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Event Report: 2015 GB9 Northern Masters

gb9balltour_267pxThe 2015 GB9 season has reached its halfway point now, with Michael Rhodes, Tony Drago and Robin Cripps taking home the spoils from the third event of the year.

Article ©Martyn Royce

SHOTGUN MISFIRES AS RHODES TAKES MAIDEN MAIN EVENT

The Northern Masters final of 2015 was contested by two players already having had a taste of victory this season. They were Michael Rhodes, winner of February’s Pro Cup, and Craig Osborne, reigning Paul Medati Trophy champion and looking for his second major in a row.

Rhodes had to work mighty hard in his opening match with Martyn Taylor, and it was Taylor who snatched a last-gasp 9-8 win to send Rhodes into the losers bracket where he faced Dean Sporton. Desperate to avenge his hill-hill defeat, he cruised through 7 racks to 1 and followed it up with a 7-2 dispatching of Adam Collins. Ben George was next in the firing line on the losers side, and Rhodes was in no mood to let up his winning pace. A 7-3 win saw him one win away from a place in the last 16, with young Scottish potter Chris Fraser standing in his way. Each opponent before him had gone one rack better and the same applied here – Fraser only managing 4 frames to Rhodes’ 7, and it was Rhodes who took a last 16 berth. There he faced Tom Staveley in what didn’t fail to be a terrific match. Rhodes won through 9-7 and faced Tony Drago in the quarter finals. The Tornado was looking to reach his first ever main event final, but that wait was to continue – another 9-7 win for Rhodes secured his spot in the final four and a semi final clash with Imran Majid. Majid himself last won a main event at last season’s Southern Masters, and his wait was also set to continue. A convincing 9-3 win saw Rhodes safely through to the final.

Michael Rhodes (GBR)

Michael Rhodes (GBR)

Osborne instead got off to a winning start in his campaign, with Ryan Hamer first in the firing link for the Suffolk shooter. A 9-4 win saw him safely through and his unbeaten start to the campaign continued in the following round, with Colin Connor failing to unsettle Osborne as he won 9 racks to 3. Where one North East potter in Hamer wasn’t enough, Osborne then came up against another for a spot in the straight knockout last 16. Sunderland’s Adam Benn Smith was ready and waiting to send Osborne into the losers bracket, but Osborne was in no mood to let up as he secured a second straight 9-4 win. The quarter finals beckoned for Osborne, but intent on stopping him was 2014 Midlands Classic champion Chris Hall. He too was desperate to get another title under his belt, but Osborne’s dominance continued with another 9-3 victory. His reward was a showdown with newcomer Martyn Taylor. Taylor had earlier scored a tremendous win over eventual finalist Michael Rhodes and he was looking for another major scalp here. However, Osborne stepped things up a gear, serving up Taylor a donut in a scorching 9-0 win. One more opponent stood in the way of Osborne and a second straight main event final in 2015. That man was snooker professional Chris Melling, back into the GB9 fold after a lengthy absence as he focussed on his snooker career. It was almost a flawless return for Melling and, but for running into a red-hot Osborne, things could have been very different. As it was, Osborne secured that one last victory to take him into his second final of the season, a 9-6 win over Melling seeing him over the line.

It was going to take a special effort to overcome Osborne and his scintillating form in the competition, but Rhodes was ready and waiting with a big game of his own. Zero break and runs in the match spelled out a tense affair, but Rhodes was the one to cross the line in first place. An 11 racks to 5 win over Osborne saw him take home his very first main event crown and denied back-to-back event wins for the Shotgun. That win sends Rhodes up to #2 in the rankings, with Osborne taking a well earned spot at provisional British #1 after two superb events.

TORNADO SWEEPS AWAY MAHARAJA IN PRO CUP

The third Rasson Billiards Pro Cup of the season was to be contested between two players both experiencing a dry run of success on the tour. Malta’s finest and London’s finest, Tony Drago and Imran Majid, took to the floor with both looking for a first tournament win in over a year.

Drago opened his account against the ever improving Ashik Nathwani. The seasoned professional was too good for Nathwani, however, and Drago won through 10-5 to face the newly crowned Northern Masters champion Craig Osborne in the winners qualifying round. Osborne’s ruthless form over the weekend wasn’t ceasing, and this time Drago was on the wrong end of a 10-5 reverse which saw him in the last chance saloon with Chris Cowie. Drago, hungry for success, was taking no chances against Cowie. A safe 10-4 win ensured passage to the quarter finals where Chris Hall was waiting for him. Drago once again was taking no prisoners. Following up from a 9-3 win over Hall in the Northern Masters, a hard fought 10-6 win ensured a mouth watering semi final in a rematch with Osborne. The Shotgun was two wins away from a perfect weekend and was eager to see off Drago here, but Drago pulled a rabbit out of the hat at the perfect moment. An excellent 10-8 win put Drago into the final and ended Osborne’s weekend.

Tony Drago (MLT)

Tony Drago (MLT)

Majid began his Pro Cup campaign against David Worrow, and he too was in no mood for letting up. A hard fought 10-7 win put him into a qualifying round match against Darryn Walker. Walker was looking for his second Pro Cup in succession, but Majid was the one to walk away victorious. Another win by 10 racks to 7 was enough to put Majid into the quarter finals. Majid had only hit two break and runs in his two matches at present, but he doubled his tally in his quarter final match with Ian Mccormick. Those two runouts helped him towards a 10-5 victory and into a last 4 showdown with Chris Melling. Melling already had one semi final under his belt in the weekend and was looking to make it one better this time round, but the Maharaja had other ideas. Another big effort from Melling was in vain as Majid sneaked home and into the final with a victory by 10 racks to 8.

The contrasting styles of the two players – slow and composed from Majid, fast and ruthless from Drago – lead to a fascinating final that didn’t disappoint. Three runouts from Drago helped him cross the finish line in first place with a very well earned 11-5 victory to take him his first GB9 title since the 2011 Pro Cup (III).

CRIPPS RIPS IT UP AGAINST NELSON IN CHALLENGE CUP

Two seasoned Challenge Cup players were due to contest the third final of this season, with both Robin Cripps and Dave Nelson aiming to avenge final defeats suffered earlier in the season.

Cripps’ high ranking allowed for a bye into the last 32 where he was down to face Ben George. His fight was nearly over at the first hurdle, but he dragged himself over the hill to win 9-8 and set up a last 16 match with Mark Parker. Cripps was making hard work of his matches but doing enough to see himself through, eliminating Parker by 9 racks to 6 to put himself into the quarter finals. There he was to face another hotshot in the Challenge Cup in the form of Tom Staveley. There was a sense of urgency from Cripps as we were approaching the business end of the tournament, and Cripps saw out a 9-4 win to set up a semi final with Michael Brisley. Brisley was looking for his first Challenge Cup final but Cripps had other ideas however, and a superb 9-7 victory put him through to his second consecutive final. The win continued the run of a Cornishman getting to a final of every weekend, following from his own final appearance in May and Dominic Clemens’ Tier II final appearance in February.

A first round clash for the not so fortunate Nelson meant that Sean Dracup awaited him in the last 64. The Keighley potter was in no mood for messing around, and a convincing 9-4 victory put him into the next round where he was to face another one of Keighley’s GB9 contingent, Arfan Dad. Nelson was in no mood for niceties as he swiftly saw off Dad’s challenge 9-3. Next was an equally challenging match on paper, with Benjiy Buckley waiting to put his wits against Nelson. The ruthless streak employed by Craig Osborne earlier in the weekend was rampant here too, and another excellent 9-3 win saw Nelson into the quarter finals to face Jon Davies. Nelson could sense glory was close and pulled out another safe win, this time 9-5 taking him through to the next round and one away from the final. A formidable opponent in Stewart Colclough was all that stood in his way of his second Challenge Cup final of the year. Colclough tried with all his might to reach his first, but it wasn’t to be – Nelson saw out the match on the hill to win through 9 racks to 8 and follow Cripps into the final.

Both players knew glory was at stake here. One would be a two time runner up in this season, the other would finally have a piece of silverware in 2015. The match was destined to go all the way and indeed it did, but it was Cripps who edged it 9-8 to win his first GB9 event of his career.

The GB 9 Ball Tour will return for the Southern Masters event between 25-27 September. If you wish to play this event please fill in the event entry form before the deadline of 22 September.

In 2015 GB9 is proudly sponsored by Rasson Billiards, Simonis Cloth, Aramith Billiard Balls and Carlson Rezidor Hotels making the perfect combination of the very best equipment in the most outstanding venues.