The boys line up for what turned out to be the last time at home for 2017 Image Credit: Jack Cupido

Witches Make The Final

REPORT Saturday 23rd September 2017, 2:33am

by Mike Hunter

The Parsons Peebles Monarchs failed narrowly to overturn Ipswich’s 10-point lead from the first leg of the Championship Playoff semi-final, beating Ipswich 48-41 on the night but going down 88-91 on aggregate. The Witches will meet either Sheffield or Glasgow in the Final and we wish them well.

Sam Masters said “I think we could have qualified, but we made too many mistakes between us including me running a last.”

Erik Riss, unbeaten till heat 15, added “In the final heat I clashed elbows with Rory then tried to cut back under him down the straight, and I thought I could pass him with Sam in front. But Rory passed Sam and that was that.”

It was a frustrating night for the home side because it was probably their own errors which cost them victory. It was also a controversial night, but in the end it came down to the final heat with Monarchs needing a 5-1 to go through. For a tantalising moment it seemed we might get it with Sam Masters edging ahead and Erik Riss pushing hard on Rory Schlein down the back straight, but rather than Erik catching Rory, it was Rory who caught Sam at the next bend. Once our former rider got ahead, that was that.

Rory was the main man for the Witches, no doubt about that, with Danny King floundering badly and scoring just 4. However they also had very good contributions from Kyle Newman and the reserves Nathan Greaves and Connor Mountain.

Monarchs’ reserves had had a good outing in the first leg but they were outscored 11-5 at Armadale which was one of the sources of the problem. Mitchell Davey didn’t get amongst the scorers and Max Clegg didn’t reach his potential either.

We made such a fine start in heat 1. Initially Danny King actually touched the tapes with a lunge forward, but this was not spotted by referee Ronnie Allen who only warned the Witches’ captain. It made no difference as Danny was poorly away and eventually stopped, as Ricky Wells and Josh Pickering took a comfortable 5-1. That also used up Mason Campton’s rider replacement ride.

Unfortunately we then made out first major blunder of the night, Max Clegg riding into the tapes off gate one in heat 2. We really needed him to take that heat but off 15 metres though he quickly closed on the opposition, he could not pass. Mitchell Davey was initially in a scoring position but dropped back.

Undaunted we quickly took another 5-1 from Sam Masters and Mark Riss. Imagine if we had shared heat 2 as we hoped! We would have been getting close and worrying the Witches.

Erik Riss beat Schlein in heat 4 but again Mitchell Davey could not get the better of Mountain. Sam and Mark took a 4-2 from King in heat 5 and at 18-12 things were looking promising.

However Witches took that one straight back as Rory Schlein beat Ricky Wells and Josh Pickering finished adrift of the tenacious Greaves. We used heat 7 for Mitchell’s third ride as he was struggling, and we shared it as Erik headed home Campton and Newman.

Heat 8 was a very controversial heat and the biggest talking point afterwards. In the first running Josh Pickering landed in the third bend air fence and was excluded. In the rerun Max Clegg slotted into second down the back straight, but rider replacement Schlein was looking across at him. Clearly Rory was considering slowing the heat to allow Greaves to come round Clegg, but as they arrived at the third corner Rory really did seem to overdo the slowing up. He was virtually stationary as Clegg clipped his back wheel and fell. Max was far from happy and the ref should have at least considered putting some blame on the Ipswich heat leader.

The resultant 5-0 completely changed the meeting and put the Witches ahead. Mark Riss won heat 9 well from Schlein (who had been within a whisker of touching the tapes) but Sam Masters was pushed out and could not grab a point. It could have got worse in the next one as Newman and Campton led before Campton spun off. We were now at heat 10 and a point down on the night.

Monarchs needed advantages and they got one in heat 11 with Erik Riss’s third win of the night, and Clegg’s pass on Greaves. A point ahead, 9 down on aggregate.

Heat 12, another 4-2 with Sam back on song and Clegg again gaining a point after a poor start. Better gating, and who knows what Clegg might have scored – but how often have we said that?

More controversy in heat 13. Danny King away quickly – too quickly said the ref though it seemed marginal. Added to the warning from heat 1 Danny was out and rather than go off 15 metres, he bowed out and Mountain went from the gate. In the restart, Ricky Wells gated well from the inside and moved out to prevent Schlein’s outside run – not leaving a lot of room, but when Rory ran into the air fence, he was out too!

So that was an easy 5-1 and now Monarchs were 7 up, three down on aggregate. Heat 14 had to be a chance – but a crucial gate from Newman off the inside took the three points as Mark Riss lifted wildly down the back straight. He did well to regain control.

That’s how it came down to that last heat, with Rory Schlein’s ride taking the Witches through.