The IPA roadshow moved to the superb Hilton Hotel located in the heart of Bradford, West Yorkshire, for the second event on the IPA Tour calendar 2014. The World’s finest pool players from both the UK and abroad (including as far afield as South Africa) congregated for the English Open and Amateur contests, as well as the UK Professional event for the elite Blackball exponents.
As most pool players know, Blackball is rapidly becoming the rule set of choice for more and more of the better players, both home and abroad, as its attacking nature enthrals both players and spectators alike, frame after frame wither in person or via the quality livestream.
Starting on Friday afternoon with over a hundred contenders looking to take the various titles, trophies, and prize money back to their respective homes, the action got underway with the Open event and with the double elimination format in operation, everyone was guaranteed that extra ‘life’ in the competition. With the ‘big guns’ seeded to the last 64, there was a chance for everyone to make it through to the knockout stages with their two lives, and what a fierce battle it turned out to be. Father and son Perry & Josh Durant progressed to the last 64, joined by the impressive Chris Rowlands (who is rapidly making a name for himself) plus juniors Liam McPherson & Luke Sanges, as well as 27 others who then had the daunting task of toppling a seeded player.
As always, the last 64 produced its share of shocks, with highflying professional James Croxton succumbing to Rowlands possibly the biggest “surprise” of the round, though that is the lure of the sport – on their day any player can win (or lose) accordingly. The Durants kept the family ball rolling with fantastic performances against professionals Andy Macdonald and Dan Davy though IPA Chairman Kev Barton rolled back the years to produce a stunning last frame clearance to defeat the highly talented Ben Rodgers in a see saw battle and save face on a day when the pros kept on falling against expectations.
As we eventually progressed to the quarter final line up, seven of the eight places were occupied by professional players, with the lone amateur amongst them Drew Hughes, who had whitewashed Jordan Shepherd en route. Indeed, Hughes kept his form together to defeat more pros in Jon McAllister and Jason Rimington to take his place in the final and make everyone sit up and take notice. His opponent would be one of the giants of the IPA – Neil Raybone, who dumped out both Tour Number One Gareth Hibbott and top Welsh star Craig Marsh to challenge Hughes for the title of JLEC English Open champion.
As you would expect with so much at stake, the final was a tense affair, but the free flowing pool we had witnessed across all 19 tables throughout the day continued, and eventually it was Raybone who triumphed 9-5 against his worthy opponent, with a superb all round performance and high hopes from both players for the rest of the tour
As we moved on to the Amateur event, the early rounds were scheduled in 16 groups, thus ensuring all the players got plenty of matches with the top of each group progressing to the last 32, with the remaining 16 places achieved via victory in the play-offs.
Cambridge’s Andy Lucas came through a nail biting decider against Hull’s Wayne Bristow in the last 32 which may have boosted his confidence as he then went on to reach the final following comfortable victories against Lee Thacker, Curtis Lee and Connor Jones, to face England International Matty Smith, who himself had made light work of European Champion David Rooney, plus Mark Cottingham and Sean Bates.
Both players had their chances in the final to be fair, but it was the ultra cool head and experience of Lucas that took the spoils by 5 frames to 3 and surely it is only a matter of time before this legend of the game joins the Pro ranks that his ability richly deserves?
Lastly, we finally got to the cream of the crop and the IPA Professional event -for many the highlight of the weekend and certain to be a tournament not to miss. Trying to pick a winner from the long list of talent would be close to impossible yet battle commenced with some huge matches from the start, with the all Welsh battle of Kristian Phillips taking on Ben Davies, plus recently awarded IPA “Lifetime Achievement” winner Jason Twist against the equally legendary Ronan McCarthy – certainly matches to grace a final let alone a last 16 encounter. Phillips and McCarthy were the victors, while there were also early exits for Croxton and Tour winner Raybone, showing once again the strength in depth at the highest level.
World Championship runner up Clint I’Anson kept up his recent top form, defeating Phillips and then Scott Higgins in a mouth-watering semi final that ended in a deciding frame shoot out, with his opponent in waiting the evergreen McCarthy, who defeated Welsh duo Jordan Shepherd and Craig Marsh in the quarters and semis respectively.
I’Anson v McCarthy- youth v experience, and a cracking final on paper, though as is sometimes the case, one player brings his A+ game, leaving his opponent little more than crumbs on the occasional visit, and we all know there is little you can do if you rarely get a chance to get among the balls..
So it proved here, with McCarthy never really getting to the table – it was ‘one of those’ matches, and he just never got going. Clint, on the other hand, was playing superb Blackball pool with some nice pieces of run which always help, and the 9-3 victory was about the right score. So it’s a second IPA professional title for I’Anson, which moves him up the rankings at a rate of knots, while poor Ronan was left to reflect on what might have been – until Glasgow 13th 15th June of course – see you there!