Edinburgh Monarchs were grounded by Rye House Rockets in their Premier League speedway clash in Hertfordshire last night.
The Rockets posted 47-42 victory but Monarchs, who pushed their rivals all the way, snatched a match point with a superb last-heat maximum points win.
Star of the evening was Rockets reserve ace Ben Morley who picked up ten points and was his side’s match winner.
Monarchs boss John Campbell said: “We were doing well until the interval and I thought we might actually win, but their two reserves won the next two races which gave us a bit of a kick, so in the end I was pleased we came away with a point.”
Monarchs missed a golden chance to seize maximum points in the opening race when skipper Sam Masters and Erik Riss were on a 5-1 until Riss’s bike packed up on the second bend of the third lap forcing them to settle for a 3-2 instead.
But the Rockets then grabbed a 5-1 of their own in heat three when Cameron Heeps and Leigh Lanham held out Monarchs star Kevin Wolbert to take the lead 10-7.
However, Masters and Riss were fully in tune two races later when they did complete the 5-1 they deserved to trail their hosts by a single point, 15-14 in a match which was swinging one way then another.
A 4-2 from Rockets No.1 Edward Kennett and Kasper Lykke in heat six against second placed Wolbert pushed the home side in front 19-16. But a fine win for Monarchs reserve Max Clegg with team-mate Ryan Fisher finishing third earned a useful 4-2 in the ninth race, reducing their arrears to a single point, 27-26 on a track which was pretty much devoid of dirt, the last thing Monarchs wanted or are used to.
And that slender gap was maintained in the next race when Wolbert headed home Kennett, passing his rival on the last lap, and Lykke. Clegg replaced Jye Etheridge in this race but trailed in last.
Etheridge continues to struggle and the Australian’s travails are starting to hurt Monarchs in the scoring stakes. It’s now a growing concern, nor did it help that Etheridge slid off whilst at the back in heat seven.
Even Monarchs’ promising reserve star Dan Bewley found it hard going, failing to score in his first three outings. However, Monarchs’ top four were keeping their side in with a fighting chance of victory.
But Monarchs suffered a slight setback after the interval in heat 11 when Rockets tailender Peter Karger sped from the favourable gate four position to thwart Masters. With team-mate Stuart Robson pinching third, the Rockets inched three points clear.
And tellingly it was Rockets’ other reserve rider Ben Morley who dealt Monarchs a further blow in heat 12 by taking the chequered flag against Wolbert, and with partner Heeps following him home the Rockets secured a big 5-1 at a vital stage in proceedings to open up a seven-point gap, 39-32. Morley was also off the productive outside gate giving Wolbert no chance of catching him.
Monarchs slipped further behind in the next race after surrendering a 4-2 to Kennett and Robson after Masters lifted on the first lap and dropped to the back leaving partner Fisher to split the home pairing.
There was then a big crash in heat 14 with all four riders coming down on the first bend. The race had been called back at the first time of asking after Monarchs reserve Clegg was deemed to have got a flier from the tapes.
An ambulance was called for Lanham and three air fence panels were deflated by the pile-up. Lanham, who did not have to go to hospital, was replaced in the second rerun by Morley who won the race from Clegg and Etheridge to seal the points for the Rockets.
But Monarchs then produced a brilliant 5-1 from Wolbert and Masters in the last race to earn a well deserved match point, their second in succession on the road.
Rye House: Morley 10, Kennett 8, Lykke 7, Robson 7, Heeps 5, Lanham 5, Karger 5.
Monarchs: Wolbert 11, Masters 10, Clegg 8, Fisher 7, Riss 5, Etheridge 1, Bewley 0.
Some of Edinburgh Monarchs’ lesser known speedway starlets were given their big chance in the spotlight at Armadale last night when they tackled Belle Vue Colts in an intermediate challenge fixture.
But it was the Colts who shot down Monarchs 45-43 after a nailbiting last-heat decider which left the home side slightly stunned after leading for most of the match.
Colts owe their win to an outstanding display from hero Dan Bewley, who ironically is also Monarchs’ reserve star at senior level. He stormed to a flawless six-ride maximum.
Monarchs promoter John Campbell was keen that two of his senior team members, Max Clegg and Jye Etheridge, were given some extra track time to try and sharpen them up for the Premier League.
It was a shop window for Etheridge in particular with Campbell saying: “We need to get Jye involved in the action rather than looking good from a long way behind. Hopefully this will launch his career in this country.”
Etheridge did not start promisingly, falling off on his own in heat three. But the young Aussie claimed second place behind Colts ace Bewley in the rerun. This was Bewley’s second win in two races and the teenager, opposing his Edinburgh team-mates on this occasion, looked pretty impressive.
Two of the most experienced riders in the Monarchs squad were Mitchell Davey and William Lawson and the pair put their knowledge of the Lothian Arena to full use in heat five when they romped to a 5-1 against Matt Williamson edging the home side in front 16-13.
And that lead was maintained in the very next race when Clegg, who was skipper for one night only, took the chequered flag with ease. Clegg seems to have rekindled his lost confidence and looked very upbeat. He came in to the match having scored a respectable seven points for Monarchs at Ipswich Witches 24 hours earlier.
Etheridge was making strides and won heat seven quite comfortably without looking a world beater – and kept Monarchs in front.
Bewley won his third outing of the night in the eighth heat, victorious by a country mile against Monarchs ace Kev Whelan, a race with just two finishers. This reduced Belle Vue’s arrears to just two points, 24-22 and the Manchester outfit were by no means out of it. Indeed, the Colts’ form in the National League has been highly commendable so far; they have won three of their opening four fixtures.
And the visitors levelled the scores, 26-26 in heat nine when Bewley and Lee Payne grabbed a 4-2 over Davey and Lawson, who fell and was excluded.
Victory for Clegg in heat ten kept the scores tied and while the racing certainly did not warrant a “Ten from Len” the outcome of the clash was at least holding fans’ interest.
The rain which had been falling suddenly got heavier making track conditions very tricky for some of the youngsters.
Monarchs then sneaked ahead once more in heat 12 thanks to a 4-2 from Davey and Whelan. Monarchs now led 36-34 and scented the winning post.
Clegg ruined his possible maximum hopes in heat 13 when he missed the start and tumbled off trying to get past his Colts rivals in a race which was shared 3-3.
But the Colts were not yet finished and a 4-2 from unbeaten Bewley and Tom Woolley in the penultimate race squared matters at 41-41 setting up a dramatic last-heat decider.
And it was Belle Vue who prevailed at the death when Bewley, completing an 18-point maximum, combined with partner Rob Shuttleworth for the 4-2 which earned them overall victory by two points, 45-43.
Monarchs: Etheridge 11, Clegg 11, Davey 9, Lawson 7, Whelan 3, Millar 2, Lamb 0.
Belle Vue: Bewley 18, Shutteworth 9, Williamson 7, Payne 5, Woolley 3, Holt 2, Basford 1.