Week five of the SportyStuff Champions Cup this week, and the action was as fast and furious as previous weeks as you would expect with such a long list of top-class players called in to action. The one table arena, cameras, and lights continue to add that extra pressure and as a generalisation, you could see the difference between those used to playing in the bigger finals – and those that were a bit more un-nerved by the occasion.
With our standard “three day week”, namely Monday to Wednesday, we started off with 2019 World Champion Marc Farnsworth up again former professional snooker player Ryan Clark in what looked likely to be a tightly fought contest, and so it proved. They both took their time to settle, and to get to grips with the table (reportedly lightning fast), but it was Marc who fell over the line for a 6-5 success to progress to the evening final. The next match looked just as tough to call on paper at least as Tom Barley took on Simon Barker, but in all honestly Tom settled the faster of the two for a fairly comfortable 6-3 victory, though both players will have learned plenty from the experience.
In the evening it was odds-on with our numerous bookmaker partners for Marc Farnsworth to go through to the last sixteen, but all credit to Tom Barley for putting up a real fight and being part of one of the most enthralling matches we have seen so far. The final scoreline of 7-5 doesn’t really do the match justice, but experience of the big occasion may have made all the difference as the World Champion’s curse failed to strike, and Marc moved through to the next stage.
On Tuesday it was the turn of Dean Shields and Jake Dylan-Newlove to begin the entertainment as they fought out a ding-dong battle begore Jake came through with an outrageous fluke in the final frame, reminding us all that you need the pool Gods on your side as well as plenty of ability on the table to succeed at this level. Dean will be back and was a 50% partner in an intriguing match, but Jake went through to face the winner of Kristi Caulfield and Mark Boyle. Sadly, Kristi never really got going and he was always fighting a rearguard action before Mark came though 6-1 to face Jake in the 10.00pm match. Once again the bookmakers had it right as favourite Mark came through 7-3, seeing his odds for the tournament overall shrink dramatically after an impressive display.
Wednesday was the one we were all looking forward to as amateur tour winner Adam Bassoo took on commentator, presenter, media star and all-round heartthrob Marc Pickworth, in a match where IPA Chairman Kevin Barton had tipped against Marc, leaving the “Tiny Assassin” with something to prove. To everyone’s surprise Marc was on fire from the off before a little wobble mid-match before coming home 6-3, and setting up a final with either Jason Hill or current World Champion Jon McAllister. A lack of recent table time was evident for both players at times but some outrageous if played for shots from the Champ saw him stagger over the line 6-5, but would that have taken it out of him ahead of the evening session? Despite his earlier heroic efforts, Pickers couldn’t repeat his red-hot form a second time before losing 7-3, but he did remind us he can play pool a bit as well as anchor the TV coverage day in day out.
Next week we see three more days of top class action, with Luke Johnson v Darrel Whitworth and Rikki Jones v Matty Rowland for the final spot in the last 16 on Monday, with the winner back on against Robert Stephen on Tuesday before Ross Fernie against Craig Brown with the winners concluding Tuesday’s action. Add in Mark Boyle versus Chris Bowron and Andy Croasdale versus Jason Rimington on the Wednesday – and remember 2.30pm starts on Sportystuff.tv from now on – enjoy.