Edinburgh MONARCHS powered their way to an emphatic 53-39 Championship victory which pulls the Capital side four points clear at the top of the table ahead of second-placed Ipswich Witches.
Any other outcome would have been highly improbable given the Bandits perennial problems in coping with the tight confines of the Lothian Arena track over the years.
Monarchs were without skipper Sam Masters and Ricky Wells who were on World Cup race-off duty. The hosts brought in Rory Schlein and Justin Sedgmen as guests replacements and the Monarchs team had a certain retro feel to it especially as Schlein hasn’t been seen in blue and gold colours since he was a raw rookie.
Berwick recruited Glasgow Tigers captain Aaron Summers and Rob Shuttleworth to cover for the injured Nick Morris and Lee Payne respectively.
And the home side got off to the perfect start with a 5-1 from Schlein and Theo Pijper in the first heat. Schlein was never in any danger but Summers was all over Pijper who telegraphed his every move to hang on for second place.
Berwick weren’t going to be steamrollered in the early stages as Jye Etheridge and David Howe won heats two and three for a share of the spoils before Monarchs grabbed a 4-2 through Erik Riss, who was captain for the night, and Mitchell Davey in the fourth race to lead 15-9.
Monarchs shared the fifth race before recording their second 4-2 of the meeting in heat six, Schlein holding off a fierce challenge from Bandits ace Kevin Doolan, and Pijper picked up a third-place point.
Another shared race in heat seven saw Riss make a poor start but the German quickly reeled in Daniel Gappmaier and Howe to save Monarchs blushes, who now led 25-17 at the halfway mark.
The visitors were certainly holding their own at this stage but Monarchs maintaged their advantage with a 3-3 in the eighth race, won impressively by Pijper who held out Bandits Aussie ace Etheridge who flew into the fence in the ninth race after losing control on the fourth bend.
Schlein’s maximum hopes were dented in heat ten when Howe lowered his colours for the first time after the Monarch won his first two rides, and the home side were not breezing this by any stretch of the imagination.
But a 4-2 by the unbeaten Riss, and Josh Pickering, opened up a ten-point gap for Monarchs in heat 11, 38-28, and this allowed them a bit more breathing space. Berwick gave Etheridge a tactical ride in heat 12 and it paid off when he and Gappmaier grabbed a 5-3 advantage despite Sedgmen winning the race which reduced Berwick’s arrears to eight points once again.
Schlein and Doolan then collided in heat 13 and the referee awarded the race to Riss who was well clear at the time. Summers was second and Schlein third, with Doolan disqualified. Monarchs clinched the match points in the penultimate race when Max Clegg and Pickering, who brilliantly held out Howe, scored Monarchs second 5-1 of the meeting.
In the final heat Riss was excluded under the two-minute rule and had to start from 15 metres back. He did well to finish behind Doolan but his hopes of a maximum had gone.
Schlein, who scored nine points, said: “It was good to be back riding forEdinburgh again and I enjoyed myself and glad I helped them to the win.”
Monarchs: Riss 14, Schlein 9, Pijper 8, Sedgmen 8, Clegg 7, Pickering 5, Davey 2.
Berwick: Doolan 10, Etheridge 9, Summers 8, Howe 8, Gappmaier 3, Jacobs 1, Shuttleworth 0.