NEWS Saturday 30th March 2013, 10:25pm
The Scotwaste Monarchs were ten down after seven heats at Berwick but finished strongly to lose by just two points in the first leg of the Cock o' the North trophy.
Both teams probably finished the evening quite happy with the outcome. Berwick displayed the solidity they have been built with, while our performance was overall perfectly satisfactory.
We were also happy to get the match through in something like 100 minutes! It might not have been as cold as the Ben Fund Bonanza but everyone was still pretty keen to return to cars and buses and get the heaters on.
On our side, Craig Cook was superb as ever, Claus Vissing made an impressive and entertaining debut, Theo Pijper was his usual steady self and Jozsef Tabaka provided the kind of scoring we are looking for at reserve.
Derek Sneddon will probably be the most disappointed Monarch - he usually does well at Shielfield but his gating was well below his usual standard. Marcel Helfer displayed the same habit as last year - tailed off when he misses the start but competitive if he is in a scoring position, as he was when he held off Bellego in heat 6.
Max Fricke might be a little disappointed but he doesn't need to be. Riding steadily and getting the feel of things was what mattered for him. He was in third place in his first ride till he fell, and also in his second until Aspegren squeezed through.
We will enjoy watching Max progress and expect no miracles.
Probably the most encouraging display of all was from new man Vissing. He broke the tapes in his first ride, after which we have the longest tape-mending session ever, and then we watched Claus galloping through from the back off 15 metres. Actually he had two goes at it because Jozsef fell in second place the first time.
Next time he blasted past Barrett and got right up onto Aspegren's back wheel by the close. He has a thrilling aggressive style with a touch of leg-trailing, and we are going to enjoy watching him.
He had a heat win in heat 9, missed out in heat 13 but joined Craig for a closing 5-1.
Craig was flying and dropped his only point to - who else - Matthew Wethers in heat 5, one of the best races. Craig piled on the pressure but we know how crafty Matthew is, and he held on.
Our former captain was in good form and was perhaps the most impressive Bandit. It was good to see Kozza Smith going well too, after his injury-wrecked 2012.
No injuries, no rain and a quick meeting. Let's hope that's the story of the whole season. Now roll on Friday and the Armadale reopening against the Tigers.