REPORT Friday 13th August 2021, 11:58pm
The What the Fork Monarchs squeezed home by 47-42 tonight against Plymouth, who had led all the way from heat 1 and unluckily lost Bjarne Pedersen in a heat 13 crash. Monarchs took the lead in heat 14 and finished with a 5-1 from Sam Masters and Josh Pickering to put a bit of a gloss on the scoreline.
Monarchs' team boss Alex Harkess said "Plymouth made a tremendous match of it. Some of our team were below par, we had some bad luck as well and I hope the riders involved in the heat 13 crash will be OK.
"I felt the referee got the decision to exclude Richie Worrall wrong but I would not criticise him too much as it was a very tough call."
Bike problems in the early stages for Sam Masters and Richie Worrall certainly put Monarchs on the back foot. Crump and surprise packet Dillon Ruml took a 5-1 from the opening race and Ruml even had the temerity to re-pass Masters after the home captain had got into second place.
Leon Flint of course was an exceptional guest for the Gladiators and he won heat 2 in spite of strong pressure from Nathan Greaves, and although in one of the all-Australian heats Monarchs' Pickering and Thomson took a 5-1 from Cook and Keleher, this was quickly repaid when Worrall pulled out of heat 4 gifting a 5-1 to Pedersen and Flint.
Monarchs just could not regain that lost ground. They took 4-2s in heats 5, 7 and 9 but lost one in heat 8, won by Dillon Ruml, and when home stalwart Kye Thomson won heat 12, Monarchs still trailed by two points. It was anyone's match.
Sam Masters had simply not been able to make his usual starts but a switch of machinery saw him jet away from gate 1 in front of Pedersen. Crump came down after getting in an awkward position on the first turn but cleared the track quickly, and Worrall chased Pedersen. Going in to the third turn of lap two, Masters was making sure he covered the inside, Pedersen moved out a fraction and slowed to avoid Masters' back wheel, while Worrall came in hard and found the Dane in his path, resulting in a heavy tumble for Worrall and Pedersen.
Worrall was the man excluded, a tough call as Alex Harkess later said. Pedersen was unable to ride in the rerun in which Masters defeated Flint to put Monarchs just a point behind.
Heat 14 was the race of the night, a great effort by the lively Zane Keleher who led for a couple of laps before Pickering swept past on the outside. Meanwhile not for the first time Greaves was chasing Flint and finally got past him, with Leon tumbling going in to the last lap. In his seventh ride he may well have been tiring but it was an important point and gave Monarchs the lead for the first time.
With Pedersen unavailable for the decider Gladiators fielded Crump and Keleher and it was Jason who made the start from the inside, but Pickering rounded him and Masters slipped through on the inside, and thereafter made no mistake.
Plymouth got a richly-deserved point and probably feel they deserved more, though from Monarchs point of view they were indebted to the Pickering-Thomson pair, both excellent, and were happy that Sam Masters eventually overcame his machinery problems. The tail-enders all gave their all but are finding it hard to come up with the points the team need, especially when one of the top four hits problems.
One of the evening's highlights was a great interview Jason Crump gave from the tower, praising the young Aussies in the match and remembering his Powderhall battles with Les Collins, Kenny McKinna, Brett Saunders and Michael Coles.