Heeps and Ruddick on their way to a 5-1. Image Credit: Ron MacNeill

We are in the Cup semi-finals

NEWS Sunday 12th May 2019, 1:04am

by Mike Hunter

While we wait for most of the Championship teams to get started in the competition, the Staggs Bar Monarchs tonight qualified for the Knockout Cup semi-finals by a resounding 108-72 aggregate.

Team captain Ricky Wells scored a paid maximum but he preferred to direct attention to the team's no. 7 (paid 10), saying "Big mention to Luke Ruddick, he rode a very good match and beat some accomplished riders. He gives it a crack, that's what I like to see.

"He's full of commitment and effort and if he keeps that up he will have a good year."

We started the day wondering whether we could overturn that 8-point deficit from the first leg, but long before the end of tonight's match we were not even bothering to think about the aggregate as it was very plain we were going through.

There were some contributing factors to our aggregate victory. First of all, yes, the Staggs Bar Monarchs showed improved form. Not necessarily as good as we might eventually be, but a team with a lowest scorer on 9 points must be doing something right!

Secondly, we had another withdrawal from Jason Garrity who this year reported that he had a van breakdown. Terribly bad luck, obviously. Similar bad luck to 21st April 2017 when he had to attend a funeral, with his team Redcar using a guest, and to 3rd August 2018 when he suffered a motorway accident and Lewis Millar stood in as a NL guest for Scunthorpe. That's what happened again tonight. Maybe one day we will see him again.

Thirdly, Scunthorpe had further bad luck with fallers. Danny Ayres piled into partner Josh Auty in heat 1 and earned an exclusion, and Josh Bailey came down in heat 2. So did Luke Ruddick but he got going again. And worst of all, Auty joined Ayres for a potential 5-1 in heat 5 only for a mechanical gremlin to cause the visiting no. 1 to fall heavily. It seems he has a suspected broken wrist.

But it wasn't only bad luck which brought the Scorpions down. They would have needed big performances from their established riders such as Ayres, Jake Allen and Stefan Nielsen but it didn't work out for them. Nielsen never got going, Ayres did win two heats after fast gates and Allen also had a couple of impressive rides. The efforts of reserve Ryan Kinsley were much appreciated. But overall their team performance was poor to say the least.

After last week's great meeting with superb racing, it was nothing like as good tonight. William Lawson came from the back to beat Ryan Kinsley in heat 2, and Joel Andersson did the same in heat 14 which then developed into an interesting tussle for the minor places. To finish with heat 15 was also good fun, won by a superb first bend swoop past everyone by Josh Pickering and an eventual pass by Ricky Wells on Ayres to complete his paid maximum.

Monarch of the match was Luke Ruddick and he continues to surprise us with his fast gating and steady riding which tonight brought him paid 10 from 4. He really should not be that good but he is!

William Lawson scored the same, Justin Sedgmen was much better than in recent meetings and lost only to Ayres, Josh Pickering made some starts and scored 14, Joel Andersson made it 5 Monarchs' riders dropping points in just a single race! Heepsie was good again for 9 but actually dropped points in two races.

In truth it was all too easy and all of the home men took advantage. That is nice from time to time, but with Leicester and Glasgow providing the opposition in the next two matches, it will certainly not be so easy.