|Recognised by Sport England as the Governing Body for Pool in England|
INTERLEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP 2003
As the dust settles over the most recent edition of the Interleague finals one thing that everyone will agree on is that, yet again, it was an event where shocks were the order of the day, but it also had the stability of previous events to claim that whilst there may be shocks for some it’s business as usual for others. First of the “big Name” casualties were Rochester as they failed to negotiate the group stage.
East Yorkshire’s Goole started the ball rolling when they took care of Warwickshire’s Nuneaton by 11-7 in the opening group match. As losers, Nuneaton had to take on Kent’s Rochester and win to keep their hopes alive: not a task too many teams are capable of. Although Nuneaton took three of the opening four frames and looked good in doing so, Rochester opened up their arsenal and let loose with a seven frame salvo that took the wind out of Nuneaton’s sails. Nuneaton took the next two frames to make the score 5-8 but the match as a contest was over and Rochester eventually won 12-6.
This set up a head to head between Goole and Rochester for the group. Goole took the opening frame but the frames were traded on a pretty much one for one basis with Rochester taking the odd frame to lead 5-4 at the halfway point. Goole then laid the foundations for a famous victory by taking four frames in a row to leave Rochester in a very tricky position... of all Rochester’s big names only Ralph Winfield produced a performance that suggested that the Kent outfit could fight their way out of the situation. With only one of your big guns firing properly it’s no surprise that Goole put an early end to Rochester’s campaign by 10-7.
It’s the second time Rochester has been dumped out of the competition before they had a chance to get going. Rochester of old were always good for a quarter or semi final place so it was a big shock to see them bow out so early on in the event, underlining the fact that even the big boys no longer have the divine right to cruise through to the latter stages of the event.
Meanwhile on table one Staffordshire’s Trent Trophies A started their defence of their title against Somerset’s Radstock. Before the match it would have been a tough one to call but Trent Trophies appear to have gears to match any given situation. They took six of the first 9 frames thanks to the customary performances from Captain Nick Weller, Daz Henshall, Lee Kendall, Gaz Potts, Phil Condliffe and Steve Bridgewood.
With a 6-3 lead Trent Trophies were not going to be pegged back, not even by Radstock with their proud record in the event. Trent Trophies went on to take 6 of the 9 second half frames as well to win the match 12-6. Leaving Radstock with almost no hope of qualifying, thus leaving Matt Bull to concentrate on his England World Championship England team Qualifiers Play offs.
Having taken a pasting from Trent Trophies A the last thing they needed was to get a repeat performance from Cumbria’s Ulverston but that was exactly what they got. By the end of the first half Radstock found themselves looking at a 6-3 negative score line. Then to make matters worse they lost the next six frames as well and at 12-3 the only thing left for Radstock was to salvage some pride. This they did by winning the final three frames but I doubt whether there was too much joy in the Radstock coach on the way back to Somerset.
Given the way Trent Trophies and Ulverston took care of Radstock you would be forgiven for thinking that the match between the two would be as tight as a proverbial Scotsman’s wallet and that’s the way it started as well, Steve Prince of Trent Trophies taking the opening frame. Ulverston did an exceptional job of keeping a tight reign on Trent Trophies’s big names through the efforts of Mark McMurdo, James Jackson, Jason Ball and Chris McKeller. Who all took out Trent Trophies’ acknowledged frame winners. Unfortunately they could not do the same for the second half of the match when Gaz Potts, Steve Bridgewood, Darren Lightfoot and Phil Condliffe all atoned for their earlier defeats and turned the match their way eventually winning 10-6 and making their way through to the last 32.
Whilst the score reflects Trent Trophies strength as a team it is a little unfair on Ulverston who kept pace with Trent Trophies in the first section and had their chances in the second set but that is the reality of playing against Trent Trophies; if you don’t take your chances they will make you look ordinary.
One group that was all but over before it started was the one involving Surrey’s Tolworth and Lincolnshire’s Grantham. These two were the two big ones in the group and whoever won this one was ¾ of the way through to the last 32. Tolworth with all their experience were up against relative newcomers to the event. Whilst Grantham might be newcomers some of their players are not, undoubtedly the most experienced “big match” player in Grantham’s line up is Shane Balding. Grantham took four of the first five frames. Tolworth took the next two frames to close the gap to 3-5. Grantham then took another three frames to lead 8-3, which was Tolworth’s wake up call as they took 5 of the following six frames to put the wind up Grantham. Despite Grantham’s big lead for most of this match it still came down to the final frame. Grantham held their nerve and won the frame to win 10-8 but it was, in the end, a close run thing that proves that if you,re good enough you can take out teams with a lot more experience than yours but you are going to have to play well all through the match or experience could come back and bite you.
Tolworth’s defeat put them in the, for them, unusual position of having to go straight back on again to play Hertfordshire’s Hoddesdon and raced to an 8-1 lead at the turn round point and only needing two frames for the victory. After the turn round within three frames Tolworth had the win and with the score at 10-2 Tolworth took their eye off the ball and let Hoddesdon take five from seven frames to cut Tolworth’s lead to 10-6. The match finally ended with Tolworth winning 11-7.
It may have been that Tolworth were trying to give Hoddesdon some confidence
as Tolworth’s fate was in Hoddesdon’s hands. Grantham booked
their passage to the last 32 with ease but had a bit of a shock when
Hoddesdon took a 2-1 lead but after that it was one way traffic,Grantham
Reigate lost the toss to see who has a rest and who has to play again and took on Gainsborough and as they did in the first match lost the two opening frames. Then took the next two to level the match, Gainsborough again hit Reigate, this time with a four frame run only to see Reigate level the match again. In a final bid to win the match Gainsborough took the next three frames but yet again, Reigate found the strength to come back and win the final three frames.
All this left Gainsborough and Holderness knowing that all they had to do was win this match and they would win the group. Gainsborough drew first blood by taking the first three frames but could only watch as Holderness took the next five frames. Gainsborough recovered enough to take four of the next five frames. Holderness were first to reach the winning line but were not able to cross it as Gainsborough took the final frame of the match to draw level at 9-9 and set up a three way tie.
A change of the rules now allows for what the organisers feel is a better way of separating the teams. It used to be a single frame play off but now two players from each team are nominated to play the play off.
Team 1 player 1 plays Team 2 player 1 : Team 2 player 2 plays Team 3 player 1 : Team 3 player 2 plays Team 1 player 2
These matches are played simultaneously and the first team to win two frames are declared the winners if all three teams win a frame each then it all happens again with six different players until a team wins two of the three frames.
It took the second round of play offs before Gainsborough gained their place in the last 32 whilst it may seem complicated it certainly appears to work and spreads the pressure equally between the players and teams involved.
During the morning a draw is done on stage for the last 32 section of the competition
Once the group stage has decided which of the 96 teams will contest the knock out section of the event with the 32 group winners eager to do battle in a first team to win ten frames race.
This draw section is where some real gems are on view and the further you progress through the competition the more real clashes you get to see.
The first of the last 32 matches threw up Cambridgeshire’s Ely
and West Midlands Walsall Select.
One of the pre event’s favourites West Yorkshire’s Morley
International were drawn against Nottinghamshire’s Sun Valley in
a match that could quite easily be the final on another day.
The match started with England World team Championship Qualifier Bayden Jackson beating Steve Carter. Chris Melling then pulled Morley Level. Neil Jones restored Sun Valley’s lead. Mick Hill pulled it all back again and this was the pattern of the fist nine frames, Sun Valley taking the lead only to see Morley draw level by the next frame. The turning point came after the half way point when Sun Valley’s Anthony McMahon and Bayden Jackson combined to give Sun Valley a three frame cushion.
Mick Hill, Darren Appleton and Ben Finch kept a by now on the ropes Morley in the match but interspersed with their wins was a corresponding defeat, eventually it came to the point where Sun Valley’s Jim I’Anson went up against Morley’s Simon Barker in a frame that swung one way then the other. Sun Valley’s I’Anson went for it first but run out of position just before the finish. This left Simon Barker with the whole weight of Morley’s title hopes resting on his shoulders. Unfortunately he missed a very difficult plant, which had he made would have kept Morley in the hunt. Jim I’Anson went on and took the frame and the match. The cheer that went up when he potted the black was weird in that everyone in the hall knew what had happened even though they could not see the match.
The tournament had lost one of its top teams in the first round of the knock out stage something as rare as a snow flake in hell is one way of describing just how big a shock this really was.
West Midlands Walsall A took on Nottinghamshire’s Sutton and made very short work of them indeed. They took ten of the thirteen frames played in this match. In the end it was Walsall’s superior fire power with players like Jat Sandu and Matt Highway that made the difference in this match.
Kettering went out 7-10 to a rampant Brighton (COBHPL “A”) despite leading at one point 5-4. The turning point in this match came at the halfway point when Darren Welfare, Morray Dolan and John Sanders put Brighton 7-5 up and in doing so killed off Kettering’s fight. Kettering’s final breath in this match was provided by Bob Love who claimed his second win of the match but it was not enough to stop Brighton winning the final two frames to win 10-7 and put an end to Kettering’s tournament...
In another cruel twist of fate that draws throw up was the clash between P.J.'s Stourbridge and Trent Trophies A, yet another match that would not be out of place as a final. Just as the form book would suggest Trent Trophies won the match with a strong performance. The only thing that was a surprise was the margin 10-1 to Trent Trophies. If you need something to help you understand the surprise try this: P.J.'s Stourbridge line up look like this, Jarrod Griffiths, Lee Whitehouse, Ben Swinnerton and Paul Dunkey all of whom are too good to be in a team that lost 10-1 regardless of who that opposition was.Wolverhampton Wednesday took on Tony “Basher” Holgate’s Bude, and, given that Wolverhampton Wednesday are one of the top three teams in the event it was not surprising to see that their greater experience would see them through against a Bude team who are relative newcomers to the Interleague. And so it was, not even the charismatic presence of Irish International Tony Holgate could stop Wolverhampton Wednesday’s march through to the last sixteen. In the end it was all rather easy for Wolverhampton Wednesday as they cruised to a 10-3 win to set up a last sixteen match between another of the giants of the Interleague.
Nottinghamshire’s Ollerton were intent on following up their final appearance in the knock out cup last October with another one here and set about Goole like a team possessed. Andy Wilson, Kev Seaman and Sean Higgins set them up by taking the first three frames, a lead that Goole never really threatened, and by the same token Ollerton were never really put to the test with Chris Rigby finally booked Ollerton’s place in the last sixteen and Ollerton’s 10-5 win with three frames to spare.
Yet another of the teams that are part of the very fabric of the Interleague is Shropshire’s Dawley A. They are a team that always seem to get there or thereabouts just about every time they come to Yarmouth. Faced with the daunting task of putting an end to Dawley’s run was Durham’s Horden and although Horden took a 2-1 lead it was the only time they were hold it as Dawley first drew level and then took a two frame lead themselves. Horden took the next to trail by the odd frame. Dawley then took the next two to lead by three frames at the half way point of the match.
All credit must go to Horden for not giving up the cause and again closed the gap to a single frame by taking two frames when the second half got underway. That was as close as they were going to get because Dawley went in to overdrive and took the match with a four frame run that took them to the magical tenth and winning frame, leaving Horden to think what might have been.
Grantham, who despatched one of the “old Guard” teams, Tolworth, in the group stages, got as their reward a draw against another member of the “old Guard”. This time it was Warwickshire’s Coventry A. I don’t know if Coventry A were watching any of Grantham’s matches in the group section but they were determined not to let Grantham do to them what they had done to Tolworth and took the first four frames before Grantham’s solid as a rock Shane Balding stopped the rot and posted Grantham’s first frame. Unfortunately Grantham were unable to use Shane’s win to stage a recovery as Coventry piled on the misery by taking another two frames before Grantham’s Dave Woods added to Balding’s frame to trail at the half way point by 2-7. There aren’t too many teams that can come back from that sort of deficit. Coventry knowing that the win was just a matter of taking the three frames they needed for the win duly got them to win 10-3.
Grantham can be proud of the damage they inflicted on one of the events elder statesmen before falling to another of the old order teams. It usually takes a lot longer than just two visits to the event before you can clam a major Interleague scalp. Grantham have now achieved a result that moves them from the new kids on the block to a team that can beat good teams at this level.
Ipswich, on the face of it, drew what could only be described as a very
short straw indeed when they heard their reward for winning their group
was a head to head clash with London’s Imperial, a name that tends
to draw a sharp intake of breath when you hear it’s you that is
charged with halting their advance. A task incidentally, that the vast
majority of teams who have tried to do fail to achieve. That was the
enormity of the task facing Suffolk’s Ipswich if they wanted to
reach the last sixteen.
Ipswich must have sensed that Imperial were still reeling from the shock of seeing a team hit them as hard as they hit them and Alan Mower, Michael Puntchart, P. Twomey and Mark Keeble all won to put Ipswich 7-6 up. Ipswich by then had the bit between their teeth and were in no mood to give up their hard won lead. Imperial sent in to bat in a desperate attempt to regain the initiative Ramesh Gokhul, John Sullivan, John Wylie, Ben Clements, Brian Evans and Darren Suchley. With a line up like that facing you you have to admire Ipswich’s grit and determination not to collapse. Ipswich finally won 10-8 to send shock waves running through the hall as the second of the highly fancied teams had crashed out of the competition much earlier than anyone would have predicted. Even Ipswich would not have predicted that Imperial would fall so early in the event.
Hertfordshire’s East Herts took on Leicestershire’s Leicester, both these teams have a solid record in the event with history slightly favouring Leicester in terms of progress in the event added to which Leicester were finalists in the knock out cup last October. Leicester took the opening two frames through Lee Ross and Scott Taylor. Neil Toms and Andy Collett restored parity. Adam Philips and Steve Morris put Leicester two up again. East Herts then hit Leicester with a four frame salvo that would turn the course of the match in East Herts favour through Dave Langham, England youth international Danny Miller, Mark Thrussell and Tour Player Tony Vickers. Tom Ford raised Leicester’s hopes when he cut East Herts lead to one frame. Andy Collett then restored East Herts two frame lead. Steve Morris and Paul Bright added two more frames for Leicester to level the match and put it all back in the melting pot. With the score at 7-7 nerves started to take over as both teams’ players were making errors but East Herts held themselves together more than Leicester and eventually took three of the final four frames to end Leicester’s attempt to reach another final.
Nottinghamshire’s Chesterfield took on Suffolk’s Sudbury in a match of two halves. The first nine frames were a tight affair with Chesterfield taking the opening two frames only to see Sudbury take the next two. Chesterfield restored their lead through Dave Knowles. Once more Sudbury levelled the match through P. Slinger. Bob Snell and Andy Marples put Chesterfield two up again. Yet again Sudbury came back, and took the final frame of the half to trail by a single frame at 5-4. If the first nine frames were nip and tuck the same cannot be said of the second half as Chesterfield took the next five frames on the bounce thanks to Jason Rimmington, Jordan Johnson, Steve Evans, Martin Langley and Dave Knowles. The onslaught took chesterfield over the victory line so fast that they could hardly believe it themselves whist Sudbury were left wondering how they could have let it slip the way they had after all their efforts in the first half.
The match between Surrey’s Godalming and Bedfordshire’s Bedford A looked like being a tough match to call and so it proved with Godalming winning a frame only to see Bedford hit back with a frame of their own. Bedford then strung two frames in a row together to lead by the single frame.Godalming countered this with a three frame run thanks to Steve Johnson, Darren Dodds and Dave Penly. Once again Bedford responded and cut Godalming’s lead back to a single frame at what seemed a crucial time in the match Bedford put on another little spurt and took three frames in a row to lead 8-6. Godalming’s Max Brooker got a frame back before Bedford posted their ninth frame. There was no way back for Godalming at this point as if they didn’t win the final two frames and force a play off they were on their way home. Thankfully, for them that is, Dave Hall and Dave Penly managed to take the final two frames for Godalming to stop Bedford from winning the match and set up a tie break. Godalming’s Matt Cooke and Lee Hudson took two of the three frames to steer Godalming into the last sixteen...
Trent Trophies B have a lot to live up to given the success their A team has achieved over the years. It can’t be easy having to be second best but when you’re A team is as strong as Trent Trophies A: it’s something you have to live with. So when they drew Warwickshire’s Rugby with Andy Barnett amongst others in their line up they must have thought that this will be a toughie. Trent Trophies B took the first frame. But Rugby through Andy Barnett and Pete Evans took the lead. Chris Barrs then put Trent Trophies back on level terms. Rugby again took the lead but could not do much about the three frame run that Trent Trophies put together to take the lead again. Rugby took the next two frames to draw level once again. Then the wheels fell off for Rugby as Trent Trophies started to rack up frame after frame. Rugby was left to wonder how they let Trent Trophies take the five frames they need to secure the win without really putting up much of a fight. The match eventually finished 10-6 in Trent Trophies B favour.
Two relative new teams took on each other in the tie between Nottinghamshire’s Gainsborough and Hampshire’s Gosport. Gainsborough was the more experienced of the two teams but that didn’t count for much as Gosport set about them despite losing the first two frames. Gosport fought back to trail by a single frame. Then Gosport launched a five frame assault on Gainsborough that knocked the stuffing out of the Gainsborough team. Gainsborough never recovered from the assault and despite winning the odd frame to keep their hopes alive it never really looked as if they were going to find the form needed to get them out of the mire. In contrast once Gosport made the break they never allowed Gainsborough back into the match and won fairly comfortably 10-6 in the end.
The final last 32 ties was a bit of a mismatch as Nottinghamshire’s Friar Tuck was paired with Lancashire’s finest the Alloa’s. To be fair to Friar Tuck they were not as bad as the 10-1 score line might suggest after all they had won their group. You can’t possibly do that without having a good team. However, the Alloa’s team is not one noted for being nice to their opposition. Their aim is to win the match, have a rest, and get ready for the next one. Who the casualties of this approach are is not something the Alloa’s concern themselves with. They were 5-0 up before Friar Tuck posted their first win. After this little hiccup the Alloa’s took the next five to complete the rout. It will be a long time before Friar Tuck recovers from the mauling in terms of the Interleague. And no doubt will want to keep a low profile for as long as possible. For the Alloa’s it was one of their most compelling team performances to date and set them up nicely for later on in the tournament.
Its around about this stage of the competition that the teams still in the event are thinking is this our year, get through this round and we’re one of the big boys, and for this particular year it had a special significance with so many of the big name teams already out of the event. It was a golden opportunity for some of the other teams to make a name for themselves. For Sun Valley however, they are already considered as one of the “big boys” and having taken out Morley International in the previous round were looking to consolidate their reputation... However, the road to Interleague glory is littered with teams that took care of a big threat only to find they themselves are victims of a giant killing act. Walsall Select are a team that should not be taken lightly and set off by taking 5 of the opening six frames. From this point onward Sun Valley were under the cosh. Even though Sun Valley started eating into the deficit from then on it was really a question of whether the frames would run out before Sun Valley caught up. John Brinkworth, Lee Howitt, Bayden Jackson and Stanley all did their best to close the gap but it was too late as Walsall Select put together another run taking 4 out of five frames to kill off the giant killers of the previous round.
Walsall A, Select’s West Midlands near neighbours are a team that are well used to reaching the latter stages of this event whilst their opponents Brighton over the past few events have under performed by their own high standards. This time round it was Sussex’s Brighton or to give them the name they chose to go under the City of Brighton and Hove Pool League (C.O.B.H.P.L.) who took the early initiative with wins for Darren Welfare, Moray Dolan, John Steadman and Paul McNeil which left Brighton 4-2 up. Walsall came back with three frames of their own through Paul Dobson, Bowen and Matt Highway. It seemed Walsall had weathered the Brighton storm when Jat Sandhu added another two frames to their score.
Back came Brighton with frames from Peter Ashman, Moray Dolan, Paul McNeil, Paul Nichols and Damien Campsey to steal victory from the jaws of defeat and leave Walsall to wonder how they let the chance to put an end to Brighton slip through their hands.
The wonderful thing about draws is that you never can tell who will be playing who and at what stage they will have to play them. The last 16 clash between the two most successful teams in Interleague history in Staffordshire’s Trent Trophies A and West Midlands Wolverhampton Wednesday was the final on more than one occasion, so this match was the “main attraction” in the last sixteen matches to the teams already out as well as the neutrals in the crowd..
Trent Trophies made it clear from the start that they were not going to mess around as Gaz Potts, Lee Kendall, Nick Weller, Darren Lightfoot and Phil Condliffe fired in winning frames to lead 5-2. Only Rob Chiltern and Neil Raybone posted wins for Wolverhampton Wednesday. There aren’t many teams that can recover from giving such a start to Trent Trophies but if any one could it would be Wolverhampton Wednesday. Rob Chilton, Neil Raybone and skipper Sean Eaton-Lees pulled the score back to just a single frame at 6-7. Sadly for Wolverhampton Wednesday that was the high water mark of their campaign as Darren Lightfoot, Lee Kendall and Phil Condliffe all posted wins with the later being the one that took Trent Trophies over the winning line. That meant that yet another team that usually goes a long way in this event had gone out much earlier than they would have expected to.
In another big clash Nottinghamshire’s Ollerton took on Shropshire’s Dawley A and what a roller coaster of emotions this match was. Dawley made last years finalists look like a bunch of ordinary pub players as Dawley raced to a 6-3 lead from being two one down. From that point Ollerton started to exert pressure on Dawley by eating away at their lead through Andy Wilson and Kev Seaman. Dale Blagborough edged Dawley closer to the winning line when he took the next. Ollerton turned the heat up when Gary McLeod, Bill Rigby and son Chris Rigby all won to make the score 7-7. Now it was about nerve rather than skill that would determine who would be going out and who would get another match. Sean Yates put Dawley back in front for the final time as Ollerton through ShaneOverton and Neil Jones pushed Ollerton past the winning line to rob Dawley of a place in the next round. Poor old Dawley must have spent Saturday night trying to work out what they did wrong after being in such a strong position...
It is in effect an illustration of just how good the teams are at this level. Once they get a head of steam up not even a team with Dawley’s class can stop them, at this stage of the competition it’s no longer about winning the frames its about being big enough to take the frames.
Warwickshire’s Coventry A put an end to Suffolk’s run but had to work hard for it. It went the way of all of the matches at this level, that is, one team puts together a run of three or so frames somewhere in the match and the other team never quite recovers from it no matter how hard they try. Ipswich started the best when Alan Mower and Paul Keeble put them 2-1 up. Then Coventry hit them with a three frame run through Liam Farrell, John O’Shea and Steve Mullan. Ipswich got back on level terms through Steve Whelan and Michael Puntchart. No sooner had they pulled level when Coventry went two up again through Daz Lee and Daz Leeson. Again Ipswich pulled level through R. Twomey and Ned Acton; Daz Dick restored Coventry’s lead only to see Mark Keeble pull it all back together. Coventry’s Steve Mullan, John O’Shea and Daz Lee combined to push Coventry to the 10-8 win.
East Herts took on Chesterfield with a view to getting past the last sixteen stage for the first time in quite a few years. As a team they are probably one of the most consistent in the event. They always get to the last sixteen but rarely beyond it and this time was no exception. They hit Nottinghamshire’s Chesterfield hard by taking a 4-1 lead through Tony Vickers, Mick Darragh, Andy Collett and Jimmy Stoole. Chesterfield came back with wins for Steve Finnegan and Bob Snell. East Herts’s Danny Miller put his team two frames up with his win. Then came the turning point of the match as Chesterfield hit East Herts with a five frame volley through Martin Langley, Jason Rimmington, Jordan Johnson, Steve Evans and Dean Watts to take the lead for the first time in the match. From then on frames were traded on a one for one basis. Danny Miller, Neil Toms and Mark Thrussell kept East Herts hopes alive whilst making sure that East Herts went out were Chesterfield’s Steve Finnegan and Andy Marples.
Godalming A put an end to Trent Trophies B’s run despite Trent Trophies going 3-1 up through Barry Higham, Darren Shone and Chris Barrs. Max Brooker pulled one back for the Surrey team. D. Booth won his frame for Trent Trophies B only to see Godalming win three frames on the bounce through Darren Dodds, Dave Hall and Dave Penly which put Godalming in front for the first time at 5-4. Andy Davis pulled the scores back level when he won his frame. Godalming then made the decisive break by taking the next three frames through Matt Cooke, Max Brooker and Lee Hudson. Chris Barrs added a sixth frame for Trent Trophies but by then it was too late as Dean Reeve and Darren Dodds gave Godalming the two frames they required to go through.
The Alloa’s kept up their form from the previous round by hammering Gosport 10-2, again proving that once a team builds up momentum it’s very hard to slow them down. With the demise of so many of the top teams earlier Alloa’s were ready to do their best to live up to their billing as a top team. Unfortunately for Gosport they were unlucky enough to be in the Alloa’s path.
Reaching the last eight of the National Interleague finals is a major achievement. It’s the point where you move from being one of the pack to being one of the chosen few. No sub standard team has ever reached this stage of the event. Match sheets at this level usually read like a who’s who listing of pool players. With so many of the traditional big name teams missing it was a golden opportunity to add some more names to the list.
Walsall A’s magnificent run came to an end when they met Brighton. Yet again a team that took the initiative early on found that they were caught, then overhauled. Walsall went 2-1 up then watched as Brighton took the next three frames to put their team one up. Walsall fought back through Malcolm Malpass and John Whitehouse. Doug Howard restored Brighton’s lead only to see it disappear again as Walsall’s Akram levelled again. Darren Welfare, Moray Dolan, Peter Ashman and Paul McNeil pushed Brighton in what proved to be the decisive move of the match. Walsall could no longer afford to lose a frame. Although Malcolm Malpass and Chris Butler made a brave attempt to level the match by winning their two frames and keep Walsall in the match, Brighton’s John Steadman settled the issue when he won Brighton’s 10th frame sending Brighton in to uncharted territory.
In a re-run of last years final Ollerton were again faced with the daunting task of knocking out the Interleague’s most feared team if they were going to reach the semi final themselves. Trent Trophies A have so much experience at playing these matches that they just do not believe they will be beaten no matter who the opposition are. In the match itself punches were traded in the early stages as Gaz Potts and Lee Kendall won for Trent Trophies whilst Kev Seaman and Gary McLeod notched up wins on Ollerton’s side of the scoreboard. Trent Trophies then went on a three frame blitz engineered by Nick Weller, Darren Lightfoot and Phil Condliffe. Ollerton’s Nick Jones steadied the ship with his win; However, Dave Williams took his frame for Trent Trophies. Andy Wilson took the next to peg back Trent Trophies yet again, this time though Steve Prince Trent Trophies’ restored their advantage. Gary McLeod won for Ollerton to keep them in with a shout. The end for Ollerton was close when Steve Bridgewood and Lee Kendall put Trent Trophies 9-5 up. John McMahon kept Ollerton in the match but it really wasn’t going to be Ollerton’s day and the end came when Phil Condliffe won the tenth and decisive frame.
Chesterfield, who ended East Herts dreams of reaching the last eight, found they had their fight taken out of them in their efforts to get past East Herts. Coventry went 2-1 up through Daz Leeson and Daz Dick after Jason Rimmington struck for Chesterfield. Then Chesterfield added two frames to their tally when Dean Watts and Dave Knowles won their frames. This was when Coventry showed Chesterfield a clean pair of heels as Steve Mullen, Vick Makh, Martin Kirby, and Daz Lee all won for Coventry. Jason Rimmington knocked in a win for Chesterfield but off went Coventry again with Barry Hinde, Liam Farrell, Daz Dick and Steve Mullen all combining to seal Coventry’s passage through to the semi finals.
In the last of the quarter finals the Alloa’s steamroller kept squashing anything in its way and this time the unfortunate victims were Godalming. The Lancashire boys went three nil down but then came back to take 10 of the following 12 frames to completely annihilate the Godalming outfit.
By now it seemed there was only going to be one final and that was going
to be Trent Trophies and Alloa’s. That is not meant to disrespect
Coventry A and Brighton its just that the way the other two were playing
made it very hard to believe there would be any other outcome.
The final was one of the best finals and went the way history dictates for the event, that is a play off. Trent Trophies opened with a three frame run thanks to Gaz Potts, Steve Prince and Lee Kendall. Alloa’s, in danger of being overwhelmed hit back with an unbelievable six frame run through Nathan Bridges, Dave Chalmers, Matt Morris, Dave Birchall, Andy Sudworth and Jason Hill.
It took Gaz Potts to halt Trent Trophies free fall in to oblivion but Alloa’s Lee Clough won for Alloa’s to put more pressure on Trent Trophies. Nick Weller kept Trent Trophies hopes alive when he won his frame. Russell McGrady pushed the Alloa’s to within touching distance of the winning line when he beat Steve Bridgewood. Trent Trophies looked like they were on the way out until both Lee Kendall and Daz Lightfoot turned their frames round and won to trail by a single frame. When Phil Condliffe lost to Nathan Bridges it seemed the title was destined to go back to Lancashire as the Inter County A championship had done a month earlier. But Trent Trophies had other ideas and Daz Henshall took his frame to leave all eyes on the frame between Trent Trophies Dave Williams and Alloa’s Jason Hill. The position got to the point where perhaps Jason should have buried the frame but was slightly out in an attempt to pot the black and win the match for Alloa’s.
He missed and there was a bout of safety play all of which favoured Hill, then, from nowhere Dave Williams made two pots, one of them the winning black, that really needed to be seen to be believed. Even then the drama continued as the cue ball was oh so close to dropping in the middle pocket but did not drop. This was no doubt nerve racking for the teams but for the spectators it was just a treat to watch. This meant that Trent Trophies had come back from the abyss and forced a play off.
In the play off Dave Chalmers beat Gaz Potts to put Alloa’s 10-9 up but Trent Trophies had the ever reliable Lee Kendall and Daz Henshall as their other players in the play offs. Alloa’s opted for Lee Clough and Russell McGrady. In the tense final two frames it was Trent Trophies who just managed to keep their heads together and retain the title they won last year by 11-10 and in doing so have set up a sixteen match unbeaten run
Its often been said indeed its been mentioned previously in this text about the quality of the teams in the event. if you wonder what is meant on show during this final was five England players including the captain. As well as a sprinkling of England trialist 4 Embassy International Tour Players 2 individual champion of champion winners. 1 former world youth champion and that just from memory.
The final was so entertaining that neither of the teams deserved to loose but that is the way things are and someone has to. This time round it was the Alloa’s. For Trent Trophies it means they have now set up a 16 match unbeaten run in the National Interleague finals.