Edinburgh Monarchs v Sheffield Tigers

REPORT Friday 24th September 2010, 10:00pm

by Mike Hunter

Our Playoff semi first leg was a good meeting with some great performances on the home side, though Sheffield did not do quite as well as expected, Auty and Skidmore especially.

Of course a major reason for that was that once again the Scotwaste Monarchs were in superb form. Ryan Fisher a maximum (as usual), and just one defeat each for Andrew Tully (one of his best meetings of the season), Matthew Wethers (in spite of a heavy fall), Kevin Wolbert and Kalle Katajisto.

It was fairly tight in the early stages, largely because the home reserves did not have a great night. William Lawson lacked speed and Ashley Morris was handicapping himself with terrible starts.

In the first running of heat 1, Josh Auty who had made a decent start fell on the first corner. After viewing the replay on the big screen, Stewart Wilson ruled Auty out of the rerun in which Fisher and Wethers gave Monarch a 5-1 start yet again.

Heat 2 was an excellent race with Simon Lambert away, and William Lawson piling on all the pressure he could. Several times he seemed to be through on the inside, each time Lambert came back and gained a notable victory. Ricky Wells took third comfortably.

Hugh Skidmore fell on the first lap of heat 3, and in the rerun Kevin stormed past Josef Franc. Kalle was well back in third.

Heat 4 was an excellent race. After the rain on Thursday Andrew clearly felt that there were passing lines, and kept on Ashworth?s tail throughout. On the final turn he rode an improvised inside line and came off the fourth bend right on the line, taking the win by a length. Great effort.

Franc came into heat 5 as rider replacement in a strong looking pair with Auty, but this time Kalle had awakened and stormed off for an easy win backed by Wolbert. That was the first sign that another big home win was on the cards.

Heat 6 started with a worrying first bend crash as Ashworth swung out and caught Matthew, who went into the fence. Wells got his bike down sharply but still hit Matthew, who received lengthy treatment.

It was a relief to see him out for the rerun, riding as well as ever for another 5-1as Ricky Ashworth fell.

That signalled a TR for Franc in heat 7, quite often a double points race this season. But William Lawson snapped into gear with a fast start off gate four, and with Andrew?s back up there was no doubling of points required.

Now the score was 29-13 after the close run first four heats.

We took William out of heat 8, and with Ashley Morris slowly away it was a shared race, won easily by Wethers.

After that brief break from the 5-1 run, we then had two more. Sheffield seemed to make a bit of a blunder giving Ashworth a TR off gate 1 against Wolbert and Katajisto, and sure enough the home men were clear by the first corner.

In a two-leg tie it is surely better to hold the TRs for more likely heats.

Heat 10 ? Fisher and Wethers ? 5-1. Then came the most eventful heat, not surprisingly Tully v Ashworth again.

Ricky was the rider replacement alongside Franc and the PL champion led with Tully again snapping at his heels. On bend two of lap four Tully surged through in great style and it looked like that would be another fine win for him ? until he lifted coming out of the last bend, clattered the fence and fell, slithering over the line.

Ashworth took the win but Andrew got second by virtue of still being in contact with his bike.

Having had one 4-2, Sheffield got another as Franc held off Wolbert, and Wells beat a slow-looking Lawson. The gap was down to 20.

Fisher and Tully though took 5 from heat 13 after a brilliant second bend which saw Tully come between the visitors and slot in with his partner.

Kalle was flying now and won heat 14, with Wells passing Lawson for second. Sheffield had definitely gained a few points with their rider replacement and reserve guest facilities.

Matthew and Ryan were unbeaten and took the heat 15 ride. Ryan went ahead from the start but Franc and Ashworth slotted in to the minor places. Matthew tried a wide sweep on the pits bend but it didn?t quite succeed. However he did get third when Ashworth fell again, and we had a 28 point lead.