When it comes to reviews of pool tournaments, short and sweet seems the way forward, with even the most ardent of fans likely to quickly switch off if given a ball by ball account – so I won’t.
Week Two of the SportyStuff Champions Cup had a lot to live up to, and I had to wonder if we could reach the high levels of the first week when reigning champion Liam Dunster got knocked out in the very first match – but they did, and possibly even surpassed it. As a new tournament we all expected a few teething problems but to be fair they were few and far between, and the picture quality was comfortably the best I have ever seen – crystal clear on every shot. More importantly all the players (winners and losers) reported back that the table was superb – not even a hint of a roll off so far – and that the whole day was an experience they will never forget. Presenter Kelly Scott has been a revelation growing in to the role day on day, leaning about the sport and calming the players ahead of (for some) their first televised appearance, while Marc “Pickers” Pickworth has filled in nicely on the commentary when needed, though his daily picks have left plenty to be desired so far! Add in Dan Fairway on the mike who is rapidly becoming the voice of blackball pool, chairman Kevin Barton, and the professionalism of Jim Wych, and the team is already beginning to gel and can only get better over the months to follow. Better still, the programme is proving to be so popular that starting next week (7th June) we go on air half an hour earlier at 2.30pm – you just can’t have too much of a good thing I suppose.
On to the matches this past week and although everyone will have arrived with high expectations for this prestigious event, only one winner per day can go through to the last 16, and on Monday we saw our first whitewash when poor Myles Deleuse could not get any run of the balls early against Jonathan Bushnell before going down 6-0 but I know Myles and he is better than that. Pub players like myself can struggle to take on board the pressure out there, with lights, cameras, and significant prize money at stake. Add in high quality opponents throughout where even minor mistakes can become frame over, and it’s tough, but that is the nature of the sport and Myles will be back to fight another day and is sure to learn from the experience. Wade Morley will have already known he had a nightmare of a draw against Jordan Shepherd and so it proved as one of the tournament favourites steamrollered though 6-1 to make it an all Welsh final on the day. Unsurprisingly, the standards didn’t drop for a second but when Sheppy is on form, he is close to unplayable and came through 7-3 and now heads off to the last 16.
On Tuesday the shocks just kept on coming as fan favourite Clint I’Anson went down fighting to Chris Bowron in a 6-5 thriller that showcased everything good about pool. A see-saw tussle went one way then the other before underdog Chris held his nerve to take the final of the 13 frames as yet another odds-on shot bit the dust. Matt Brierley took out Drew Hughes in the later match that afternoon before succumbing 7-6 in the evening to Chris Bowron who really does like to leave his supporters on the edge of their seats with his second final frame victory. Dressed in gold, he certainly had the Midas touch that day and seems sure to be garnering ever more fans for both his pool and his personality -though perhaps not for his “dad dancing” walk-ons!
We wound up the week on Wednesday with what many saw as the toughest group so far, and both Steve Thompson and Cory Rees will agree with that sentiment as they crashed out 6-5 and 6-4 respectively to J J Faul and Jimmy Carney, who started slowly before dragging himself in to the match where it mattered. Once again we sat there wondering if the final could possibly live up to the standards of the earlier matches, but once again we weren’t let down with Jimmy following what is becoming a familiar pattern – start slowly, give away frames, regain focus, and come home clear. Poor J J did precious little wrong to be fair and must have thought it was all over bar the shouting, but “The Showman” never knows when he is beaten, and moved through to the next stage with a 7-5 success.
Next week we see three more days of top class action from Monday to Wednesday, including Number 13 ranked Dan Davy on Monday, IPA Chairman Kevin Barton who dusts off his cue on Tuesday and 2016 World Champion Gareth Hibbott on Wednesday, and remember 2.30pm starts on Sportystuff.tv – enjoy.