BURFORD MAKES GB9 HISTORY IN CHALLENGE CUP
An all North East final was the curtain call of the Challenge Cup at this event; Durham’s Michael Rhodes and Darlington’s Phil Burford.
Rhodes started his campaign in Round 3 after an excellent opening two events of his maiden GB9 season. His first victim of the weekend was James Welch, eliminated without even winning a rack. 8-0 saw Rhodes through to the last 32 where he found Chris Buckmaster waiting. Rhodes carried on his excellent form with an 8-3 win and set up a last 16 match with Glenn Cooney. Cooney only managed to go one rack better than Buckmaster, and an 8-4 result was enough to set Rhodes up with Benji Buckley in the quarter finals. His tremendous form carried on still, this time with an 8-2 win putting him one step away from his second consecutive Challenge Cup final. Norwich’s Shaun Chipperfield, reigning Midlands Classic champion, stood firmly in his way and sent their semi final right to the wire. Rhodes held on for an 8-7 victory and made him the first player since 2009 to make two out of the first three Challenge Cup finals in a season.
Having only re-entered GB9 since returning from the USA earlier this year, Burford has had to work his way back from the bottom and subsequently found himself in a Round 2 match to open his account. He began just like Rhodes, however, handing Tony Oscroft a donut with a splendid 8-0 win. In Round 3 he had a much sterner test at the hands of Bournemouth’s in-form Louis Clarke. He managed to hold on for an 8-6 win before disposing of another in-form player in the form of Courtney Symons 8 racks to 5. Another North East foe awaited in the last 16; Sunderland’s Adam Benn Smith giving Burford an almighty fright before succumbing 8-7 and giving Burford a quarter final against Anthony Banham. Burford was in ruthless form in wrapping up an 8-1 victory. April’s Challenge Cup champion Craig Waddingham was the final person who could stop Burford from reaching the final. The Scunthorpe shooter has been in imperious form in the Challenge Cup all season and his run to the semi finals ensured he would end the event at the top of the Challenge Cup rankings whatever happened in the rest of the tournament. Burford managed to squeeze through 8-6 and take his place in his first GB9 final since winning the Midlands Classic last year.
The final ended up being one of the most dramatic in recent memory. At 7-5 Burford had an atrocious contact with a nearly dead-straight 10-ball. He left a sitter for Rhodes who duly wrapped up that rack and the next to send the match into a decider. In the 15th and final rack, Rhodes called and made an audacious 3-10 combination only to see the cue ball go in-off. Burford kept nerves well at bay and managed to run out 3 thru 10 immediately after to win the final 8 racks to 7. In winning this event, Phil Burford has become the first player in GB9 history to win the ‘full house’ – a Main event, a Pro event and a Challenge event.