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Simon Ward Regains Top Spot!
Welsh Open TourThe Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend saw the first event of the Welsh Open Tour for 2009 with the usual suspects lining up to pit themselves against one another over the course of Saturday and Sunday.

In Group 1 it was the two seeds, Simon Ward and Paul Day who came through to play for the quarter final place with Simon winning that encounter by 5 frames to 3.

Group 2 disappointingly saw 4 non-shows and also saw the No. 8 seed, Brian Sullivan lose in the final frame to the much improving Neil Davies from Cardiff. Neil went onto beat fellow Cardiff player Kev “the calendar” Davies but could not shake off Port Talbot’s Kieran Piper who won the deciding frame for the last 8 spot.

Shock of Group 3 surely had to be Meatloaf waving goodbye to Ryan John by 5 frames to 4, only to be run over at some speed by Steve “the train” Gilbert in the next round. Zack Wilkinson had already seen off Shane Parfitt and Cory Rees and then booked his place in the quarter finals with a 5-3 win over Mr. Gilbert.

In Group 4 Dale Pope seemed to be flying and did not let his opponents take a frame off him in his first two matches but when he came up against Nigel King it was the rather more mature of the two players who run out the winner by 5 frames to 3.

Group 5 welcomed Martyn Zavishlock and Mark Skinner back into the fold and indeed they both made their presence felt with Martyn beating No. 3 seed Phil Hoskins in the final frame of their match and Mark putting paid to Bridgend’s Richard Stephens by 5 frames to 1. However their run did not continue with Mark falling at the hands of Wales B International Huw Salmon and Martyn being on the wrong end of a 5-1 scoreline in his match with Merthyr’s Scott “George” Rees. Scott continued his form and his victory over Huw Salmon in the last 16 saw him through to the quarter finals on the Sunday.

Group 6 included the 2009 World Ladies Champion Kirsty-Lee Davies but she could not get past Sam Wintle who was then promptly brought to a halt in his next round match winning only 1 frame against Steve Martin. At the other end of the group Justin Sollis had seen off Carl Wadham in the final frame of their match but No. 11 seed Nicky Griffiths was too strong for him in the next round, Nicky winning by 5 frames to 2. Nicky continued on and eventually blew away Steve Martin by 5 frames to 1 for a place in the last 8 place.

Group 7 went the same way as Group 1 with the two seeds coming through to contest for the quarter final spot and it was in fact No. 10 seed Jonathan Bushnell who ran out the winner by 5 frames to 3 over No. 7 seed Andrew Corten.

The final group saw the return of Cardiff’s Dave Stratford and he lined himself up to play for a place in the quarter finals with 5-3 victories over both Craig Marsh and Michael Beckett. In the other half another seed fell by the wayside when Neil Peters took the final frame off Jordan Shepherd. Neil then went on to win his match with Dave by the same scoreline.

The quarter final line-up was therefore as follows:-

Simon Ward –v - Kieran Piper

Zack Wilkinson –v- Nigel King

Scott Rees –v- Nicky Griffiths

Jonathan Bushnell –v- Neil Peters

Simon Ward, Nigel King, Nicky Griffiths and Jonathan Bushnell emerged victorious to contest the semi-finals and from those two very closely fought encounters it was Simon and Nicky who crossed the line.

Nicky having made the grade for the first time this year as a Wales A International has flourished and is fast becoming a very dangerous opponent. The final itself however was a somewhat one-sided affair and Nicky, who had not previously been past the quarter-final stages of a tour event, could not match the solid play of the more experienced Simon who run out the winner by 8 frames to 3.

Simon, whose last tour win was Event 7 of the 2007/2008 Season will now retain his No. 1 ranking for Event 2, which will take place on the weekend of 4th/5th. July.
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