Edinburgh Monarchs v Glasgow Tigers

REPORT Friday 25th September 2015, 10:00pm

by Mike Hunter

A crowd well in to four figures with a feeling of expectation and tension in the air greeted this match, the first National Final between these teams for 21 years.

Unfortunately for the travellers from the west, only one of the teams met the expectations of their supporters, with Edinburgh dominating from the start and never really losing their grip. There was a real passion in the Edinburgh work which wasn’t apparent with Glasgow.

Only twice did a visiting rider take the chequered flag, remarkable for a team with so much talent, though they did at least manage to convert both these race victories into heat advantages.

Craig Cook was the dominant rider in the match, not always away from the tapes quickly but with power and skill to spare. In the final heat especially he was slowly away before scorching round the air fence to come out of the second bend in front.

He was backed to 5-1s in heats 1 and 6 by Justin Sedgmen, the pairing which has contributed so much to the Edinburgh success story. Sedgmen then added a heat 8 win before dropping a point to Aaron Summers, and afterwards said he didn’t think he had ridden well.

Sedgmen had switched machinery during the week and proved that the new setups were good for the job.

Kevin Wolbert was at his most aggressive in staying unbeaten over his first four heats,. In heat 3 it had appeared that Summers had gated on him but Wolbert turned back and swept through down the back straight for his first win. The German star did miss out on a point in the final race.

Sam Masters was also in pretty good nick though he admits that he is still struggling with his shoulder injury, especially at tight Armadale. The one heat in which he didn’t gate saw him trail Summers and Kauko Nieminen for Glasgow’s most productive race.

Erik Riss continued his progress and had one race win, which would have been two had he not come off while leading heat 14.

In the absence of Max Clegg, so effective in recent home matches, it was important that Rob Branford made a contribution, and winning heat 2 was a good one. His only blemish was a poor ride to concede a point in heat 12 after being well clear of Hynek Stichauer at one stage.

There has to be a special mention for Coty Garcia. Standing in for Clegg he was unplaced but improving in his first two rides. He then made a start in heat 11 and set about hanging on to second place, though under pressure coming out of every bend from James Sarjeant. He held on until the last turn when Sarjeant got his move right and just edged past down the final straight.

This still left Garcia with a point ahead of Richard Lawson, and he gained another two in heat 14, a reward for sticking in there when most would have expected a visiting 5-1.

Six of the Glasgow riders have been paid for double figures at Armadale at least once in the past, and yet for some reason only Aaron Summers came remotely close to his best. One race win would not be up to his expectations but he was consistent and never gave up.

Nick Morris rides the track beautifully but never got his nose in front, other than from the tapes in heat 6 in which he should have been pulled back, but was in any case rounded comfortably by Cook and Sedgmen by the back straight.

The other heat leader Richard Lawson has surely not had a poorer meeting for years, he looked completely uncomfortable and will put this one out of his mind.

Kauko Nieminen did look accomplished as he obviously is, but he finished at the back twice. He was involved in his team’s only 5-1 and then picked up a win at the third attempt in heat 14.

Everyone knows what was expected of James Sarjeant – but it didn’t happen! He sat perfectly still at the start and finished with a couple of decent second places.

At reserve, Tigers disappointed – Victor Palovaara lost heat 2 for the first time in five visits and struggled thereafter, while Stichauer contributed odd points.

It was not a memorable meeting other than the occasion and the attendance. With the home men dominating from the starts (and if not then round the opening turns) there was nothing much left to happen in the latter stages of the races.