RHODES LEAD TO SILVER AS WADDINGHAM TAKES GOLD
A combination of gritty, gutsy pool combined with the likes of Phil Burford and Mark Gray playing in the Challenge division this season will ensure that the quality of cueing on show really does prove this to be the toughest ever field in this division.
Noteworthy results came from the very beginning, with new qualifier Steve Sears taking a dream 9-8 victory over Mark Gray in his very first match. Surely the other highlight amongst the results was Paul Taylor’s tremendous comeback against Mark Shepherd, finding himself 8-2 but going on to win the match 9 racks to 8. In what can now only be described as a brutally difficult field, it was November’s Challenge Cup finalist Craig Waddingham and former snooker professional Michael Rhodes who took to the floor in the first Challenge Cup final of 2012.
Waddingham was in high spirits coming into the event having come off the back of a runner-up spot in the final Challenge Cup event of last season. Kicking oni from where he left off, he neatly knocked out Mark McDonald and Adam Stevens by respective scorelines 9-3 and 9-5 to set up a last 16 encounter with Aslam Abubaker. GB9′s leading wheelchair player couldn’t quite carry on his excellent form, however, and Waddingham took another 9-3 victory to secure his place in the quarter-finals. Here, in one of the best matches of the entire weekend, Waddingham saw off Jack Whelan by 9 racks to 7, with each player contributing FOUR break and runs to the match – a staggering achievement for a Challenge division match. His semi final against Glenn Cooney was a slightly more grinding affair, but a comfortable 9-4 finish saw Waddingham through to his second consecutive Challenge Cup final.
As a newcomer to the tour, Michael Rhodes had to endure an extra round to Waddingham on his road to the final. He made short work of Nathan James, however, with a 9-4 victory of his own ensuring progress to the last 64. Michael Brisley was the next to succumb to the County Durham cueist, leaving the tournament 9-6 before Penzance’s Robin Cripps bit the dust – a futher 9-4 defeat ensuring the Cornishman left the competition and Rhodes progressed to the last 16. Jamie Yates, another GB9 debutant at the weekend, was the next victim of Rhodes. A gallant 9-7 defeat wasn’t enough to keep Yates in the competition and Rhodes progressed onwards to a 9-4 victory against Kevin Simpson. Awaiting the County Durham shooter in the semi-finals was last year’s September Challenge CUp champion Eric Dockerty, eager to make it into a second final in three attempts. His efforts were in vain, however, and a 9-6 saw himself just 9 racks away from the perfect start to his GB9 career.
The final, however, was a perhaps surprisingly comfortable one for Waddingham. Despite having quite a run against the balls, Rhodes fought gallantly but couldn’t stop Waddingham from charging towards the top of the Challenge rankings with a 9-4 victory in the final. The victory earns the man from Scunthorpe the £800 winner’s purse and the first gold medal of the Challenge season.