From the depths of despair at Ashfield last weekend, Edinburgh Monarchs rose like a phoenix from the ashes to snatch the Spring Trophy back from arch rivals Glasgow Tigers in a nail-biting second leg clash at Armadale last night.
Chasing a deficit of 14 points from that disappointing first-leg tie, Monarchs, despite a sluggish first half display, took the match by the scruff of the neck in the second period and swamped the Tigers 56-36 to clinch the silverware 94-88 on aggregate.
Despite producing just three race winners over the first eight heats, Monarchs didn’t allow themselves to panic as the whole team upped their game perhaps sensing that Glasgow’s top three couldn’t prolong their early dominance.
Monarchs led 29-19 going into the second half and the turning point of the whole meeting occured in heat nine when Tigers’ fiery Australian Josh Grajczonek and Monarchs skipper Matthew Wethers tangled going into the second bend, the latter sliding into the safety fence.
Grajczonek was ahead of Wethers on the outside and some people were surprised that he got excluded from the re-run. Said Grajczonek, who was out on a tactical ride, “I was a bit surprised to be excluded because I felt I had the racing line.
“A few people said they thought Matthew picked up some grip and hit me, but I was excluded, and it’s too late to change anything now, it was the referee’s decision.
“The rule usually is if you are in front then you hold the line, but it’s not something I’m going to get upset about, but it did change the complexion of the match.”
Grajczonek added: “It came down to a last heat decider and had I scored something in the race I was disqualified from, we might have held on, but fair play to Monarchs, they deserved their victory on the night.
“We perhaps relied too heavily on our top three, but it’s something we have no choice about until our two new Australian lads get going. I remember coming to Armadale for the first time about five years ago, it was very intimidating, hopefully it won’t take Jayden (O’Malley) and Mason (Campton) as long to master the place!” Monarchs really got into gear over the latter part of the meeting and a 5-1 from Theo Pijper and Charles Wright, who both rode exceptionally well, against Robert Keiezak in the 12th race put the Capital outfit on the road to glory.
James Grieves came to grief in that heat falling off after hitting a ridge, but that misfortune was cancelled out when Monarchs ace Andrew Tully slithered off on the third bend in the next race while dicing with Grajczonek and Tigers captain Joe Screen, who was handed his first defeat of the evening by a resurgent Craig Cook in heat 11. Cook was Monarchs’ top scorer with 14 points, his five-ride maximum thwarted when he finished second behind Grieves in the seventh race.
But Cook was delighted with his display: “I felt pretty good and it was also great for the whole team to come back from 14 points down to lift the trophy. Everybody chipped in with something and that was the key to our victory.”
Wethers, who picked up seven points from his four rides, commented: “I had a pretty sore head after coming down against Josh and I probably should have scored more points, but I felt a lot more comfortable this week and hopefully better scores will follow.”
Tully, who recorded one race win said: “It was a good win for the whole squad and hopefully this is the first of many trophies we’ll pick up this season, I wasn’t that happy with my own score and hopefully my points will get better.”
Glasgow will be disappointed at failing to defend their lead but it’s clear that their reliance on their main scoring trio could be hard to sustain over a season.