September 30, 2013

Snookerbacker Classic 2014 Gloucester Opening Weekend Review

Filed under: snookerbacker @ 4:15 pm
First Qualifier Ben 'Man in Black' Harrison

First Qualifier Ben ‘Man in Black’ Harrison

Mrs Snookerbacker and I have just returned to Liverpool following a cracking opening weekend of snooker in Gloucester to mark the start of this season’s third Snookerbacker Classic as we begin the search for our next champion. 

The first weekend saw one quarter of the Grand Final places filled as four qualifiers made it at the first time of asking, Ben Harrison and Kishan Hirani coming through on Saturday and two finalists from last season Adam Wicheard and Jamie Clarke making it through on Sunday.

We eventually arrived on Friday into Gloucester after horrendous traffic and I headed straight for the South West Snooker Academy to set up while Mrs SB caught up on some beauty sleep. I had arranged to meet Craig Scotford aka The Wizard of Glos for a game after setting up, having foolishly relied on him to book the table for 4pm as planned.

It turned out that he’d booked it for 7.30pm instead despite assuring me it was booked at the correct time, luckily his utter carelessness didn’t matter too much as we got a table anyway and my glorious return to the baize continued with an emphatic 5-2 victory over the hapless Gloucester man. It was my first ever game on a Star table, these boys and girls don’t know they are born, the shite I used to have to play on when I was trying to make my way in the game I’ll tell yer.

Anyway, Saturday came around as quick as a flash after a relatively early night was had on Friday and the now famous silver (antique) cake stand was erected by the fair hand of Mrs SB who had been busy making chocolate cornflake cakes all week, it’s fair to say that these once more proved popular with the hungry potters and their guests, as well as Terry Griffiths who helped himself to more than one on Sunday and seemed very taken with the delightful first lady of the baize.

Indeed, on Saturday in particular it had a really vibrant bustling feel to it at the Academy, it’s really nice that the players are bringing guests with them and the Clan Jones (Hannah, Mark and co.) as ever added to the cheery feel around the venue. Cider man Scotford also rolled in to provide the unwitting entertainment value.

We caught word early on that one of the favourites for the weekend Shane Castle had forgotten about the event and was not turning up so a long wait was in store for Darren Bond, who thankfully this season had remembered to bring his shoes with him.

There were a number of new faces involved this time, young Aaron Cook from Gloucester was one of the first to arrive and keen as mustard, he’s just been handed an ambassador role for World Snooker’s Functional Snooker project and is very proud of this and is working to help others while improving in leaps and bounds himself.

Other new faces included Tom ‘Discount’ Davie, Terry Challenger and a crop of youngsters in Kieran Dwyer, Adam Bobat, Ashley Hugill (whose name I kept pronouncing wrong, sorry about that), Kurtis Weaver, London’s Andrew Scott and Tyler Rees from Wales. It’s really nice that the juniors are now seeing the Classic as an event in which they can gain valuable match experience at top venues.

Kishan Hirani is through to his first Grand Finals

Kishan Hirani is through to his first Grand Finals

On the table, the eye-catching match of Round 1 between Jamie Clarke and Syd Wilson ended in a 4-1 victory for the Welshmen, little did they suspect that almost 36 hours later they would be contesting a final qualifying round, the last match of the weekend.

As Mark Jones held court seemingly oblivious to the fact that his long suffering wife Theresa was trying to get their car fixed outside and Reanne Evans’s daughter Lauren played with some balloons that had been bought for Phil O’Kane’s birthday in the players area while her mum flicked me the ‘V’ sign more than once, news began to reach me of an altercation in one of the downstairs matches, descriptions ranged from ‘World War Three’ to ‘Handbags at Dawn’ and it did at one point threaten to put a bit of a dampener on the day, but thankfully the incident passed and there were no further such occurences all weekend. I’m glad to say that 99.9% of the weekend was played in the true spirit of the SB Classic and the feedback from the players has been as positive as ever which is always very nice to hear.

As Saturday wore on a great match took place between Ben Harrison and Zak Surety with one visit frames being the order of the day and Ben eventually coming through 4-2. Ben was clearly intent on making Grand Finals Day for the first time in three seasons having come so close in the past and he was to be the first person to do so with an impressive run dropping just one further frame in beating Phil O’Kane and Kurtis Weaver to book his place back at the SWSA on March 1st.

The bottom half was a little slower having had more deciders and it took a further four hours for this to be completed. Despite the delays the final between Kishan Hirani and Mike Rogers from Hastings was a very entertaining match and very high quality, with Kishan eventually running out a 4-2 winner just as the clock struck 10.15pm; our latest ever finish to a qualifying event. Kishan is a Grand Finals debutant and was all smiles afterwards despite being obviously very tired having had to wait for other matches, as had his opponent.


Sunday found us relocated to the downstairs area of the SWSA as a function was being set up in the usual holding area upstairs. Despite this, the cakes again took centre stage and players milled around taking advantage of the free teas and coffees and the goodies that had been supplied by John Parrott Cuesports for them on arrival.

Matt Lancaster and Jack Bradford replaced the two Saturday winners who despite being through already decided to come along anyway to support their mates and generally hang out. Harrison in particular was uncharacteristically dishevelled having celebrated his qualification in Gloucester the previous night and being in need of a large bacon butty. But Ben being Ben of course, it mattered not a jot and he still looked ruggedly handsome, the swine.

Adam Wicheard reaches his second consecutive Grand Finals Day.

Adam Wicheard reaches his second consecutive Grand Finals Day.

Jack Bradford came along with his girlfriend Sophie, a right little cracker who made good on her promise to give Mrs SB some gel nails (whatever they are), Harrison and Yorkshireman Damian Wilks looked on, no doubt tempted to get involved in a bit of manicure action themselves but both ultimately bottling it keeping their manliness in tact. In the meantime I was frequently on ‘Phil O’Kane Hunt’ trying to locate the errant potter around the building when it was time for him to get his cue out, I’m going to bring a lead with me next time with his name on it.

On the table Andy Marriott hit what was to be the highest break of the weekend, an 89, which surely will not stand for too much longer at the top of the Highest Break board, the one surprise of the weekend being the lack of century breaks in what was a very strong field. My guess is that the next event at Liverpool may see a decent target set for the £300 overall highest break prize.

Other notable performances came from Callum Lloyd, who played consistently well all weekend and as a result tops the Snookerbacker Order of Merit list having won 19 frames over the course of events one and two and Ryan Causton, Darren Bond, Kurtis Weaver, Wilks and O’Kane who lead the chasing pack. The list can be viewed here with the top two at the end of the qualifiers automatically gaining a place at Grand Finals Day next March in Gloucester.

As the day drew on the fatigue was beginning to show on those left in it. They had been hard at it for two solid days and the final between Adam Wicheard and Matthew Day saw a quite scrappy affair and ended in a win for the local man Wicheard. Matthew however is another that put himself in jostling position on the Order of Merit with a good run on Sunday.

Adam was beaten in the quarter finals at Grand Finals Day last year by eventual runner-up Kyren Wilson so is obviously one of the main contenders in March. He was playing with a relatively new cue after famously snapping his previous one in his final match a Q-School in the summer. He’s clearly now getting to grips with his new one and didn’t seem overly concerned at the loss of the other one.

In the other final, a highly impressive display by Jamie Clarke saw him whitewash a very tired Syd Wilson. Jamie is another losing quarter finalist from last season, he was beaten by the eventual champion David Gray and he will be looking to go one better in this and on the form he showed over the weekend he has to also have a big chance. Syd has boxed clever and entered most of the qualifiers including the next one in Liverpool so he is clearly a player that can climb the Order of Merit list as a back up should he fail to qualify in a winners slot.

Welshman Jamie Clarke is in the Grand Finals again.

Welshman Jamie Clarke is in the Grand Finals again.

With the slightly earlier finish on Sunday came a chance for myself and Mrs SB, complete with her new fancy nails, to take in a curry and take stock of the weekend, or at least we would have been able to had the curry house not chosen to play songs more befitting of a chavvy nightclub than a nice relaxing meal. Why would a restaurant do that on a quiet Sunday night? I’ll never know, but suffice to say our enjoyment of a perfectly nice meal was somewhat dampened by some bloke warbling on about walking like Rihanna (I have no idea how she walks and really don’t give a flying fuck if I’m honest).

So there we have it, Harrison, Hirani, Wicheard and Clarke are through to the Snookerbacker Classic Grand Finals 2014 and our next stop is Liverpool at George Scotts for a double event in October.

Thanks as ever to the SB Classic family of sponsors, referees Clive, Nick and the inimitable Roycey who I am sure will recount his experience of the first events of the season on here soon (he has a story to tell) and finally to all the fantastic people at the South West Snooker Academy, all of whom go out of their way to make sure this is a great event both on and off the table.

Oh and Clare, the curry pie was delicious, more next time please xx

Oh and Reanne, V.

You can view everything you need to know about this season’s Snookerbacker Classic by clicking onto this page, I am still taking waiting list requests for all of the remaining events. As all the winners had entered more than this event there are places becoming available to those at the top of the waiting lists. Please get in touch if you would like your name adding to any event, if payment deadlines are missed by those with reserved places and you are ready to pay you can nab the places from under their noses. It’s the only fair way to do it with the demand high and places limited.

You can view all Saturday’s results here, Sunday’s here and the Snookerbacker Order of Merit latest standings here.

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