RISING snooker star Connor Benzey defeated the current English under 18s champion to claim a first winner’s trophy on the Cuestars South of England Under 21 Gold Tour.
The 15-year-old from Eastleigh overcame rankings leader Mark Lloyd 2-1 in a dramatic final at Jesters Snooker Club, Swindon.
Gosport-based Lloyd, 17, fluked a re-spotted black to take the lead, went in-off the black in the next to square the match and conceded when needing snookers with two reds left in the decider.
Benzey, who pocketed £85 prize money, had lost to Lloyd in the group stages of the event but fancied his chances when the pair met again.
“I felt good,” he said. “I thought I could beat him. I played well in the final and made four breaks of over 30. That’s the reason why I won.”
Earlier, he recorded a fine 2-1 last-eight victory over 21-year-old England pool international Jack Smithers (Tadworth), who won a Gold Tour event on home tables at Frames Sports Bar, Coulsdon, in December, 2015.
Benzey said: “Every time I came to the table I was in trouble because his safety play was good.”
And he then defeated Chandler’s Ford clubmate Mickey Joyce 2-0 in a “scrappy” semi-final.
It has been a rapid rise through the Cuestars ranks for the teenager, who made his Bronze Tour debut a little over three years ago in February, 2014. He won the Bronze play-off championship the following season and the Silver rankings title in 2015/16.
Lloyd needs just one point from the last two legs to retain his rankings title. Benzey and Joyce (Basingstoke) are joint second.
Elsewhere, Dan Sykes (Chandler’s Ford) recorded his highest match break of 82 against Smithers in the group stages.
Sixth-placed Anthony Rice (Fordingbridge) was knocked out 2-0 by Lloyd in the semi-finals.
Jamie Wilson (Havant), Adam Stacey (London) and Mike Trigg (East Wellow) can consider themselves unlucky after all five players in their group won two matches each.
Bradley Cowdroy (Bournemouth) qualified for the knockout - along with Olly Gibbs (Gosport) - with a frames difference of just three more than bottom-placed Trigg.
The ninth leg of ten is at Chandler’s Ford Snooker Club on Sunday, April 9.
Dan Sykes: 82.
Mickey Joyce: 60, 55.
Anthony Rice: 59.
Mark Lloyd: 55.
Bradley Cowdroy: 54.
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP A: 1st, Mark Lloyd (Stoke SC, Gosport); 2nd, Connor Benzey (Chandler’s Ford SC); 3rd, Oliver Sykes (Chandler’s Ford SC); 4th, Aidan Murphy (Fishponds Conservative Club, Bristol).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP B: 1st, Bradley Cowdroy (Greenbaize, Bournemouth); 2nd, Olly Gibbs (Chandler’s Ford SC); 3rd, Jamie Wilson (Waterlooville Sports Bar); 4th, Adam Stacey(Legends, Leytonstone); 5th, Mike Trigg (Chandler’s Ford SC).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP C: 1st, Mickey Joyce (Chandler’s Ford SC); 2nd, Anthony Rice (Salisbury SC); 3rd, Callum Browne (Player’s, Westbury); 4th, Arron Smith (Selsey RBL, Chichester)..
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP D: 1st, Jack Smithers (Frames Sports Bar, Coulsdon); 2nd, Ronnie Blake (Frames Sports Bar, Coulsdon); 3rd, Dan Sykes (Chandler’s Ford SC); 4th, Steven Hughes (Chandler’s Ford SC).
QUARTER-FINALS (12 points): Lloyd 2 Blake 0, Rice 2 Cowdroy 1, Joyce 2 Gibbs 0, Benzey 2 Smithers 1.
SEMI-FINALS (15 points): Benzey 2 Joyce 0, Lloyd 2 Rice 0.
FINAL (£85/£40, 25/18 points): Benzey 2 Lloyd 1.
Fourth win for Hughes in happy hunting ground
RYAN Hughes stormed back to the top of the Cuestars South of England Under 21 Silver Tour rankings after collecting a fourth winner’s trophy this season.
The never-say-die 15-year-old from Chandler’s Ford beat David O’Callaghan (Bournemouth) 2-1 from 1-0 down in the final of the eighth leg at Jesters Snooker Club, Swindon.
Hughes, who missed a sitter of a frame ball in the decider before securing victory on the pink, said: “The last frame was awful. Neither of us were potting. It was like neither of us wanted to win.”
Earlier in the event, Hughes won all four group-stage matches and dispatched title rival Charlie Pringle 2-0 in the last-four.
“It was the best I’d played all day, which was quite lucky for me,” said Hughes. “But he wasn’t playing as well as he could.
“I always do well in Swindon so I had that in my mind as well.”
He won two Bronze tournaments plus the 2016 Bronze championship play-off at Jesters - he has now won nine of his 23 Cuestars under 21 singles events.
Hughes, who slipped to second place following the sixth tournament in Havant, now leads clubmate Pringle by five points going into the last two legs.
Leg seven winner O’Callaghan accounted for Salisbury's Keegan Reed 2-0 in the second semi. It was the third time this season that Reed had finished one win short of a first appearance in a final.
Brett Wallace: 48.
David O’Callaghan: 38, 32, 30.
Ryan Hughes: 33.
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP A: 1st, Ryan Hughes (Chandler’s Ford SC); 2nd, Keegan Reed (Salisbury SC); 3rd, Bowen Zhu (Chandler’s Ford SC); 4th, Brett Wallace (Fareham SC); 5th, Kaine Petty (Salisbury SC).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP B: 1st, David O’Callaghan (Greenbaize, Bournemouth); 2nd, Charlie Pringle (Chandler’s Ford SC); 3rd, Evan Plummer (Frames, Coulsdon); 4th, Ally Pollard (Salisbury SC); 5th, Nat Kidner (Greenbaize, Bournemouth).
SEMI-FINALS (15 points): Hughes 2 Pringle 0, O’Callaghan 2 Reed 0.
FINAL (25/18 points): Hughes 2 O’Callaghan 1.
New found fighting spirit helps Ellis to third win
A YOUNG potter from Wiltshire found some fighting spirit he didn’t know he possessed to extend his lead on a regional snooker circuit.
Riley Ellis was forced to dig deep into his reserves to collect his third winner’s trophy of the season on the Cuestars South of England Under 21 Bronze Tour.
The 12-year-old from Clyffe Pypard takes a 25-point lead into the last two events following a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Chloe White (Havant) in the final of the eighth leg at Jesters Snooker Club, Swindon.
“Chloe put up a tremendous battle which was full of brilliant safety and great matchplay,” said Ellis.
“I couldn’t afford to lose focus for even a minute. But remembering everything I’ve been working on for the last few months with my coach and in practice, I held on until the end.”
It looked like Ellis’s bid to claim the rankings title had suffered a setback when he lost his first match against Thomas Saunders (Braintree).
But he bounced back to win his next three and qualified for the knockout in second place.
He then beat newcomer Oliver Cooper (Banstead) 2-0, despite being 30 points down in the second frame, and came back from 1-0 down to beat Ronnie Sullivan (Coulsdon) 2-1 in the semi-finals.
“I started out a bit tense today knowing it was going to be an important and hard day,” said Ellis.
“That first match made me re-focus and I went on to win all of my other group-stage games. I was then prepared to go and do battle.”
World Snooker coach Tim Dunkley, who has worked with the budding star for nearly two years, said: “Riley is maturing as a player and as a person.
“I am so proud that he kept his head up in Swindon battled hard. If he does win the title, this may have been a defining moment.”
Ellis’s mum Jackie said: “The final was fantastic to watch. Both players were fabulous.”
But she added: “I wish he had shown a bit of that fighting spirit going to school the next day!”
White, 15, who is ranked number 45 on the World Ladies Billiards & Snooker circuit, had beaten Riccardo Drayton (Chandler’s Ford), appearing in only his second event, 2-1 in the last-four.
Shane Kearns: 27, 22.
Chloe White: 24.
Riley Ellis: 21.
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP A: 1st, Thomas Saunders (Stepfield SC, Witham, Essex); 2nd, Riley Ellis (Jesters, Swindon); 3rd, James Woodley (Nailsea Social Club); 4th, Callum White (Copnor SC, Portsmouth); 5th, Will Forster (Mayfair, Gosport).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP B: 1st, Chloe White (Copnor SC, Portsmouth); 2nd, Ronnie Sullivan (Frames, Coulsdon); 3rd, Arnie Petty (Salisbury SC); 4th, Kyle Carter (Jesters, Swindon); 5th, Viktor Balgariev (Jesters, Swindon).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP C: 1st, Shane Kearns (Jesters, Swindon); 2nd, Oliver Cooper (Frames Sports Bar, Coulsdon); 3rd, Riccardo Drayton (Chandler’s Ford SC); 4th, Oscar Livesey-Lodwick (Nailsea Social Club); 5th, O’Shay Scott (Chandler’s Ford SC).
QUARTER-FINALS (12 points): Drayton 2 Saunders 0, Chloe White 2 Woodley 1, Sullivan 2 Kearns 1, Ellis 2 Cooper 0.
SEMI-FINALS (15 points): Chloe White 2 Drayton 1, Ellis 2 Sullivan 1.
FINAL (25/18 points): Ellis 2 Chloe White 0.
Unlucky group casualty Stacey claims Plate trophy
ADAM Stacey had the consolation of collecting the Plate trophy at the eighth legs of the Cuestars South of England Under-21 Tours.
Londoner Stacey finished fourth in a remarkable Gold group at Jesters Snooker Club, Swindon, where all five players won two matches.
But he bounced back to overcome 12-year-old Bronze player Bowen Zhu (Chandler’s Ford) in the Plate final.
Zhu defeated Kaine Petty (Fordingbridge) in the last-eight on a re-spotted black after clearing the table with his highest Cuestars break of 35.
Bowen Zhu: 35.
PLATE RESULTS (ONE-FRAME MATCHES)
PRELIMS: Nat Kidner (Greenbaize, Bournemouth) beat Arron Smith (Selsey RBL, Chichester), Adam Stacey (Legends, Leytonstone) beat Oscar Livesey-Lodwick (Nailsea Social Club), Callum White (Copnor SC, Portsmouth) beat Ally Pollard (Salisbury SC), Brett Wallace (Fareham SC) beat O’Shay Scott (Chandler’s Ford SC).
QUARTER-FINALS: Stacey beat Kidner, White beat Wallace, Arnie Petty (Salisbury SC) beat Will Forster (Mayfair, Gosport), Bowen Zhu (Chandler’s Ford SC) beat Kaine Petty (Salisbury SC).
SEMI-FINALS: Stacey beat White, Zhu beat Arnie Petty.
FINAL: Stacey beat Zhu.