The stage was set, the players ready. All eyes were on Karl Boyes to see if he could be the first man in GB9 history to achieve the GB9 Grand Slam and increase his winning streak to an incredible 6 titles. Imran Majid, Mark Gray and Daryl Peach were among those with other ideas.
It was that time of year again – the Paul Medati trophy was dusted and proudly displayed in front of the 90 runners for inspiration. A full weekend of high quality pool was in store, and in memory of a great character and indeed dear friend to many of the competitors. Indubitably Paul would have been thrilled to see the quality of the turnout and like many of us, excited to see what the weekend was to bring.
The unquestionable man of the Main Event at the moment is Karl Boyes, who was coming in off the back of a 36 match unbeaten streak in Main Event matches and looking to be the first player in history to achieve the Grand Slam in GB9 events. He got off to a solid start, edging out Han Sang Nguyen, who put up a solid fight, but Karl’s quality shone through though and it was business as usual – or so we thought!
Fresh off comfortable wins against Geoff WIndeatt and Terry Davies, “The Colonel” Alan Coton was progressing solidly through the winner’s side but would have gone into the match with Karl as the clear underdog. Early on, Karl had the better of it and going into the closing stages of the match was ahead. Coton had shown great resilience under the pressure with three break and runs of his own to pull the match to a final rack decider. Boyes was first in but an early error left Coton with a ‘do or die’, length of the table three ball, which needed to be hit at speed, something difficult on the tight GB9 tables. However, Alan couldn’t have hit it better and took the biggest win of his career by running the remainder of the rack.
Boyes, who was playing in the one loss side for the first time in over a year, managed to get back to winning ways with a 9-4 victory over Marcel Price. Karl would then have another tight affair, this time in the Losers Qualification round, and Derby’s ‘Kiev’ Simpson was the man to push him the distance, running racks in his typical free flowing style. Karl had two chances to progress, missing a tough 9 whilst 8-7 ahead and then hanging one he would have expected to make at 8-8, leaving Kev to progress through to the single knockout stage.
Other impressive results saw Michael Beeston and Ryan O’Neill reach the quarter-final stages for the very first time with impressive wins over Matthew Lawrenson and former World 9 Ball Champion Daryl Peach, respectively, on route. Michael also continued his impressive streak of always equalling or beating his previous finishes at every GB9 event he has played. Tom Staveley made the semi-final for the first time with wins over former UK number one Craig Osborne and Ryan O’Neill in the single elimination rounds.
Meanwhile, Imran Majid and Mark Gray were going about their business quietly and impressively. Imran reaching the last 16 with wins over Michael Beeston, Tom Staveley and Mark Gray. Mark, however, dusted himself down from the loss to Imran to progress through the loser’s side, with impressive wins over Ashik Nathwani, Al Coton, Kev Simpson and Benji Buckley to reach the Final. The final was an absolute thriller, with Imran racing into a seemingly unassailable 8-1 lead, before a momentous comeback from Gray took us right to the wire. Majid though, made methodical work of the final clearance to get over the line and take the title of 2018 Paul Medati Trophy Champion.
Rasson Billiards Super Cup
A relatively new addition to the tour, the Rasson Billiards Super Cup is where the strongest players of the weekend come to play. There were no easy draws, as Tom Staveley and Barry French found out to their frustration, both going two and out to Mark Gray and Alan Coton, and Matthew Lawrenson and Michael Beeston respectively.
Ryan O’Neill rallied himself after taking a bit of a beating from in-form Imran Majid, to go on to dispatch with Mark Foster 10-6. An absolute highlight of the weekend came in the form of the encounter between Shane O’Hara and Imran Majid. With the match poised nicely at 4-4 in the long race to ten in the Super Cup, O’Hara ran a stunning six-pack to close out the match, leaving Majid unable to do anything but watch and admire. The winner-breaks format, always popular with the purists and dynamic players, was brought in to allow this kind of spectacle, and it was absolutely appreciated!
Meanwhile elsewhere, Benji Buckley was looking his calm, relaxed best early on as he went through Alan Coton and Mark Gray, clocking up the break and runs intermittently himself. Unfortunately for him though, Kev Simpson had other ideas, halting him impressively in a quick, high-standard match.
However it was to be eventual tournament winner Craig Osborne who dismissed any hopes Simpson might have had of going further, holding firm in an exciting game on the TV table. There were few mistakes, and but for an easy missed ball early on in the run-out for Simpson, the match could have been heading for a hill-hill finish. However, Ossie kept it tight and produced the quality where it mattered, and his three break and runs at key junctures proved the difference.
In the other semi-final, Mark Gray put paid to Imran’s hopes of going the whole way, with six break and runs in another frightening showing. The cruelness of pool and the fine margins at the elite level won’t be lost on Majid, who didn’t do much wrong in the Super Cup at all, but was unscrewing his cues all the same.
In the final, two faces well-familiar with each other were due to do battle. Both stalwarts of the tour and roomies at GB9 events, it was surprisingly one sided. Gray, who’d had it all his own way against Shane O’Hara in his quarter final a few hours earlier on the same table, found himself unable to get his break working again and the frustration started to show. The final is also a test of stamina, with a long weekend’s worth of pool having being played by this point, and Ossie seemed a tad fresher, despite Gray being match-fit after his recent World Cup of Pool appearance. He looked strong and established an early lead, and never looked back, taking home the title, the trophy and the cash, 11-3. Congratulations on yet another GB9 trophy Craig!
Cyclop Challenge Cup Tier 1
Tier 1 of the Challenge Cup is always a bloodbath, and this weekend’s field was no exception! Quality oozed from everywhere, and the double-elimination format is ideal for ensuring the cream rises to the top.
There were impressive early wins for a returning So Shaw against Joni Holden, and Elliott Sanderson made light work of Daryl Peach and showed why he’s threatening elite level status. Northern Irish newcomer Willie Dines ruffled a few feathers with wins over Scot Chick McCaig and Terry Challenger. Doncaster-based Jack Heckingbottom showed he can be a force to be reckoned with if he makes a move from English 8-ball, making light work of Chris Fraser and Kurtis Weaver – not easy feats!
Unfortunately for him though he couldn’t get past his practice partner and pal Elliott Sanderson, who by his own admission wasn’t quite on his game. At hill-hill Heckingbottom spurned a get-able clearance and Elliott pounced for the win.
Stewart Colclough was always going to be a contender on paper, and he lived up to expectations. His path to victory had no easy games – Chris Fraser, Marcel Price, Callum Browne – but his stand-out win against Daryl Peach set the tone of things to come. Conceding only seven racks in total against Terry Challenger in the semi-final and Andy Morris in the final, he showed his quality. Well done Stewart!
Cyclop Challenge Cup Tier 2
There were plenty of new faces in Tier 2, and lots of potential only a slither away from making the step up to the top league. Geoffrey Windeatt had a strong run all the way to the semis, where it took a final-rack decider to stop him – student Fenn Sternberg held his nerve in a scrappy and tense rack that gripped the gathering crowd.
Julian roper had another strong run, finishing off Graeme Hamilton, Daryl Garland and Karl Hooley, before falling to Allan Brown. Ryan Coton, the ‘Junior Colonel’, was looking good until he met Dave Wilcox for the second time over the weekend, and for the second time Wilcox seemed to have his number. A tense match – Coton had his chances, but Dave grew into the game as it went on and was good for his win.
Meanwhile, standout man Paul Taylor started somewhat nervously, having dropped down into Tier 2 following a tough few months. His opening match against Bradley Holt went the full distance and he survived a final-rack scare. Holt went on to fall to Daryl Garland, and Taylor meanwhile started to gather some momentum. He beat Ryan Coton along the way, Rikki Hatherly, and Can Ibrahim. Against Ibrahim, he had a little bit of help from lady luck, slopping in his nine-ball to take the match. 9-ball however is a game of momentum and taking your chances, and Ibrahim had his – crumbling in front of a mid-distance nine to go on the hill himself a few minutes prior. Taylor wasn’t to care, and went straight back on into action against Allan Brown in his semi final, and beat a resurgent Fenn Sternberg who’d taken the long route to the final 9-5.
A well-deserved victory for Taylor, and hopefully we’ll be seeing him do some damage in Tier 1 very soon!