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A Snooker hall that appeared to have been lifted directly from the set of BBC’s Ashes to Ashes was the location for Saturday’s nail-biting Roses match-up. The retro décor did nothing to dampen the spirit or quality of the snooker on show however, with the tie won in quite literally the closest possible fashion.
With Lancaster coming into the event with the memory of last years 5-0 hammering fresh in the collective mind, Captain Joey Wong looked to reassure his players, telling SCAN that he and his team were ‘quietly confident’ after their success in the pool the day before. This undaunted attitude was reflected in York’s team, claiming ‘a joyous win last year’ and going on to assert that ‘on a scale of one to confident, were pretty much up there.’
Lancaster began strongly, with Scott Lewty overcoming York’s George Hogg 2-0 with scores of 58 and 53, compiled with a combination of good long potting and steady safety play. Hogg seemed disappointed with his performance and the sport in general claiming that ‘snooker’s the worst game ever’. He was clearly feeling the pressure.
The strong start was continued for Lancaster by Graham Gibson; he dug in to win a tightly contested first frame against Ben Goodwin that was dominated by safety play and substandard potting, culminating in a 40-31 win for the red rose. In an effort to change the course of events Goodwin resorted to psychological tactics in the second, removing his shoes. It was to no avail however as Gibson recovered a 24 point deficit to win the frame 51-48.
After losing four consecutive frames York’s captain Matt Robson decided to play himself in the next match against Lancaster’s Richard Floyd. The tactic paid off, with Robson seeing out a poor start to dominate the first frame 62-22, showing some nice cue ball control along the way. Floyd battled hard but the York player began to show his class, building breaks and playing a couple of excellent snookers to win the second frame by a massive 58-6.
The fourth match pitted York’s Kane Needham against Lancaster’s secret weapon – Connor McCormack, a product of the same Irish Snooker hall as professional player Mark Allen. It certainly seemed that the McCormack’s pedigree would show through in the early stages as he raced away to a strong lead, leaving Needham looking stunned. McCormack’s cue power fired him to a 68-43 victory in the first frame. This success may have bred a little complacency in the Lancastrian though, as he seemed to lose his focus and temper when shots didn’t go his way. Needham, no slouch on the baize himself, capitalised to win 56-22 and take the match to a deciding frame. Unfortunately McCormack never regained the focus he had found in the first frame, and although it stayed very close on all reds, York took the colours to win 50-29.
This left the tournament balanced at 2 matches apiece; step up Lancaster’s captain to guide his side to the Roses points. The players drew a large public audience in what was by far the best match of the day, with long frames testing the player’s skills in all areas. The first frame required a respotting of the black to find a winner, and York edged it 68-61. Wong recovered though, creating a 15 point lead through good positional play in the second frame, and continued by potting the majority of colours to win 54-38 and take the match to its perhaps inevitable conclusion; a final frame decider.
Unsurprisingly safety play dominated at the outset, but York’s Mungo Day managed to build a 15 point lead early on. This was slowly eaten into in the most dramatic way possible by Wong, leaving the scores level with only two reds left to pot. Mistakes began to creep into both players’ games as the tension got to them, yet Wong found himself in a 16 point lead with four balls remaining. It allowed Day to pot three of them, making the score 42-41 in York’s favour with just the black on the table. After a 15 minute tussle the mistake was made by Lancaster and York took the pot and the points for their side.
By Scott Gibson