
Clegg replaced Mark Riss, who failed to score from his three outings, in the eighth race and his third place salvaged a 3-3 for Monarchs to maintain their six-point lead.
But former Monarch Rob Branford and Robson claimed a shock 5-1 for the Rockets in heat nine which once more cut Monarchs’ lead to a wafer thin two points, 28-26.
And with both Riss brothers toiling, Monarchs had to rely on Masters to keep them in front, the Aussie winning his third race of the night in the tenth heat. He was looking unbeatable but the match was very much in the melting pot.
And the Rockets levelled matters, 33-33, in the next race with the home side looking pretty jittery and less than solid. Erik Riss picked an opportune time to win his first race for the home side in heat 12 to keep the scores tied 36-36.
A fourth victory for the imperious Masters in the 13th race and a third place for Wolbert gave Monarchs a much needed 4-2 to creep two points ahead again, 40-38.
And a 3-2 for Monarchs in the penultimate heat which had only two finishers saw them increase their lead narrowly 43-40 with one race left-then drama.
A four man pile-up on the first bend of the last race saw the referee invite the quartet back for the rerun deeming no-one to blame for the collision while the riders worked frantically in the pits to repair their machinery.
In the restart Rockets No.1 and top scorer Edward Kennett handed Masters his first defeat and ruined his maximum hopes, and with partner Robson grabbing second spot, this 4-2 wasn’t enough to stop the Rockets winning the match, but did earn them a match point which was fully deserved.
Masters said: “Track conditions were pretty slippy after the rain and we know how good Rye House are round Armadale, we are just glad to get the points we badly needed.”
Erik Riss commented: “I did not have my best match even though I won my last race. It was hard work out there in the greasy conditions.”
Monarchs: Masters 14, Fisher 8, Clegg 8, Bewley 6, E Riss 5, Wolbert 4, M Riss 0
Rye House: Kennett 13, Heeps 8, Robson 8, Branford 8, Lykke 5, Lanham 1, Morley 1