REPORT Friday 9th July 2021, 11:26pm
The What the Fork Monarchs came through in the end to take a 50-40 victory over Berwick in a hard-fought match. It certainly wasn't easy and Monarchs only led by 4 with two heats remaining. Their victory owed a lot to a best-yet dozen from Kye Thomson and another great display by Josh Pickering who has never ridden better than he is at the moment.
After dropping just a single point to Bandits' Jye Etheridge, Josh said "We did what we have to do. I wouldn't say Berwick have got 2 or 3 big riders who win lots of heats but they have a team who all do well, they are a strong team and they normally run us close here. So it's good to get the three points and send them home with nothing. Things are going well, we are just having fun!"
It was a night of many shared races and Monarchs were grateful to have Thomson to cover heats that looked vulnerable, and to make up for a couple of uncharacteristic blunders by the home stars. Sam Masters touched the tapes in heat 13 and couldn't pick up anything off a 15 metre handicap, while earlier in heat 11 Richie Worrall had come to the tapes without a chain guard and eventually suffered a 2-minute exclusion.
This appeared to be a comedy of errors with no-one quite sure what was happening. However it was certainly a correct disqualification and Richie too was unable to make anything of his 15 metre handicap.*
The match had started with the Bandits making the jump in heat 1 but Sam Masters falling, and perhaps being fortunate to get in the rerun. The second attempt was completely different as Masters flew to the front, backed by partner Nathan Greaves with an excellent ride to pass Etheridge.
That 5-1 was valuable because the next seven heats all finished 3-3. Heat 2 was a notable win for Thomson who was pressed hard by Leon Flint, while it was Berwick who supplied the race winners in heats 4 and 5 through impressive debutant Kasper Andersen and Jye Etheridge.
The dangerous Andersen-Summers pair seemed to make the start in heat 7 but Richie Worrall pulled off an excellent outside move to sweep to the front, It was an up and down night for Richie but his two race wins were important ones.
Kye Thomson won heat 8 and Greaves held second early on only to be passed by Gappmaier who is starting to get the hang of Armadale. The next two heats were shared but Monarchs seemed in control with a 6-point advantage until that shambolic 2-minute exclusion gifted the Bandits a 5-1.
They may have made further progress in heat 12 but Flint spun on the first corner and earned an exclusion, followed by another vital Thomson win ahead of Andersen.
We then had the Masters tape-touch, situation salvaged by Worrall with a win, and a big win by Pickering in heat 14 to clinch the match victory.
Berwick needed to share the last heat to earn a point and we had a great battle between Masters, Pickering and Andersen over the first two laps until unfortunately the Dane went into the air fence trying an ambitious outside move. He seemed to be OK after treatment.
*Footnote: It has subsequently become clear that Richie's chain guard WAS on, but he did not have a small flap called a "chain guide". The rules don't appear to require this. In hindsight the correct thing would have been to cancel the two minutes while the confusion was sorted out, then let Richie take his place.