IT’S cup final fever time at the Oaktree Arena tonight (Tuesday) as the Somerset Rebels take on the Edinburgh Monarchs in the first leg of the Travel Plus Tours Premier League Knockout Cup final.
The match will be the 400th meeting to have been staged at the Oaktree Arena since it opened its gates for the first time on June 2, 2000.
This will be Somerset’s fifth appearance in the Premier League Knockout Cup Final, their first two in 2006 and 2007 saw them lose out to King’s Lynn, but it was most definitely a case of third time lucky in 2008 when they lifted the trophy for the first time, beating Workington in the Final.
Somerset will go into the match without reserve Ollie Greenwood - whose season was brought to a premature end when he suffered a broken collar-bone in the Rebels final home league match against Peterborough at the end of August - and will utilise Glasgow’s Hynek Štichauer as a guest replacement for the unfortunate Greenwood.
Despite Somerset succumbing to a home defeat at the hands of the Monarchs in that league meeting at the Oaktree Arena back in mid-August, Rebels team manager Garry May feels that nothing can be read into that match ahead of tonight’s first leg.
He said: “Once again we find ourselves going head to head with the Monarchs in a Grand Final, though on this occasion it will be for the KO Cup whereas for the past two seasons it has been for the Championship itself.
“Although Edinburgh came and won here at the Oaktree Arena in the league back in August, I don’t think too much can be read into that match, which has now been consigned to the history books and Tuesday’s first leg encounter is a brand new page in that book.
“The boys are especially keen to put in a good performance on Tuesday night, not only in order to build up a lead ahead of Friday’s second leg back up in Edinburgh, but to make amends for that league defeat as they know that they are a much better side than shown on that occasion, as our second-place finish in the league table and the fact we have come through to the final of the Knockout Cup without losing a match, home or away, proves.
“Whatever way you look at it, I think this will be a very close, and very exciting Final, and hopefully the Oaktree Arena will be packed with Somerset fans for Tuesday’s first leg and act that as all-important ‘eighth rider’.”