REPORT Saturday 20th August 2022, 1:43am
An exciting and hard-fought KO Cup final first leg ended tonight with Redcar the happier of the two teams after a win for the WTF Monarchs by just 47-43, making the second leg in a fortnight's time a tough assignment for the Monarchs – who nevertheless can never be ruled out.
Team manager Alex Harkess said "We would obviously have liked more of a lead. We let too many points slip away, and the heavy rain pre-meeting was probably a leveller. Redcar were very tenacious though, well done to them and we will be heading south in a fortnight to finish the job."
On the plus side for Edinburgh, they got Sam Masters back, intact, and he reported no serious ill-effects at the end of the meeting – though he admitted track conditions had not been ideal given his injuries.
Josh Pickering was brilliant as always, with the majority of his points taken from the back, and Paco Castagna had probably his best home display of the season with dad Armando watching on.
Monarchs had built an 8-point advantage by heat 7 and were certainly looking to build on that. Redcar lost Kasper Andersen in a heat 3 tumble, probably caused by conditions, but as it turned out reserves Kyle Newman and Jordan Jenkins provided excellent cover. Even though they lost a 5-1 in heat 2 they outscored the home reserves 14-7.
Richard Lawson proved an excellent guest for Bears (though probably not any better than Riss would have been), and he took advantage of a twice rerun heat 3 to eventually get the better of Paco Castagna who had gated in the first two runnings (but not the third).
But the real turning point was heat 8 in which Jason Edwards and Jordan Jenkins took a 5-1 over Lasse Fredriksen after Jacob Hook had spun off. Jenkins took a knock, not his only one on the night, but he didn't let anything worry him.
Monarchs hit back right away through Thomson and Castagna with a 5-1 but they never managed to shake off the Bears. Lawson beat Masters in a thrilling heat 10, then it took Pickering to the last gasp to pip Wright in heat 11. Another last gasp finish in heat 12 saw Thomson catch Newman on the line behind Lawson to stop a maximum loss.
Up until this point Lewis Kerr had done very little but he had a key part to play yet, winning a great heat 13 in spite of huge efforts by Josh Pickering, with Masters just getting the better of Wright. Monarchs 6 up at this stage.
Heat 14 was another great ride by the thrilling Castagna to pass Newman, but a shared heat.
Heat 15 was crucial with Monarchs top two against Lawson and Kerr, but again it was the Bears better away, and all the home side could manage was a hard-won second place by Josh Pickering over Lawson with Kerr taking his second race win.
Full marks to Redcar for their sterling efforts, with Monarchs slightly below par and probably not helped by that pre-meeting downpour.
It was a much more long-drawn-out night than usual, with Ed the Monarch's birthday bash and the kids' race, the Ben Fund collection and quite a few stoppages (plus a junior match). But everyone knew they had seen a match in which everyone gave their all.