Edinburgh Monarchs served up a speedway treat for Sky Sports viewers last night as they quelled Somerset Rebels 46-44 in a truly pulsating Premier League encounter at the Oak Tree Arena.
And today Monarchs’ team manager John Campbell hailed his seven heroes saying: “I’m thrilled with the result and I was told it was the best match seen at Somerset this season.”
The victory, which erased Monarchs’ shock loss against Redcar Bears at Armadale on Friday, was even more remarkable after Campbell revealed that Dutch star Theo Pijper rode with two broken ribs following a crash he had in his World Longtrack fixture in Finland five days ago. But Pijper had no thoughts about pulling out of the meeting, saying: “When I get out on to the track I don’t feel anything.”
Monarchs could not buy a heat advantage in the first half and trailed 31-23 after nine races, but the Capital side asserted themselves over the next six heats and thanks to a brilliant 5-1 from reserve ace Max Fricke and Jozsef Tabaka in heat 14, they grabbed the lead for the first time, 43-41, to set up a nail-biting heat 15 finale.
But Monarchs had to endure even more drama as No. 1 Craig Cook and partner Tabaka faced Rebels’ top star Jason Doyle and teammate Josh Grajczonek. Tabaka was dicing with Grajczonek and came down and was disqualified from the re run, piling the pressure on Cook to take the chequered flag to seal his side’s triumph. And when Doyle passed Cook it looked for a minute as if the Rebels were going to salvage a draw.
However, Cook isn’t the top rider in the Premier League for nothing and he sensationally overtook Doyle to win his fourth outing on the bounce. Amazingly Cook trailed in last in his first ride but refused to panic at this setback.
He said: “I had the wrong set-up, but I kept myself calm and made changes to my bike and made amends in my next four races. All of the guys dug deep and we should all be proud of ourselves. To beat the No. 1 team in the league is something special.”
Cook said he wasn’t at all nervous when he was left to go solo in that dramatic last-heat showdown. He said: “I knew it would be a very tough race because Jason and Josh are two very good riders round their own track, but I showed them why my average is 11 and a half in the Premier League.”
He added: “None of us ever go to away tracks thinking we are going to win, you just go out and do your best and see what happens. You need luck, but we didn’t even get that, yet still came away with the win.”
Fricke, who only dropped down to reserve against Redcar, once again hit double figures from the tail-end and his ten-point haul certainly suggests the switch from being in the main body of the team, is paying off for him.
“It was great to have another decent match at reserve,” he said. “It was a tough track and it was hard to pass, but we all rode really well.” The teenager’s victory over Alex Davies and Stefan Nielsen in that penultimate race was a critical result for the whole team.
Fricke said: “I made a decent gate but the dirt was all round the outside of the track, but I kept my wheels flat out round the boards to take the win, but Jozsef was also brilliant to take second place behind me.”
Campbell said: “You need good reserves to win matches and Max was already turning into a good rider before he went down to reserve. I couldn’t have asked for anything better from him, he has been tremendous.
“It was so disappointing when we lost to Redcar and I was concerned it might affect our chances of finishing in the top six, but not any more.
“Everybody in the team wants to win but Craig, especially, was so upset by the Redcar result, and told his teammates afterwards just how he felt. Craig just keeps driving them on.”
Claus Vissing, who was under the spotlight to perform well, scored five points from his four outings, but failed to win a race. And Josh Bates, who replaced the injured Mitchell Davey, may not have scored, but displayed plenty of endeavour.
Somerset Rebels: Doyle 12, Davies 9, Grajczonek 7, Nielsen 6, Newman 5, Morris 3, Perry 2.
Monarchs: Cook 12, Fricke 10, Tabaka 7, Pijper 7, Vissing 5, Sneddon 5, Bates 0.