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Newport Wasps v Edinburgh Monarchs

REPORT Saturday 23rd April 2011, 10:00pm

by Mike Hunter

After Friday night's defeat there might have been some gloom in the Edinburgh ranks, but if so the team did not let it stop them riding an excellent match at Newport for a 49-42 victory.

It's just what was needed to make everyone feel better, and it was a very well deserved victory. Wins for a team whose reserves score the minimum 1 point are rare (Redcar once did it at Armadale) but it shows how well the top five performed.

Kevin, Andrew, Matthew, Craig and Kalle deserve tremendous praise - they never let their concentration lapse and didn't have a bad ride between them.

It is such a boost to get off to a good start, and Kevin and Matthew comfortably relegated Leigh Lanham to third in the opening race. It was Kevin's first ride at Newport but he looked supremely confident right away.

Ashley drifted into the tapes in heat 2, and made no impression off 15 metres as Wasps took a 5-1. It's Jay's home track in the NL but he showed no real sign of matching the home reserves, even though he had Craig Boyce in his corner.

Kalle flew from gate 3 to lead the third race, and Andrew kept up the pressure on the inside of Legault to such good effect that he forced his way into second place after a couple of laps.

Gate 3 was proving good and Craig headed Nilsson and Kurtz from there to win heat 4. That gave us a 10-14 advantage with all of the top five unbeaten!

That stayed unchanged after heat 5 though this time with a bit of good fortune. Off gated 1 and 3, Legault and Aspegren led with Matthew and Kevin trying to find a passing line. Matthew got inside Aspegren, and just as he did Legault lost a chain and baulked his team mate. That gave our boys the chance to nip through and we were 19-11 ahead.

Home no. 1 Lanham made the gate in heat 6 from Craig Cook. Briefly Ashley was ahead of Jones but he soon lost the place, and eventually dropped out. New boy Jones was quite quick but Craig made sure of second.

Tully and Katajisto had to settle for the minor places in heat 7 as Nilsson sped clear, but they ensured that Anders Mellgren had no chance to come through.

Heat 8 was one of several heats stopped mysteriously by referee Mick Bates. Kurtz led from Matthew with Jay Herne briefly challenging Mark Jones, but Jay slid off all too easily into the fence and the heat was stopped. In the rerun Matthew had to work hard after a poor start to squeeze past Jones, and our lead was now down to 22-26.

First corners were important, and Craig rode the best of the night to turn hard under Aspegren and Legault as the riders headed into the back straight. Thereafter he made no mistakes to maintain the lead.

Another brilliant first turn by Andrew Tully got him past Lanham through a narrow gap, and with Kalle taking the point we extended the lead again. Newport should surely have tried Kurtz as a reserve replacement for Jones' third ride here but they didn't.

Wolbert was brilliant again in heat 10, racing hard and winning by a huge distance from Nilsson. Kurtz was used in this race but Matthew kept him at the back and the score was now 29-37 as we went into the interval.

We still had two reserve rides left, and of course the possibility of a TR was as ever a factor.

A brilliant start from Tully took him clear in heat 12, and when Aspegren fell we might have gone 10 up - however Ashley Morris completed a dismal night by grinding to a halt. At least it avoided the TR.

It would not have made much difference anyway, because Kevin made it paid 12 from 4 with a fast start to beat Lanham. Craig took the point from Nilsson and now we were ten up.

Legault took the TR in heat 14, with Kalle the key man for us. At the first attempt he made a great start and first corner and went ahead - only to suffer another depressing stoppage.

Obviously we wanted to avoid a 1-8, so we were relatively happy when Mellgren made the start with Kalle in second. He rode an intelligent heat and gave Legault no chance. It was a home 5-2 but we were now certain to win, needing a shared last race to take all four points.

Lanham went ahead from gate 1, followed by Wolbert and Tully ahead of Kurtz. Kevin then chased hard for all four laps, riding wide and fast and with great control, looking for his maximum. He narrowly missed out but it was a thrilling if slightly nerve-wracking ride.