Edinburgh Monarchs marked their 500th speedway meeting at Armadale last night with some degree of pomp, and an easy-street performance against Plymouth Devils who were left short handed when some of their team were delayed reaching the stadium.
Monarchs, still smarting from their surprise reverse at Redcar Bears on Thursday, swamped the unlucky Devils 64-28 and are now level on points with Somerset Rebels at the top of the Premier League.
It was a Monarchs squad robbed of their own identity who took to the track with three regulars missing. Sam Masters and Kevin Wolbert were en route to their Grand Prix semi-finals in Italy and Latvia, and Rob Branford remained sidelined with an injury to his shoulder.
Monarchs drafted in Scunthorpe’s Theo Pijper and Glasgow racer Nick Morris as guests, the latter being a very contentious choice with some Monarchs supporters who are yet to forgive the Aussie for the crash which ended Hungarian favourite Joszef Tabaka’s career, for now, with the Capital club in 2013.
But Morris is a World Cup rider who has been in fine form so far this season and was a sensible stand-in selection by the Monarchs management. The match was delayed by 45 minutes due to the late arrival by some of the Plymouth side caused by an accident on a motorway earlier in the day.
But Monarchs were not slow out of the lane in the first heat when German ace Erik Riss and Morris grabbed a 5-1 against Plymouth No.1 Kyle Newman and young Jack Holder, which was just the start the home side were looking for. And it got better in the very next race when Max Clegg and Riss combined to take maximum points from Zdenek Simota and Liam Carr to give Monarchs an early and encouraging lead of eight points.
Two of Plymouth’s top riders, Ryan Fisher and Morten Risager, still had not made it to the Lothian Arena after the first five races and, as a consequence, their rides had to be covered by reserves, and in some instances Plymouth were forced to go with just one rider in opposition. This turned the meeting on it’s head as Monarchs simply took the gift and piled up the points at will.
Monarchs led 25-11 after six races and in truth the meeting ceased to become a true contest.
Risager finally made it for his second outing in heat seven but finished last behind Craig Cook who equalled the track record on his way to the chequered flag. With Riss, who was making hay at reserve, following Cook home for Monarchs’ fourth 5-1 of the meeting the Premier League points were virtually assured at this stage.
Plymouth gave Holder a tactical ride in heat eight and he doubled his points by finishing second behind Monarchs’ race winner Justin Sedgmen. Simota came home in third place giving Plymouth a 5-3 advantage, but the home team were still cruising 33-17 and there was little the Devils could do about it under the circumstances.
Fisher arrived for his first ride in heat nine and claimed third place as Pijper and Sedgmen rattled up another Monarchs 5-1 to lead 38-18.
Monarchs kept their foot on the pedal and were relentless as they steamed in front 51-23 with just three races remaining. The only question being was would Monarchs smash through the barrier of 60 points. They did with ease.
The undoubted star for Monarchs was Riss who bagged 15 points from his six rides which included three race wins.
Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess said: “It was one of these nights, Plymouth arrived without a full team and we did our best to accommodate them. But we were under no real pressure and it was good to get back to winning ways after the Redcar match. Erik (Riss) did exceptionally well.”
Basement battlers Redcar Bears pulled off the shock result of the speedway season on Teesside last night as they sensationally defeated Edinburgh Monarchs 47-43 in a nerve jangling Premier League clash to avenge their 65-28 mauling by the Capital outfit at Armadale a week ago.
Nobody in the Monarchs camp saw this coming and to say it was a disappointing result is something of an understatement. But perhaps the portents for this surprise defeat were sown in the first half with the Bears looking anything like pushovers, just the opposite.
Monarchs perhaps thought they were going to waltz away with this match, but they got a rude awakening in the first half despite opening up with a 5-1 from Sam Masters and Erik Riss in heat one.
This was instantly cancelled out by the Bears in the next race when Adam Roynon and Ben Morley overcame Riss and Max Clegg who retired. The next three races were all shared before Monarchs sneaked ahead with a 4-2 from skipper Craig Cook and Clegg in the sixth heat.
And when Kevin Wolbert and Justin Sedgmen extracted maximum points against Stuart Robson and Morley in heat seven Monarchs led 24-18 and were looking comfortable.
But a surprise 5-1 win by Roynon and Jan Graversen over Riss and Sedgmen in heat eight cut Monarchs’ advantage to just two points, 25-23.
And with the next three heats also shared, Monarchs’ expected victory hopes were hanging by a slender thread as the Bears levelled the match 36-36 with a 4-2 from Matej Kus and productive reserve star Roynon over Wolbert and Clegg, the latter having split the Redcar pairing who were on a 5-1 from the tapes.
Then, in a dramatic heat 13, Redcar stole into the lead when skipper Lasse Bjerre and Stuart Robson outgunned Monarchs’ hitherto unbeaten duo Masters and Cook for a 4-2 after Cook tried an outside sweep which failed to come off and was a non finisher. And neither was the penultimate heat which saw Bears’ impressive new signing Jonas B Andersen, and Roynon power their way to a 5-1 over Sedgmen and Riss for a 45-39 lead which clinched a totally unexpected victory for the home side, only their second of the season and a hammer blow to Monarchs who had hoped to assume joint leadership of the championship table with pacesetters Somerset Rebels.
Masters and Wolbert claimed a consolation 4-2 in the heat 15 finale but it couldn’t cushion their, and the team’s collective, sense of dismay.
The big plus for the Bears was at reserve where Roynon and Morley totally creamed Clegg and Riss and often in the Premier League it’s the strength of a side’s tail-end duo that can often make the difference between winning and losing.
Monarchs director Mike Hunter said: “It was a very disappointing result and because of all the success we have had over the years it’s a surprise when we ride badly – and we deserved to lose.
“I never believed it was going to be easy because Redcar were a stronger side with Adam Roynon down at reserve and that made a huge difference. Our top three were fighting to keep us in the match because the others were doing nothing, but in the end they got beaten as well. At least we got a point, although we had to battle for that in the last race.”
Redcar: Roynon 10, Bjerre 10, Kus 8, Andersen 7, Robson 6, Graversen 3, Morley 3.
Monarchs: Masters 14, Wolbert 10, Cook 9, Sedgmen 5, Riss 4, Clegg 1.
The Border Roofing Monarchs beat Redcar by 65-28, their biggest win of the season with all of the team members scoring very well.
Home no. 1 Sam Masters said “I felt we were all riding well and it was an easy win, but in the conditions it was hard to get into the match”.
It was a night to remember for Erik Riss who continued his recent habit of winning opening heats and finished up with 13+4 from his 7 rides. He said it was the wettest track he had ever ridden but he was pleased to have such experience.
He showed a lot more heart for the fray than some of the opposition, because Redcar gave a very poor showing indeed. More than half their points came from guest Steve Worrall, with no. 1 Lasse Bjerre having a disastrous night. He scored a single point and could possibly claim bike problems as a partial excuse.
There was rain before the meeting and more during it, and we were treated to a track inspection at heat 8. In most people’s eyes this was barely justified, but thankfully the meeting continued with the rain stopped. Bad luck for the juniors who were there for a match but didn’t get on the track, as the meeting was closed at heat 15.
All of the home side rode well and with a bit of determination to the first corner, the job was generally done by the back straight on lap one.
Whilst one or two of the Bears did their best to back Worrall, we hope to see visiting teams with more collective determination in the weeks to come.
Tai Woffinden won his third successive British speedway title on his former home track at Wolverhampton.
The 2013 world champion, 24, took advantage of a restaged final to win from Belle Vue's Craig Cook, with Coventry's Danny King in third.
Woffinden admitted he had luck on his side, having been trailing behind Cook when the original final was stopped.
"I was pretty lucky to get the re-run as I made a hash of the first one," he told BBC WM.
"But that's the nature of the sport. I kept calm and won the race that mattered most.
"I've cut back my schedule down this year and I'm enjoying my racing more. I'm leading the world championship again and top of the averages in Sweden and Poland.
"I've been working hard and it's great to see that it's paying off just lately. And it was good to be back at Wolverhampton. The fans were great with me once again."
Cook will join Woffinden in next month's Grand Prix at the Millennium Stadium on 4 July, having finished ahead of King to seal his second consecutive wildcard spot at Cardiff.
"Our congratulations go to Tai Woffinden on another great achievement," said British speedway chairman Alex Harkess, "I feel for Craig Cook after originally leading the final, but he'll be delighted to be going to Cardiff."
Woffinden's total of 13 points from his five qualifying races was matched by Jason Garrity, who also qualified automatically for the final.
The Coventry rider's hopes ended when he briefly lost control of his bike, forcing Scott Nicholls over, and resulting in his exclusion from the re-run.
The night ended even more abruptly for former Coventry and Birmingham rider Ben Barker, who was taken to hospital in an ambulance with a back injury after a bad fall in the first heat.
"Overall it was another good event. The riders gave it their all and a huge crowd were treated to some great speedway, but our thoughts are with Ben Barker after that really nasty incident in heat one," added Harkess.
Stung by losing their unbeaten home record to Glasgow Tigers on Friday, Edinburgh Monarchs bounced back in tremendous style to inflict the same fate on their oldest rivals in an astonishing Premier League derby fixture at Ashfield Stadium yesterday.
Monarchs, who looked so self assured this time, silenced the Tigers and their vociferous supporters by pulling off a comfortable 51-39 Premier League victory and scooped all four match points, which was simply the icing on the cake.
Some doom merchants talked of Monarchs being in meltdown after their Armadale reverse but what a difference 48 hours makes. Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess called Friday’s loss, the first time Tigers had triumphed at Armadale since 2011, a “shocking performance”. But he was beaming from ear to ear as he watched his fired up squad tear the heart out of their opponents, who were shellshocked at falling apart in front of their home support, and did not see this coming. Talk about being brought back down to earth.
Harkess said: “We honestly believed we could come and get a result. Friday was not our night but there was nothing to stop yesterday being our day.
“I’m happy it happened but I certainly could not have predicted it.
“Heat one, when we got a 4-2 from Erik Riss and Sam Masters, set the ball rolling for us and it carried on from there.” Asked to explain the transformation in fortune, Harkess replied: “Every one of our riders right down to the reserves fought for every point and that’s what counts. We were also competitive out of the starts which we were not in the first match. We got into the first bend on equal terms with Glasgow and sheer determination made that happen. I know some people doubted if we had the ability to come back from what happened on Friday, and my message to them is ‘Just look at the score!’.
Some of the Tigers team who shone at Armadale folded like a pack of cards on their own track, indeed the Tigers only produced four race winners over the course of the entire meeting, a worrying statistic if they want to stay the course in the championship race.
Monarchs were superbly marshalled by Craig Cook who stormed to a brilliant 15-point maximum which provoked, diplomatically, some heckling from the Ashfield hospitality area.
Not that Cook cared, he does his talking on the track and what a perfect performance ahead of his British Final title bid at Wolverhampton tonight.
Monarchs moved into a six-point lead after just three heats when Justin Sedgmen and Kevin Wolbert zipped from the gate for a 5-1 over Dimitr Berge and Aaron Summers. And with Monarchs spreading race wins throughout the whole team, Tigers were given no opportunity to get back into proceedings.
A 4-2 from Cook and Riss in the sixth heat followed by a another three races later, maintained Monarchs’ six-point advantage and countered the only 5-1 Tigers achieved in heat eight, courtesy of Richard Lawson and James Sarjeant.
Cook’s victory in heat nine was perhaps his most meritorious of the meeting. Lying in third position, Cook picked off Summers on the top bends and partner Max Clegg pipped Sarjeant for third place.
Clegg will have been happier with his display as he collected three points and they were just as important as Cook’s full house.
Monarchs really coasted towards the winning line in the second half and never looked in any imminent danger of being headed. Ten points to the good with just one race left, Cook and Kevin Wolbert slammed in a 4-2 over Summers to round things off in style.
Masters, still short of his best, picked up seven points which included victory in his second outing. And the Aussie was so relieved to give the blue and gold legions something to celebrate.
He said: “Friday was so disappointing because our supporters expected so much more from us, and it was my worst home meeting of the season. Revenge is probably too strong a word because it’s only league points at stake at the end of the day, but we wanted to put on a show at Ashfield, and we did. It’s great to get our winning run back on track again.”
Glasgow’s best performer was once again Richard Lawson who piled up 13 points from his five starts. It could have been more had he not come a cropper in the final heat.
Monarchs’ reserves were not outshone by their Tigers counterparts and that proved a big factor. Riss scored seven, brilliantly winning that opening race, and the young German is beginning to make his mark at the tail-end which can only aid his confidence.
It would be wrong to say everything is fine in the Monarchs garage, they do have weaknesses, but when it comes to confounding their critics, they have few peers.
Glasgow: Lawson 13, Summers 8, Palovaara 7, Sarjeant 5, Worrall 4, Berge 2.
Monarchs: Cook 15, Sedgmen 11, Wolbert 8, Riss 7, Masters 7, Clegg 3.
Glasgow Tigers fans celebrated in style last night as their side smashed Edinburgh Monarchs’ unbeaten home record in a pulsating Premier League derby clash at Armadale Stadium.
The Tigers overturned Monarchs 48-42 and are now red hot favourites to record a quickfire double when the teams meet again at Ashfield tomorrow afternoon.
No-one will begrudge the Tigers their success despite the fact they have waited so long for it. They looked far more hungry than their hosts and got off to the strongest start possible when they snatched a 5-1 in the opening race courtesy of Richie Worrall and Richard Lawson who left Monarchs’ No.1 Sam Masters chasing air. This was the fourth week in a row Masters has failed to win heat one and frankly it isn’t good enough.
Worse was to follow in the second race when Victor Palovaara and James Sarjeant extracted a 4-2 against Max Clegg and Rob Branford. Six points ahead at that early stage, the Tigers were on cloud nine already.
And it took Monarchs until heat nine before they took the lead. Kevin Wolbert and Justin Sedgmen raced ahead for the team’s first 5-1 of the evening to make the score 28-26. However, it was a wafer-thin advantage that never looked like being enough. And disaster befell Monarchs in the 11th race when main man Craig Cook surprisingly yielded a 5-1 against Worrall and Lawson. That definitely was not in the script and levelled the scores 33-33 after Monarchs had edged in front 32-28 in the previous race. But the Tigers scented victory and grabbed a 4-1 in heat 12 which was then cancelled out by Monarchs in heat 13. The match was there for the taking and the visitors struck the killer blow in heat 14 when Lawson and Sarjeant put Erik Riss and Sedgmen to the sword with a pivotal 5-1 advantage.
Monarchs required a 5-1 in the last race to rescue a draw, but Lawson and Worrall outflanked Masters and Cook for a 4-2 victory which sent the Glasgow hordes into raptures.
Frankly Monarchs lost the contest before the first bend. They were like snails out of the gate. The Tigers in contrast were hungry and sharper. And on a night when Monarchs’ top four needed to be imperious they threw away points like confetti.
Predictably Monarchs got creamed at reserve with Palovaara and Sarjeant amassing 17 points between them compared to just eight which Riss scored, his partner Clegg failing to score. This fragility at the tail-end was ruthlessly exploited by the Tigers management. Also with Branford struggling at No.2, he tumbled off in the eighth race after an over ambitious move, Monarchs simply had no back-up plan and nothing left in the tank.
Glasgow second string Dimitri Berge suffered two falls which handed Monarchs gift points. And Tigers skipper Aaron Summers suffered engine failure in heat ten which aided Monarchs but not to such a degree that they were able to rescue the meeting.
Summers, a former Monarchs rider, said afterwards: “It was great to get the win, Glasgow have waited a long time for this and it felt great for the whole team.”
Monarchs team manager Alex Harkess had no quibbles with the outcome, saying: “The better team won. They dominated from the start and were stronger out of the gate and that was the big difference. We can have no complaints.”
Tigers’ big winner was Lawson who often fails to shine at Armadale. But the Englishman was speedway from the traps and piled up 14 points from his six starts which proved goldust to a Tigers squad who perhaps are now living up to their tag as pre-season title favourites.
Monarchs: Cook 12, Riss 8, Masters 8, Wolbert 7, Sedgmen 6, Branford 1, Clegg 0.
Tigers: Lawson 14, Sarjeant 9, Worrall 9, Summers 8, Palovaara 8, Berge 0.