REPORT Saturday 9th June 2018, 1:18am
The Staggs Bar Monarchs failed to raise their game tonight in spite of a strong start, and eventually slipped to a 44-46 defeat to Workington which means the Comets win the Border section of the competition and qualify for the semi-finals.
It is our second defeat in the three home matches in the Shield, a disappointing effort. Alex Harkess said "That was very poor on our part and our lower order riders are not improving as we were hoping they would. Indeed not many of our riders got pass marks tonight. But Workington deserve credit as they have been good throughout the qualifying stages."
Early on, it looked like Monarchs had the measure of this match, building a 12-6 lead after three interesting opening heats. The opener was hotly contested for first and third, and Mason Campton made heat 2 exciting after missing the start, passing Josh Pickering and putting pressure on race winner Coty Garcia.
Max Ruml, needing a good match, then touched the tapes and was replaced by Garcia, who again shot from the gate with Mark Riss. However Dan Bewley showed how well he is riding now with a strong pass, going on to put considerable pressure on Riss. Mark held on though, and Coty got the third spot after passing and repassing with Ty Proctor who seemed unhappy.
So far, so good. Mason Campton held off the chasing Erik Riss to impressively win heat 4, but Nicolai Klindt was held at the back by Josh Pickering. Klindt didn't give any hint of the part he was going to play later on.
Heat 5 was very much a turning of the tide. Mark Riss was poorly away and offered no challenge to Bach and Jensen, so we were only two up now. Klindt was transformed to beat Wells in heat 6, Erik Riss defeated the impressive Bewley in heat 7 but Garcia was overhauled after a decent start.
Comets looked likely to make headway in heat 8 after Jensen and Campton made the start, but Andersson cut impressively inside the Comets' no. 7 followed later in the heat by Pickering, to maintain Monarchs' narrow 2-point lead.
We lost that in the following heat though as Max Ruml could not capitalise on a good start with Klindt winning again from Mark Riss, and Campton taking the point with some forceful riding against Ruml. That levelled the scores and the next three heats were all shared, the most notable of which was heat 12 in which Ruml led for most of the heat but was eventually worn down by Comets' captain Proctor.
So we had our top two in two of the remaining three heats to give cause for optimism. We did indeed take a 4-2 from heat 13 with Erik Riss sweeping from gate 4 to win and Ricky Wells heading Bach.
We had switched Mark Riss to no. 4 to give us a better chance in heat 14, but in spite of that he lost out to the flying Bewley and Campton. Mark passed the Aussie at one point but lifted and it was fortunate there wasn't a pileup.
So we were now two down going in to the last heat. Bewley came off on the first bend of the final heat, and it was not completely obvious why he got back in other than that it was early in the heat. It made no real difference though as Klindt was the strongest rider from gate 4 and won the rerun, to ensure the two point win.
Probably Erik Riss was the only home man to ride to his best form. Our second strings and reserves were generally disappointing. Comets were much more solid with Klindt and Bewley the top men, and they deserved the win.