Wednesday September 29, 2021
BIRMINGHAM’S season is over after they were beaten 50-40 by Edinburgh in the second leg of their KO Cup quarter-final at Perry Barr.

The Monarchs progress to the last four of the competition where they will face Glasgow, leaving Brummies fans anxiously awaiting news of whether they will be able to race on into 2022 under new ownership.

Trailing by 18 points from the away leg, the home side simply had to make a fast start – but the task always looked to be beyond them.

The Edinburgh top four put up a terrific performance with Josh Pickering going through the card with a spectacular 15-point maximum, whilst Sam Masters also scored a full house from four rides.

In all, the Monarchs provided 12 of the 15 race wins, and although the Brummies battled away, even victory on the night was a step too far.

The absence of high-scoring reserve Paco Castagna was clearly a contributory factor as his replacement Dillon Ruml carded zero from three rides, and the best support for skipper Chris Harris came from the recently revitalised Valentin Grobauer and youngster Jack Thomas, who completed a praiseworthy season with a paid-nine haul.

Thomas took victory in Heat 2, but the Monarchs put the tie all but out of reach with successive 5-1s in the next two races, with Ashley Morris falling on the first bend of Heat 3 and guest Dan Gilkes combining with Richie Worrall in Heat 4.

There was a Brummies response in Heat 6 when Harris and Grobauer took a 5-1 over Worrall, but the profitable partnership of Pickering and Kye Thomson saw off Erik Riss in Heat 7 to rebuild the advantage.

Grobauer and Thomas struck back in Heat 8 but that turned out to be the Brummies’ final heat advantage and indeed their final race win of the night as the Monarchs were largely content to hold the gap with a string of heat victories.

As ever, Harris was involved in much of the best action with a fighting ride to pass Thomson in Heat 10 and he also attempted to reel in Pickering, but when Masters won the next race the tie was officially beyond the Brummies.

Thomas gained a thoroughly deserved nomination for Heat 15 and was very much in the mix, although the main fight was out-front with Harris throwing everything at Pickering only for the Australian to superbly hold on and complete his full score – on a track where he suffered severe concussion in a crash two years ago.

Brummies manager Laurence Rogers said: “It was a disappointing night for us, but congratulations to Edinburgh, they were hotter than us from the gate.

“We really missed Paco, his character in the pits is also worth points, and I felt sorry for Dillon who got some hard rides but no points.

“Also congratulations to (track curator) John Priest who was here from 6.30am and got the track dried out, then it rained and dried out again – we nearly called the meeting off twice, but he persevered. It was a little slicker than we wanted it, but we got the meeting on.

“Overall, I want to say our seven riders have been brilliant. They’ve been a joy to work with and team manage, and I’d like to thank them for their efforts.

“As for the future, I’m certainly not giving up hope. There’s lots going on in the background, so watch this space and hopefully we’re going to make an announcement soon.”

BIRMINGHAM 40: Chris Harris 9+2, Jack Thomas 8+3, Valentin Grobauer 7+1, Ashley Morris 6, James Shanes 5+2, Erik Riss 5, Dillon Ruml 0.
EDINBURGH 50: Josh Pickering 15, Sam Masters 12, Kye Thomson 9+2, Richie Worrall 7, Dan Gilkes 4+2, Drew Kemp 2, Anders Rowe 1.
Edinburgh win 104-76 on aggregate.

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