York triumphant in BUCS-UPC Eight-ball Pool Championships
The format of the BUCS-UPC Eight-ball Pool Championships lies in accordance with all BUCS sporting events. In the Team Championship/Trophy, there were eight groups of five teams with the two best-placed first teams going forward to compete in the Last-16 of the Championship. The best-placed team not qualifying for the Championship went forward to challenge for the Team Trophy whilst the bottom placed team faced relegation to the BUCS-UPC Eight-ball Pool Shield in 2012-2013. There was clearly a lot to play for!
CueSport TV were in attendance again to stream the play live and record a selection of team and individual matches. The commentated footage of the event will soon be available on their website.
With the groups being seeded based on previous performances, there were few upsets as most of those fancying their chances of contending for the title qualified.
Defending champions Nottingham 1st arrived on the east coast with the belief that their pre-tournament polishing of the trophy would be for their ongoing benefit and this was consolidated by an unbeaten start in their group. Essex 1st got the better of St Andrews 1st in their opening match and this set the tone for the remaining fixtures, with Essex qualifying for a Championship berth and St Andrews moving through to the Trophy.
Queens University, Belfast, winners of this event on two previous occasions, emerged from group B unscathed. Manchester 2nd, demonstrating the impressive pool club infrastructure at the university, qualified for the Trophy in second place with Cambridge 1st securing the other Championship berth.
Exeter 1st, who held their own quiet hopes for the title, got underway with a positive start in topping group C. Strathclyde 1st, who were optimistic of taking the title north of the border for the first time, also qualified for the Championship with Portsmouth 1st taking their slot in the Trophy.
Warwick 1st, who have demonstrated pedigree in this event by consistently being involved at the ‘business’ end on Sunday, dominated their group to qualify comfortably and they were joined by Manchester 1st. Kent 3rd ruffled some feathers by securing their Trophy berth at the expense of Birmingham 1st and Durham 2nd.
Exeter 2nd outlined their Trophy credentials by finishing at the top of Group E, whilst Abertay 1st and Durham 1st qualified for the Championship with the awareness that they would need to raise their game in order to actively compete in the knockout phase.
In a twist of the draw, current UPC Nine-ball Pool Team Champions, Edge Hill University, were paired with their Nine-ball Championship final opponents York, in Group F. Both demonstrated their versatility by qualifying for the Championship knockout but it was York who extracted an early modicum of revenge by finishing in top slot. Oxford 1st overcame an early defeat by intervarsity rivals Cambridge’s 2nd team to progress to the Trophy knockout.
Cardiff 1st, so often carrying the Welsh hopes in this event, got off to an impressive start by comfortably winning Group G. Reading 1st, who have grown impressively as a club in the past three seasons, got the better of Medway 1st to progress to the Championship.
As play commenced on Sunday, pressure in the arena of the Regency Room tangibly increased with the knowledge that any defeat now would lead to the ignition of the team’s minibus for the trip home!
With nearly all matches at the Last-16 stage being close contests, it demonstrated that the race to the Championship title was a wide-open affair.
It may have been deemed a ‘surprise casualty’ when pre-tournament favourites and reigning champions Nottingham fell to Edge Hill but any team that boasts the Individual Champions from the last two tournaments in Rhys Williams and Will Jerram will prove to be formidable opponents.
Although it required a tense play-off, Warwick got the better of Reading as Exeter also progressed to the Last-16 at the expense of south coast rivals Southampton.
York quickly snuffed out the hopes of Essex with a comprehensive whitewash as Durham ended the Irish campaign with a comprehensive 6-2 victory over Queens.
Scottish hopes were growing as both Abertay and Strathclyde secured their quarter-final berths at the cost of Cambridge and Lancaster respectively as Cardiff emerged from a crunch match with Manchester to muted applause after a cruel in-off on the black.
With a mouth watering quarter-final line up in place, Cardiff enhanced their hopes of becoming the first Welsh team to win the Championship by dispatching Durham with aplomb. York had to dig deep to edge Exeter in a thrilling shoot-out decider as Warwick and Edge Hill ended Scottish hopes by getting the better of Strathclyde and Abertay respectively to complete the semi-final line up.
The two semi-finals proved to be contrasting affairs. In the first semi-final, the challenge of Warwick ran out of steam as Edge Hill dominated from start to finish continuing their dream of becoming the first University to do the team title ‘double’ in a season. In the other, the match between York and Cardiff was on a knife-edge at 5-4 to York with all eyes on the final table. When York were awarded two shots after the white failed to hit the cushion, Sam Wass gobbled up the chance to put York in the final.
In a tense final that brought these two fine sides together again, Edge Hill and York traded early frames to leave the match nicely poised as the nerves began to settle and the frame victory cheers were getting louder. With York on the hill at 5-4, the final frame ebbed and flowed with Edge Hill appearing confident of pushing the match to an ultimate play-off. Anchor man Sam Wass, had other ideas though, and when the opportunity presented itself, he gleefully clipped the black to win the first Team Championship title for University of York in this discipline.
In the BUCS-UPC Eight-ball Pool Team Trophy, two 1st teams contested the final in the shape of St Andrews and Leeds. Leeds, who demonstrated a great team spirit throughout, got the better of St Andrews to pick up the Trophy with Warren Yabsley potting the winning black.
The BUCS-UPC Eight-ball Pool Shield provides a platform for new teams to compete alongside current teams that are not of Championship/Trophy status.
Plymouth 1st, who were relegated from Championship/Trophy level last season, returned to Great Yarmouth with high aspirations instilled by their talisman and new captain John McAllister (formerly Ulster). Ulster 1st, boasting a strong line-up with mainstream and university pool experience, progressed with ease to reach the final.
Regarded by many spectators as the best Shield final ever contested, Plymouth 1st seized the early initiative and Ulster were chasing their coat tails. In a fitting finale, it was left to captain McAllister to sink the winning black and drop to his knees in celebration.
This victory created history as this event was the first occasion when a first team has won the Championship, Trophy and Shield.
Manchester Met, Glamorgan and all other Shield quarter-finalists will be eligible for promotion to the Championship/Trophy in 2012/13.
In the BUCS-UPC Individual Championship, Will Jerram (Edge Hill) arrived at Great Yarmouth determined to retain his title. Although he made light work of his first opponent when he entered the draw with the other seeds in the Last-128, he certainly was not having it all his own way as the pressures of being the defending champion and the crowd it attracts nearly put paid to his challenge at both the Last-16 and Last-8 stages by two Northern Irish men, Raymond Todd (Ulster) and John McAllister (Plymouth).
With almost 450 names in the hat at the start of play on Thursday, still being involved at the latter stages on Saturday evening represented a fantastic achievement. In arguably the most open tournament ever, Thomas Gaughan (Exeter) made impressive strides towards the semi-finals alongside two players who have previously impressed in the UPC Nine-ball Pool Individual Championships, Matt Bradley (Warwick) and Rhys Williams (Edge Hill).
In the first semi-final, Thomas Gaughan settled his early nerves and gained a foothold in the match against Will Jerram. When Jerram made some uncharacteristic errors, Gaughan gratefully picked up the pieces and pressed on to victory to reach his first university final. In the other semi-final, Rhys Williams and Matt Bradley shared the opening exchanges before Williams seized the initiative to book his place against Gaughan in the final.
With around 250 spectators, the individual final proved to be a dramatic affair with the magnitude of the occasion dawning on both players. As they both settled into the match, it was Williams who looked the more composed as he gained an early lead. Although Gaughan remained in touching distance, it was Williams who reached the hill first. With the mantra that the ‘hardest’ frames to win are the first and the last, Gaughan lapped up every opportunity to intensify the pressure as Williams could not get over the line with his early opportunities. However, Williams was not to be denied as he held his nerve to sink the black ball and become the BUCS-UPC Eight-ball Pool Individual Champion.
Speed Pool Contest
In a high-octane section of the eight-ball championships event, Exeter University, inspired by the rapid play of Gaughan, got the better of Nottingham in the final showdown.
Attention now switches to the Student Home Internationals Trials on 24th-25th March 2012 (England, Scotland and Wales) in anticipation of the event in Manchester on 20th-21st April 2012.
Notes to editors:
The Universities Pool Council (UPC) is the governing body for pool at higher education level in the United Kingdom. It is recognised by the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS), Scottish University Sport (SUS) and the English Pool Association (EPA).
The UPC organises national nine-ball, eight-ball and women’s eight-ball championships for teams and individuals. The UPC also organises the Student Home Internationals representative event.