REPORT Saturday 30th June 2018, 1:51am
The Staggs Bar Monarchs hit their stride tonight in no uncertain fashion and finished the first leg of the KO Cup quarter final tie against Berwick 24 points to the good, 57-33. Every team member contributed strongly and in a highly entertaining meeting, turned a tight 4-point lead after heat 8 into a substantial lead by the end.
New signing Victor Palovaara seemed to bring greater solidity to the side and got off to a great start with a point from the back in heat 1 and a win in heat 6 – and this on borrowed machinery. He said "I felt these first two rides were quite tricky, and I will feel more comfortable when I can look down and see that I am on my own stuff. But the guys in the team spoke to me like I had been there all season and made me feel at home. Berwick is a tricky track, I have only been there twice but I think we can go down there and enjoy ourselves."
It was by far Monarchs' best performance of the season. The home reserves both showed great tenacity and between them totalled 13+3, very encouraging for both. Max Ruml did lose his fourth ride in heat 14 but only because Joel Andersson was even more impressive and had won two heats, and in a cup tie every point is potentially crucial.
Ricky Wells was simply superb, Erik Riss only slightly less so (5-1 advantages to our top two in heats 13 and 15) but the truly spectacular rider on the night was Josh Pickering with some breathtaking overtakes, especially heat 12 when it seemed impossible that he would stay on his bike outside Jye Etheridge. But he did, and got round his fellow Aussie in amazing style.
Berwick put up strong opposition in the early stages and gated well for much of the meeting. It was very encouraging to see Palovaara slip inside Summers to give us an advantage in heat 1, and while Theo Pijper was an impressive winner in heat 2, the home pair both passed Gappmaier.
Referee Jim McGregor got into the action in heat 3, warning both of the home riders after a jumpy start. It's not often that two riders get a warning in the same heat, and it was a debateable decision, but thankfully it had no subsequent effect. Jye Etheridge won the rerun after strong pressure from Josh Pickering and with Mark Riss at the back the scores were levelled.
Erik Riss won heat 4 but all eyes were on Joel Andersson who pulled off a great ride to snatch third on the line from Theo Pijper. Once again though our middle pair conceded a 4-2 to level the scores and Mark Riss wasn't off the mark yet. Scores after 5 heats were 15-15.
A great first turn by Palovaara took him ahead down the back straight in heat 6 with Jakobsen second, a fair bit clear of Ricky wells. However Ricky held a very tight turn and drove hard past Jakobsen entering lap three, powering under the Dane to join Victor for the 5-1 that gave Monarchs a 4-point advantage.
Heat 7 was shared with David Howe winning, and heat 8 was another excellent ride by Joel Andersson showing how well he is learning to use the inside line of the fourth corner. He caught race leader Theo Pijper to win the heat on the line.
That left the score balanced at 26-22 and few would have predicted the way in which Monarchs would then take control of the match. Pickering and Riss took a 5-1 over the slightly disappointing Jakobsen, and we took a 4-2 through Wells and Palovaara in heat 10. Ricky had to keep the throttle wound on to go ahead of the faster gating Etheridge into the third turn.
Aaron Summers got his second win in heat 11 over Erik Riss, but there was a good point for Max Ruml ahead of Doolan. And then we had heat 12.
What a stonking heat this was. Anyone could be forgiven for averting their gaze when a race like this is on-track. Joel Andersson rode a strong first bend to go ahead with Pijper and Etheridge in the minor places and Pickering at one point fairly far back. He came on strong outside Etheridge, miraculously staying on at the third bend when there seemed to be absolutely no room. He wound the throttle on again to sweep round Etheridge, and then again to pass Pijper! An extraordinary ride which deservedly won him Monarch of the Match.
For the sake of our nerves it was probably a good thing that was Josh's last ride. Ricky and Erik took control of heat 13 and repeated it in 15, and in between A rejuvenated Mark Riss won heat 14 with Joel Andersson getting the better of Pijper again. Over the last four heats we outscored the Bandits 19-5.
Everyone knows after such an excellent display that we are now favourites to go through. However we will need cool heads, hard work and no complacency tomorrow and for sure our guys know that.