Australia’s Steve Mifsud won the Oceania Snooker Championship for a third time this weekend, some 21 years after he first claimed the title.
A field of nearly 70 entries, with representation from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, travelled to the Mounties Club in Sydney for the most prestigious title the Oceania Billiards and Snooker Federation (OBSF) has to offer. Players were initially split into round robin groups with the top two from each advancing to the knockouts.
Mifsud, who also lifted the trophy in 2014, began his bid by qualifying second from his group. During the knockouts the 46-year-old eliminated former winner and fellow ex-professional Ben Judge (3-1), Ben Foster (4-1), Cale Barrett (4-1) and then ousted number two seed Alan McCarthy (5-4) via a deciding frame.
Awaiting Mifsud was recent main tour professional Kurt Dunham in what would be an all-Victorian final. Dunham was returning to the tournament having secured promotion to the sport’s top tier courtesy of winning it in 2016 at this same venue. The 27-year-old qualified as the number one seed after topping his group without losing a frame. He then continued his relentless assault on the championship in the knockouts, culminating in a 5-2 semi-final victory over former winner Joe Minici.
Mifsud started the final well taking a 2-0 lead, but Dunham recovered to level up going into the mid-session interval. The following two frames were shared, but it was the current and record equalling eight-time Australian national champion Mifsud who was stronger in the closing stages, coming through a 6-4 victor.
As a member of the World Snooker Federation, the OBSF will nominate Mifsud as their candidate for a two-year professional tour card, although it is unclear whether the Australian will accept the offer in any capacity. Mifsud also has the opportunity to compete in the Betfred World Professional Championship qualifiers that take place at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield next month.
Whilst Dunham will be disappointed at losing the final, he can console himself with the Oceania 6-Red Championship he won at the start of the week. Dropping just five frames throughout the entire competition, Dunham defeated Roger Farebrother 5-0 in the final.
Fullerton secures maiden crown
Australia’s Megan Fullerton went one better on her performance 12 months ago by winning the Oceania Women’s Snooker Championship for the first time.
Fullerton qualified second from her round robin group after winning four out of five matches. In the subsequent knockout phase she eliminated Kylie Bellinger, 3-0, and then inflicted revenge by dethroning defending champion Carlie Tait, 3-2.
Her opponent in the final was experienced former winner Theresa Whitten (Australia), who saw off Judy Dangerfield and Annette Clifford in the last eight and four respectively.
There was never more than a frame’s difference between the finalists, but it was Fullerton who eventually came through via a seventh and deciding frame. The New South Wales representative earlier in the competition also made the highest break of 59.
2019 OBSF Oceania Snooker Championship
Results – from the quarter-finals onwards
Kurt Dunham 4-0 James Mifsud
John Wims 2-4 Joe Minici
Cale Barrett 1-4 Steve Mifsud
Daniel Haenga 2-4 Alan McCarthy
Dunham 5-2 Minici
Mifsud 5-4 McCarthy
Dunham 4- 6 Mifsud
Highest Break Steve Mifsud (130)
Kacper Filipiak became the first player ever from Poland to win the European Amateur Snooker Championship following a 5-4 victory against David Lilley in the final at the U Magic Palace Hotel in Eilat, Israel on Saturday afternoon.
Organised by the European Billiards and Snooker Association (EBSA), a member of the World Snooker Federation, this prestigious continental event provides a pathway onto the professional circuit and has previously been won by players such as Mark Allen and Luca Brecel. Celebrating its 28th edition, 125 entries representing 33 different nations took part in the week-long festival.
Filipiak, European Under-21 champion in 2011, topped his group after winning all three of his round robin fixtures. Progressing into the knockout phase as the fourth seed, the 23-year-old eliminated Dean Young (Scotland) 4-0, Marcin Nitschke (Poland) 4-2, Ivan Kakovskii (Russia) 4-3, Kevin Hanssens (Belgium) 4-0 and then Greg Casey (Republic of Ireland) 4-1 to be his country’s maiden finalist in this tournament.
His opponent in the final was experienced Englishman David Lilley who was trying to win a second European crown, twenty-four years on from his first in 1995. The North-East maestro had triumphed in the warm-up Israel Open competition that proceeded this, and he continued his momentum at the venue qualifying second from group before navigating his way through the knockouts. In the semi-finals he ended the ambitions of Shachar Ruberg – the last remaining hope for the host nation.
The best-of-nine frame final would be a predictably tight affair. The Pole – twenty years younger than his counterpart – started stronger as he took an early 2-0 lead, although Lilley managed to get a foothold with success in the next. In a close climax to frame four, Filipiak doubled the final pink to re-establish a two-frame buffer going into the mid-session interval.
Lilley responded positively to this setback on resumption of play, stringing together the next three frames to turn the tables and go 4-3 up; just one away from the championship. However, Filipiak treated the audience to a deserved decider when he squared it at the end of frame eight.
More twists and turns would come during a nervy final frame. The youngster got in first but broke down on a break of 36. Lilley went in for the counter-attack, but his effort of 51 fell short of the finishing line with two reds remaining.
After a tense passage of play, Filipiak converted an opportunity when coolly potting yellow to blue to claim the biggest title of his career so far. The win also means that Filipiak has earned a guaranteed two-year professional tour card for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 campaigns.
It will be a return to the sport’s top tier for Filipiak, who burst onto the scene as a 15-year-old after his Under-21 glory. He struggled to adapt to the rigours of the circuit and was relegated after just a year, but with considerably more experience now behind him, he is better equipped to deal with the tough challenges ahead.
Lilley’s initial emotion is likely to be disappointment, but he can still achieve his dream of full-time professional status via the Challenge Tour and the one-year world ranking list in the coming weeks.
Throughout the latter stages of the tournament there was a cosmopolitan palette on display. The quarter-finals were made up of players from seven different countries, including promising teenagers Florian Nüßle from Austria and Patrik Tiihonen from Finland.
2019 EBSA European Amateur Snooker Championship
Results (from the quarter-finals onwards)
Florian Nüßle (Austria) 3-4 Greg Casey (Republic of Ireland)
Kevin Hanssens (Belgium) 0-4 Kacper Filipiak (Poland)
David Lilley (England) 4-2 Patrick Tiihonen (Finland)
Shachar Ruberg (Israel) 4-2 Michael Wild (England)
Casey 1-4 Filipiak
Lilley 4-1 Ruberg
Filipiak 5-4 Lilley
Highest break of the tournament
Andrew Pagett (Wales), 123
Jackson Page has realised his professional ambition courtesy of his dominant victory in the 2019 EBSA European Under-21 Snooker Championship earlier today in Eilat, Israel.
In recent years the talented Welsh teenager has been highlighted by many as one of the hottest properties on both the amateur and youth circuits. Among other titles and accolades, Page won the European Under-18 category in 2017 & 2018 and is the current Welsh amateur champion too. A practice partner of reigning world champion Mark Williams, he also reached the last 16 of the Paul Hunter Classic last summer.
Held in Israel for the first time, this year’s Under-21 event had a cosmopolitan feel to it with over seventy entries from twenty-six different countries taking part.
Page topped his group after winning all three of his round robin fixtures and progressed into the knockouts as one of the top seeds. There he continued his relentless assault on the championship by eliminating Richard Wienold (Germany) 4-0, Attila Horváth (Hungary) 4-0 and Hamim Hussain (England) 4-0 to reach the semi-finals with relative ease.
In the final four Page came up against the Republic of Ireland’s Aaron Hill, the player who had just succeeded him as the new European Under-18 champion at this same venue a few days previously. However, Hill’s hopes of a historic double were brushed aside as he lost 4-0. It meant that Page had reached the final with the loss of just the single frame he relinquished in the group stages.
His opponent in the final was fellow 17-year-old Ross Bulman, who was keeping alive the dream of dual Irish youth glory. Bulman, like Page, had advanced throughout the tournament undefeated. He secured his berth in the final following a 4-2 success over Dylan Emery (Wales) – the losing finalist to Hill in the Under-18s on Tuesday.
Runner-up to Alexander Ursenbacher in this competition in 2017, Page settled down well in the final, opening an ominous looking 3-0 lead with the aid of 63 and 65 breaks. ‘Action’ Jackson also looked poised to chalk up frame four, but a gutsy snatch 34 clearance to the pink by Bulman made the scoreline look competitive going into the mid-session interval.
Page was unperturbed by this minor setback, though. On the resumption it was business as usual as he crafted a break of 57 to move one away before sealing the title in a virtuoso finish with a run of 102 for a 5-1 win. He had also made the tournament’s highest break – a run of 129 – during the last sixteen.
The youngster follows in the footsteps of previous European youth champions such as Mark Allen, Michael White and Luca Brecel. Page is the first winner of this event from Wales since it was rebranded from Under-19 to Under-21 in 2011.
Claiming the championship means that Page has lived up to the widely believed prediction that it was only a matter of time before he broke onto the top tier of the sport. As the European Billiards and Snooker Federation is a member of the World Snooker Federation, he will be offered a guaranteed two-year professional main tour card for the 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons.
2019 EBSA European Under-21 Snooker Championship
Results (from the quarter-finals onwards)
Wesley Pelgrims (Belgium) 0-4 Dylan Emery (Wales)
Julien Leclercq (Belgium) 3-4 Ross Bulman (Republic of Ireland)
Hamim Hussain (England) 0-4 Jackson Page (Wales)
Aaron Hill (Republic of Ireland) 4-0 Ivan Kakovskii (Russia)
Emery 2-4 Bulman
Page 4-0 Hill
Bulman 1-5 Page
Alex Pace won the Oceania Under-21 Snooker Championship for the first time in his career on Wednesday in New Zealand.
Held at the Havelock North Club in Hawkes Bay, sixteen of the continent’s brightest youngsters took part in this annual Oceania Billiards and Snooker Federation (OBSF) event. Split into groups of four, the top two from each pool advanced to the quarter-final knockouts.
Tasmanian cueist Pace topped Group B after winning all three of his fixtures. He then defeated fellow Australian Denzil Nicholson 4-2 in the last 8 and dethroned defending champion Mario Hildred (NZ) 5-2 in the semis.
Pace’s opponent in the final was another one of the host nation’s contingent, Adam Lilley. Runner-up to Hildred in a deciding frame twelve months previously, Lilley also qualified top from his group with a 100% match record. During his 4-1 quarter-final victory over Cody Turner (NZ), Lilley crafted a 112 clearance, he also came through with change to spare in his last four clash against Sam Martin (NZ), 5-1.
The tone for an intriguing trans-Tasman final was set in the opener. Pace went in with a break of 47, Lilley responded with a 58, but it was the Australian who cleared from blue to a tricky black along the top cushion to go 1-0 up.
The New Zealander’s reaction was a positive one, though. He chalked up the next two to go in front and then bettered his, and the tournament’s highest break effort, when constructing a fantastic 128 clearance in frame four to move two clear at 3-1.
However, the direction of the match changed again. Pace was able to claim the next two to square, and in a tight finish where modest breaks were exchanged, he managed to emerge as a 6-4 winner.
Pace, who was the eighth different winner in as many editions, said: “I’m overwhelmed and just so happy that I was able to get the win in my last year”.
In March, the OBSF, which is part of snooker’s international federation the World Snooker Federation, will hold the mixed gender 2019 Oceania Snooker Championship in New South Wales, Australia, where the winner will be offered a two-year professional main tour card. Before this, at the same Mounties venue, the Oceania Women’s and 6 Red Championships will also be staged.
Photo courtesy of the New Zealand Billiards and Snooker Association.
Results (from the quarter-finals onwards)
Mario Hildred (NZ) 4-2 Kyle Thomson (Aus)
Denzel Nicholson (Aus) 2-4 Alex Pace (Aus)
Denin Bunn (NZ) 0-4 Sam Martin (NZ)
Cody Turner (NZ) 1-4 Adam Lilley (NZ)
Hildred 2-5 Pace
Martin 1-5 Lilley
Pace 6-4 Lilley
Aaron Hill became the second Irish player within the last three years to have claimed a European Billiards and Snooker Association youth title following his success in the 2019 European Under-18 Snooker Championship earlier this week.
Held at the U Magic Palace Hotel in the Israeli coastal city and resort of Eilat, this was the first of three events that make up this year’s EBSA Championships. Running until 2 March, the subsequent Under-21 and Main categories will complete a busy programme. It is the first time that Israel has held the championships.
In what was the fourth annual staging of the Under-18 discipline, representatives from a healthy 24 different nations took part – further evidence of snooker’s growing appeal on the continent.
Cork cueist Hill qualified from his round robin group, finishing second behind Hungary’s promising 12-year-old prospect Bulcsú Révész.
During the knockout portion of the competition Hill made breaks of 54 and 57 to dispatch Bradley Tyson (Wales), 3-0, and 60 and 81 in seeing off Iulian Boiko (Ukraine), 3-1, to reach the quarter-finals.
Hill then capped off a 4-1 win over Belgium’s Julien Leclercq with a run of 70 before eliminating number 1 seed Florian Nüßle, 4-2, in the semis with a further brace of half-centuries. Current Austrian National champion Nüßle was the runner-up to Jackson Page in this tournament twelve months ago in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Awaiting Hill in the final was the undefeated Dylan Emery of Wales, who was looking to follow in the footsteps of fellow countrymen Tyler Rees (2016) and Page (2017, 2018) as the only other winners of this championship.
Emery eased through his group without dropping a frame, also constructing the highest break of the event, a 141. That was one of three centuries he would make in total.
He then dispatched Dean Young (Scotland) 3-2 and Nicolas Mortreux (France) 4-2 in the last 16 and 8 respectively. In the last 4 he stopped the possibility of an all-Irish final when he denied Ross Bulman, a stablemate of Hill’s, 4-0.
A predictably close and tense final ensued; Emery took a 2-1 lead with the aid of 54 and 59 breaks, but Hill responded to move in front for the first time and just one away from the trophy as he chalked up runs of 59 and 50.
The Welshman, a year older than his opponent, levelled it up at 3-3, however, Irish eyes were smiling when Hill kept his nerve in the decider as he coolly amassed a decisive 84 break.
The action continues with the Under-21 Championship which concludes this Friday and will see the winner claim a two-year ticket to the World Snooker Tour from the start of next season.