REPORT Saturday 6th October 2018, 1:26am
The Staggs Bar Monarchs rounded off the 2018 season by narrowly winning the Scottish Cup which went to a two-man race off after the home side had won the match against Glasgow by 50-40, a reversal of the score from the first leg in March!
After a quite entertaining and dramatic encounter it was announced that the Cup would be decided by a match race, and out came Ricky Wells for Monarchs, and Paul Starke for the Tigers. The admirable Starke had won heats 14 and 15 against the odds to take the event to "extra time" as it were.
Crucially Wells took gate 4 and hit the second corner just right on the wide line. He's pretty unstoppable from that position.
Alex Harkess said "Full marks to both teams for putting on a show. We've had one or two disappointments lately so I didn't want to let this one slip, but we got there in the end."
Monarchs had held the upper hand all night but were never able to gain an aggregate lead. Only in heat 13 with a 5-1 (Riss and Wells) did they draw level. Following that we had drama over the final two heats.
Richie Worrall had been as impressive as ever during his earlier heats but he locked up badly on the first corner of heat 14, letting Starke get ahead but completely baulking Wilkinson. The heat should surely have been stopped at that stage but was allowed to continue, a 3-3.
In heat 15 Chris Harris made the start at the first attempt but this was stopped quickly to issue a warning to Erik Riss. Next running, Wells and Riss were away, but Harris attempted a pass on Riss at the third bend but fell and caused a stoppage.
The rules suggest that Starke, at the back at the time of the stoppage, should have gone off 15 metres in the next running but we have yet to see this rule applied. Starke pulled out a big one from the gate for the Tigers to beat Riss and Wells, but he could not make it three in a row in the run-off. So Monarchs took the Cup and prevented Tigers winning the trophy for the third successive time. The overall tally is Monarchs 24 Tigers 16.
The earlier action had been hard-fought. William Lawson took a heat 2 win when Wilkinson overshot the opening bend, then Monarchs went ahead through their power pair of Worrall and Pickering. They added a 4-2 in heat 4 when Wilkinson fell.
There were then eight successive 3-3 heats, including two very crafty heat wins for Harris who showed his quality in beating Riss and Worrall. Palovaara managed a heat 8 win on a night when nothing else went right for him, and heat 12 was only shared at the last gasp when Pickering pulled off one of his last bend specials against Vissing. Then we entered the dramatic final three races.
So that's it for the Monarchs in 2018, a year which promised more than it delivered for the team. The Scottish Cup was a consolation. For Glasgow, the Playoffs lie ahead but they played their part in an enjoyable Armadale finale.