Monarchs away well in heat 2 Image Credit: Jack Cupido

Pirates in the driving seat

NEWS Saturday 23rd October 2021, 8:56pm

by Mike Hunter

The second leg of the Championship Knockout Cup Final has still to be run, but it would be a brave man who would bet against Poole Pirates taking this part of their possible Championship double after a victory by 47-42 at Armadale this afternoon.

Team manager Alex Harkess said "Our riders tried hard but were not at their best which was disappointing. Our top riders seem to have lost their gating touch this week and that has cost us.

"I have no complaints about their effort and heat 15 was a real thriller to finish Monarchs' home season. All four riders within a couple of yards and I doubt Sam Masters has ever had to work harder for a race win. We will head for Poole to do our best, as always."

It was a very hard-fought encounter though there has to be some regret at the way these important fixtures have had to be bundled together in such a short space of time. Saturday afternoon for a Cup Final is far from ideal but previous delays to the competition, weather forecasts and other competitions still to be completed, forced the situation. There was neither the build-up nor the attendance which the event deserved.

Monarchs of course hoped to build an advantage but they only got their noses in front for a short while in mid-match, before being pegged back. Poole had the majority of race winners (9-6) and they could afford to have two non-scoring riders when they had a no. 7 of the effectiveness of Benjamin Basso. The Dane is still a bit raw at times but his seven rides yielded 13 and 2 bonus. Danny King matched the 13 point score and the other heat leaders were effective, but Basso was the big difference.

Richie Worrall was the most consistent home rider while Sam Masters took two good wins in the latter stages, and Kemp got another reasonable score at reserve.

The teams exchanged 4-2s in the first couple of races, with Monarchs almost taking a 5-1 in heat 2 only for Basso to catch Edwards at the final corner. Rory Schlein showed he meant business with a strong win in heat 3, the first of four successive shared races.

Richie Worrall's strong first corner got the better of Danny King in heat 4, but Steve Worrall and King won the next two with Monarchs sharing to keep the scores at 18-18. Richie Worrall won again in heat 7 which turned into a 5-0 when Rory Schlein spun off awkwardly on the first corner, and in the rerun Ben Cook also fell. Rory required some checking over but was able to return to the action later.

That put Monarchs 5 ahead but Poole came straight back with a heat 8 5-1 through Hume and Basso, and Monarchs remained 1 point in front over the next three heats, with wins for Masters (heat 10) and Richie Worrall again in heat 11 after Danyon Hume had led all the way. Richie caught him off the final corner to stay unbeaten.

Monarchs were somewhat unlucky in heat 12. Schlein led from Thomson and Kemp, but Basso lifted off the fourth corner and cut sharply across Kemp's front end and out to the fence. Kemp had to swerve to miss the Dane but was forced to make an awkward entry to the next bend, spinning off. Kemp was excluded but it had been caused by Basso's loss of control.

It was rerun and Thomson who had been lying second, conceded a 5-1. It has been a disappointing week for Kye after a fine debut season.

Poole took the honours with better gating in heat 13, though Richie Worrall did pull off a good outside pass on his brother. That left Monarchs 5 down with 2 heats left, both shared, Basso took his first actual race win (having had two paid wins) in heat 14, and the final race was an exciting gallop with Sam Masters having to work extraordinarily hard to stay ahead of two ravenous Pirates in King and Steve Worrall while Richie Worrall, baulked at the first turn, narrowly missed catching Steve again.

It wouldn't go down as a classic nor as one of Monarchs' best performances, in spite of all the effort. However the team look like finishing as Cup runners up and Playoff semi-finalists which is at the very least something to build on.