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INTERLEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP 2002
The National Interleague Finals held over the weekend of 12/13/14 April produced some major shocks and real controversy which, when you add them together, produces the unique atmosphere of one of pool's five major Yarmouth events. The season starts off with the All England inter county finals. The second major of the season is this one the National Interleague finals.
Only in this competition can good local league players take on the seasoned professionals knowing that it's going to be over a single frame and, statistically speaking, have a good chance of winning.
You will have your whole willing you to win and in a team based competition this can be the turning point as all the tribal emotions of normally sane individuals take over, so even If you do fail you have a whole team ready to take up the challenge after you. Where else can you get such a tournament?
The first major shock of the event was the dumping out of the competition of Rochester, used to a minimum of a quarter final spot, by the in form Birmingham Irish by 19 frames to 15 in a double header group.
Two other big names that failed to negotiate the round robin section were Guildford Independent (Surrey) and Desborough (Northants) who were drawn in the same group as Token Amusements (Dorset) so it was probably one of the toughest groups to qualify from on a different day there would have been a different result that's how tough the group was.
Barking Elite, (Essex) the defending Champions got off to a shaky start when Godalming (Surrey) managed to force a 9-9 draw out of them, Although it has to be said they were not the same team that stormed to the winning line last April. They were missing Tony Parker, missing through illness and Paul Goldstaub just missing.
Godalming then played and beat A1 Telecom (Shropshire) by 10 frames to 8 which meant that Barking Elite had to beat A1 Telecom 11-7 to progress to the last 32 by right. They fell short of their target but did beat A1 Telecom by the same score as Godalming thus setting up a two way tie between Barking Elite and Godalming. Barking's New P.P.P.O. Player Rob Hill duly made sure that Barking made it through to the last 32 with a break & dish. This is one of the hardest ways to get eliminated because it's a one frame play off where as in the knockout stages the play offs are over best of three frames. It's tough on the losing team but in the group stages you can never find three tables next to each other that are available to use for a three frame play off. On the other hand the teams get 54 frames to sort themselves out in regulation time so maybe it's not so tough after all.
Another group that needed a play off to separate the teams was the one involving Preston's Alloa's, Suffolk's Sudbury and Cherryhouse (Nottingham) Alloa's and Cherryhouse fought out a tough 9-9 Alloa's then won the toss to see which of the two teams would be going straight back on again. The Preston boys must have regretted that decision when they watched Cherryhouse demolish Sudbury by 14 frames to 4 to leave the Alloa's a mountain to climb if they were going to progress to the last 32. if the Alloa's were shocked at what they had to do just think how Cherryhouse felt when after such a convincing win and almost certain qualification they saw the Alloa's hit Sudbury by the same score to set up the tie break. Lee Clough duly saw the boys from Preston through.
If that's a tough way to go out at least the result is in your own hands it must be sickening to have no control over your fate. In the first match in their group Beverley (East York's) beat Essex's Harlow 11-7. Harlow then beat Coalville (Nottinghamshire) 11-7 meaning that Harlow's fate lay in Coolville's hands who had to beat Beverley to give both Harlow and themselves any chance of progressing. Unfortunately, Coalville were not up to standing up to the Beverley onslaught who were determined to make sure there were no slip ups and ensured that it was they that went through to the last 32 by beating Coalville 8-4
The nightmare group in the round robin section was the one involving Bedford A (Bedfordshire) Coventry A (Warwickshire) And Trent Trophies B (Staffordshire) in the first match Bedford A drew 9-9 with Coventry A. Coventry A won the toss and put Bedford back into the fray whilst they chilled out and watched the other two fight it out. Coventry will have been pleased to see Bedford & Trent Trophies end up as a 9-9 as well because it meant that all they would need to progress was the win against their final opponents Trent trophies. Despite the fairly easy target for Coventry Trent Trophies were not prepared to make it easy for Coventry and forced yet another 9-9 draw. This obviously meant that all three teams had finished level in every respect. The first time this has happened in the event's history. There was no provision for what happens in this situation so the tournament organisers got together and decided that each team supply two players to play in a three way play off. And to show that the group was as tight as it could be all three teams took a frame each. The captain's were told to pick a separate set of six players (to ensure that it was team based rather than the captains putting the same six players in again) this finally broke the deadlock with Coventry A winning both of the three frames and qualifying for the last 32.
The draw for the last 32 was drawn on the top table by Lena Smith from Littlehampton and Annette Cross from Chatham and announced during the round robin section. The draw threw up some interesting clashes with the majority of the fancied teams ending up on the bottom section of the draw.
Once the group stage has finished we are left with our last 32 and the stage where nothing less than a win will see you into the next round.
Birmingham Irish (west Midlands) made short work of Ipswich (Suffolk) by taking the first three frames on the bounce and although Ipswich pulled it back to 2-3 Birmingham Irish maintained their lead from that point onwards and never looked in any real trouble eventually running out 10-5 winners this despite Ipswich having I.P.A. Professional Alan Mower in their ranks.
Alloa's had the easiest passage through to the last 16 with their crushing 10-0 whitewash of Beehive (Oxfordshire)
Barking Elite who performed below expectations in the round robin stage could have done without drawing Sun Valley (Nottinghamshire) to go through to the last 16 if for no other reason Sun Valley has knocked them out of this event before. Barking started the match in fine form taking three of the first four frames but after that Sun Valley clawed their way back into the match eventually finding themselves in front at 5-4 at the half way stage. The match ended or appeared to end when barking elite went in off the leave Sun Valley with two shots to win the frame and match with the score standing at 9-7 to Sun Valley but for some inexplicable reason the player forgot to pot his last two colours and potted the black out of turn.
Just as unbelievable was the fact that no one noticed this fact and both teams thought the match was over. Whilst they were shaking each others hands one of the spectators pointed out that the player had forgot to pot his last two balls before potting the black.
Add to that when they players on an adjacent table saw what was going on stopped playing thinking that the match had ended so there was no point to finishing their frame. In the confusion someone moved all the balls on this table down the pockets.
Once the initial frame, after some debate, was awarded to Barking making the score 9-8 to Sun valley attention moved on to the other table. After another long debate about just who had moved the balls and with neither team prepared to admit that their player had moved the ball it was decided to replay the frame because there was no way to replace the balls where they were ain addition because it was impossible to find out who had moved the balls it seemed the fairest way for both teams. In the re-racked frame Sun Valley broke and dished knocking out Barking Elite in a somewhat bizarre fashion.
First up in the last sixteen matches was the local derby in potentially volatile clash between Birmingham Irish (West Midlands) and Wolverhampton (Warwickshire) it needed a play off to decide which of the two were staying in the competition and who was not going to be playing on Sunday Morning in the end Wolverhampton proved just a little to strong for Birmingham winning the play off 2-0.
P.J.'s Stourbridge (West Midlands) took on Beverley in a match where P.J.'s showed a clean pair of heals to there opponents by 10 frames to 3 a pretty comprehensive win by any one's standards.
Probably the biggest geographical distance between any of the teams present was the head to head between Weston (Somerset) and Ulverston (Cumbria) unfortunately for Ulverston Weston were in no mood to party and set about the destruction of the Cumbrian outfit 10-6.
Last in the top half of the draw was the match between Ollerton A (Nottinghamshire) and Coventry A. Coventry were obviously a little battle weary after their marathon battle to be their group winners whilst Ollerton were fresh and raring to go following their relatively, in the end, easy qualification from their group.
Morley International (west Yorkshire) had absolutely no problem qualifying from their group with scores of 16-2 against Gala B (Staffordshire) and 9-4 against Reigate (Surrey). But then if you had in your Team the Current World Champion, The current European Champion, an Irish international, A Hong Kong international, A top sixteen ranked U.K. Tour Player and a former top professional during the eighties perhaps you might expect to do well in this type of event.
East Herts were Morley's first real opposition but even they found it hard going finding themselves 6-0 down before they posted their first frame. You can't give a team like Morley a six frame start and expect to do anything other than lose and that was exactly what happened although to be fair to East Herts they did pull themselves together after their disastrous start to make a match of it losing out in the 10-6 and ruffling a few feathers on their way out of the event.
Rotherham (South Yorkshire) and Walsall A (West Midlands) also needed a play off to separate the two teams and just like the Wolverhampton and Birmingham, the play off was won 2-0 in this case the victors were Rotherham.
Trent Trophies A (Staffordshire) were starting to look menacing and took Yeovil (Somerset) out of the equation by ten frames to six.
The Alloa's managed to sneak past Barking Elite's conquers Sun Valley (Nottinghamshire) by the odd frame in the play off in a very tight match winning 11-10
Once down to the last eight things really start to warm up and most matches are hard to predict because all the teams are so good that given a favourable break they will all clear up
The Wolverhampton versus P.J.'s Stourbridge quarter final looked on paper to be a real tough battle but P.J.'s Stourbridge exchanged frame for frame until the half way point of the match but then hit Wolverhampton for five of the next six frames to book their place in the semi finals
Weston took on Ollerton and unlike the previous match which started in a nip & tuck fashion. Ollerton started like a train taking the first four frames. In the middle section of the match frames were traded on a one for one basis until Ollerton took complete control of the match with another four frame run and took the match 10-6.
A real cracker on paper was the match between Morley International and Rotherham with Daz Ward, Karl Milner & Martin Hazell in their line up but the reality of it was one sided. The match started of tightly. After the first five frames Rotherham were leading by he odd frame. That was as good as it got for Rotherham as Morley rattled of six frames on the spin the run was started by Rob Gale and ended by Ben Finch with frames from Chris Melling, Andy, Shane & Darren Appleton in between those two frames.
The tightest match of the ¼ finals was the titanic struggle between Trent Trophies A and Alloa's, Trent Trophies started off strongly taking a 3-1 lead but the Preston boys clawed their way back and took the lead by winning four of the next five frames. Now it was Trent's turn to play catch up. The match eventually ended up 9-9 after the regulation 18 frames so a tie break was needed to split the teams. Trent Trophies put Lee Kendall, Gareth Potts & Daz Henshall. Alloa's put their faith in Russ McGrady, Dave Chalmers and Lee Clough. Trent took the play off 2-1 to stay in the event but Alloa's may feel that they should have been the ones still in it.
The first Semi Final was between P.J.'s Stourbridge and Ollerton A and what a match at the halfway point P.J.'s were 7-2 up and looked like breezing through to the final Ollerton A on the other hand refused to admit defeat and took the next two frames to cut the deficit to 7-4. When P.J.'s took the next to go 8-4 up the writing looked to be on the wall. Ollerton far from giving in took the game to P.J.'s and rattled of the next six frames on the bounce to take the match 10-8. P.J.'s understandably were a little shell shocked whilst watching Ollerton players running round the table with joy at reaching the final and the fact that they had just pulled of a major miracle in coming back from the dead.
If the first semi final produced high drama the second one between Trent Trophies and Morley International produced a moment that will go down in pool history. The match itself was fairly uneventful up to the point where Morley and Trent were level at 9-9 and needed a play off to separate the teams. two frames were completed with a frame going to each team to make the score 10-10 and all attention turned to the final frame of the match between Darren Appleton of Morley International and Daz Henshall of Trent Trophies. It came to the final frame of the play off between Trent Trophies Daz Henshall and Morley's Darren Appleton to separate the two teams. Henshall went for a finish with a number of balls on the table but left the black hanging over the pocket. His saving grace was that he had left the cue ball in a very awkward position for Appleton to do anything with, however, he tried to double a ball in the centre pocket but the cue ball went in the corner pocket. At the same time as the cue ball dropped the black ball dropped. Thinking the frame and match was over because he assumed he had lost the frame he went over and shook hands with Daz Henshall. The referee spotted the players shaking hands and cleared the remaining balls from the table. Then the controversy started.
Under world rules if the black drops without being hit, it and all other balls moved or potted are replaced in their original positions (or as near as possible to their original positions) and the player retakes the shot.
The Morley team then tried to argue that the rules should be enforced and the frame continues from where Darren left off. This then sparked Trent Trophies into saying that Darren had conceded the frame when he shook Daz's hand. After a long and sometimes heated debate involving the Senior Referee, the Table Referee, the Players involved, the team captains and the tournament officials. It was eventually decided that Darren had conceded the frame.
The incident although marring the event and is without doubt is a very unsatisfactory way to decide a teams fate. If anything good came from it, it was the way in which Darren Appleton conducted himself whilst all hell broke loose around him. It shows that despite the pressure surrounding him as captain of Morley he still put the game of pool before his own interests and shows what a true professional he really is.
After the commotion the final was a muted affair but it still managed to produce some great pool but once Trent Trophies had took the lead there was only ever going to one winner it could well be all the commotion had affected Ollerton team more than it affected Trent Trophies. Trent Trophies ran out 10 -6 winners.