THE sixth leg of the Cuestars South of England Championship Tour produced a spectacular finale as rankings leader Billy Castle knocked in back-to-back centuries on a professional standard table to clinch the Newbury contest.
From handshake to handshake, the 3-0 demolition of title rival Seb Worrall took a mere 26 minutes.
“In the groups, I was struggling, but in the knockout I was a totally different player,” said Castle. “I buzzed in the final. Everything I hit turned to gold. If I’m on it, I’m on it.”
The 24-year-old from Reading pocketed £150 prize money after extending his lead in the event at The Crucible Sports & Social Club.
He kicked off the final by clearing the table for 109, followed that with a 130 total clearance and was threatening a third straight ton in the third frame before going in-off on a break of 44.
But the glimmer of hope offered to his shell-shocked opponent was soon extinguished and Worrall, who won the first leg on home tables at Jesters Snooker Club, Swindon, conceded on the green.
The match table used for the final had recently been re-covered with the cloth on which Ronnie O’Sullivan won his seventh Masters title at the Alexandra Palace last month.
“You can see why Ronnie makes it look so easy,” quipped Castle, who had never made consecutive tons in a match before.
And, remarkably, Castle revealed his preparation for the tournament had been far from ideal as his son, Billy-James, who is nearly two, was taken ill the previous night.
“He was in the hospital all night with croup so this win is for my little son,” said the shattered dad-of-two. “I wasn’t going to play today but my missus told me to play.”
The 27-strong field returned 35 breaks of 50 or more - including five centuries.
Mike Finn (Eastleigh), who had recorded tons in each of his five round-robin matches in the corresponding fixture last season, knocked in a 134 in the deciding frame of his last group game against Anthony Rice of Fordingbridge.
Adam Nash (Southampton) followed that by missing the final black on 113 to wrap up a last-16 victory over Christian Chislett (Basingstoke). And Matt Wilson (High Wycombe) added a 112 in his last-16 defeat by Worrall.
Worrall, who had beaten Castle 2-0 in the group stages, fought back from 2-0 down to overcome John Hunter (Andover) 3-2 in the semi-finals before seeing off ex-professional Mike Talmondt (Portsmouth) 3-0 in the last-four.
Castle didn’t drop a frame in the four knockout rounds. He beat Finn 2-0 and Nash 3-0, his teammates from Southampton Super League outfit Churchills A, either side of a 3-0 victory over Ollie Douglas (Newbury).
He leads Worrall by 32 points in the race for the Q School place going into the final two tournaments in Bournemouth on Sunday, March 12, and Coulsdon in April.
Mike Finn: 134, 69.
Billy Castle: 130, 109, 72, 67, 64, 64, 56, 54, 51, 50.
Adam Nash: 113, 60.
Matt Wilson: 112, 73, 68.
Matt Ford: 81, 73, 70, 58.
Mike Talmondt: 81.
Seb Worrall: 75, 67, 60, 59, 56.
Ryan Mears: 69, 64, 52.
Ollie Douglas: 68, 67, 58, 54.
Dan Sykes: 57.
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP POSITIONS
GROUP A: 1st, Ryan Mears (Sovereign SC, Farnborough); 2nd, Ollie Douglas (Crucible, Newbury); 3rd, Matt Ford (Sunninghill Comrades Club); 4th, Grant Mason (Greenbaize, Bournemouth); 5th, Oliver Sykes (Chandler’s Ford SC).
GROUP B: 1st, Mike Talmondt (Copnor SC, Portsmouth); 2nd, Pete Ferguson (Craneswater SC, Portsmouth); 3rd, Adam Nash (Churchills, Eastleigh); 4th, Andrew Seymour (Crucible, Newbury); 5th, David Rice (Salisbury SC).
GROUP C: 1st, Seb Worrall (Jesters, Swindon); 2nd, Billy Castle (Crucible, Newbury); 3rd, Martin Wallace (Crowthorne RBL); 4th, Dan Sykes (Chandler’s Ford SC); 5th, Jake Baker (Greenbaize, Bournemouth).
GROUP D: 1st, Mike Finn (Churchills, Eastleigh); 2nd, Anthony Rice (Salisbury SC); 3rd, Mickey Joyce (Chandler’s Ford SC); 4th, Jonjo Sharkey (Crucible, Newbury).
GROUP E: 1st, Christian Chislett (Selsey RBL, Chichester); 2nd, John Hunter (Salisbury SC); 3rd, Wasim Khan (Liberal Club, High Wycombe); 4th, Mike Trigg (Chandler’s Ford SC).
GROUP F: 1st, Richard Clark (Jesters, Swindon); 2nd, Matt Wilson (Liberal Club, High Wycombe); 3rd, Rikki Moore (Greenbaize, Bournemouth); 4th, Reece King (Greenbaize, Bournemouth).
LAST-16: Mears 2 Wallace 1, Talmondt 2 Joyce 1, Worrall 2 Wilson 1, Hunter 2 A Rice 1, Douglas 2 Ferguson 0, Castle 2 Finn 0, Nash 2 Chislett 1, Ford 2 Clark 1.
QUARTER-FINALS (24 points): Talmondt 3 Mears 0, Worrall 3 Hunter 2, Castle 3 Douglas 0, Nash 3 Ford 0.
SEMI-FINALS (£25, 30 points): Castle 3 Nash 0, Worrall 3 Talmondt 0.
FINAL (£150/£70 50/36 points): Castle 3 Worrall 0.