Category Archives: Snooker

SNOOKER – Feb 14th – Welsh Open @ Newport Centre

Firstly I have to say I didn’t travel half way round the world specifically for Snooker’s Welsh Open. I just happened to be back in the old home town and it was taking place and never one to miss an opportunity I decided to kill an afternoon and go and have a look. I have been to snooker tournaments previously, and uncannily attended this event before, even if it was over 20 years ago – that was when the Newport Centre was vaguely new. I must say it hasn’t changed a bit since the last time I was there (probably not a good thing)!!

Newport has a reputation for not being the most culturally exotic place around. It was once described as the most violent town in Britain; people in Newport fall victim to more burglaries, robberies, sexual offences or incidents of violence than anyone else in the UK – nice hey??? And yet, Newportonians have a sense of pride in their hometown like no other place I have ever experienced. As I walked around the town – I still can’t call it a city – there were banners declaring itself as a rival to Melbourne as the sports capital of the world. Unfortunately, Newport has only 2 moderately successful rugby teams, a non-league football team and a world class golf course owned by a local billionaire. Its not exactly Grand Slam Tennis, Moto GP, Formula 1 and International Cricket somehow! Anyway, as long as the council have dreams and ambition, that’s the main thing. Having events like the snooker can only be positive. But, apparently the community is still in huge debt from staging golf’s Ryder Cup in 2010, as the economic benefits to the region have come nowhere near the projections made by our local billionaire!

Snooker, like darts, used to be a part of a working family’s upbringing, but that’s far from the case now. Before Pay TV, snooker was regularly discussed in pubs by men of all ages. The 1985 World Championship final still holds the ratings record for BBC2, and is the highest rating post-midnight broadcast of all time in the UK. At 12:19am, 18.5million people were watching as Dennis Taylor sank the final black, in the final frame to upset red-hot favourite Steve Davis (pun intended!). British sports lovers of the 35+ variety can still tell you where they were at that very moment. Snooker was as mainstream as football at that time.

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Two tables were being used at the same time, which at least kept your attention for the majority of the time. In the old days there was a big screen up between the tables so you couldn’t see what was going on over the other side. It seems a much more friendly set-up now. I guess the players are used to it and if they get distracted, that’s their problem!

The matches themselves were largely uneventful. Although Stuart Bingham’s brilliance saw him sneak by former Australian World Champion, Neil Robertson in a last frame thriller. When Robertson missed a tough pot at 55 points up, Bingham then weaved his way around the table to knock in the remaining 5 reds and colours, leaving him 26 to win with just the 6 colours left. Bingham magically drained tough shots on the blue, pink and black to win the deciding frame by a solitary point. That match was worth the admission money alone, and I was mightily impressed by the quality and skills on show. Even though Robertson won the world title in 2011, back in Australia, very few people would know who he was, even fewer would recognise him if they saw him in the street!

The majority of the crowd were there to see former world number 2, fellow Welshman Matthew Stevens. When Stevens was 2-1 up, he missed an easy shot which should have seen him go 3-1 up, but let Steven Maguire back in who duly cleared up. Maguire then went on to win the next 2 frames as well to progress to the next round. Stevens had a large contingent of friends and family in the crowd who became more and more dejected the worse Stevens played!

There were quite a few Asian faces in the crowd and they were on hand to watch Ding Junhai dispose of Mark Allen easily. Ding is a superstar in China, and he actually won this tournament last year apparently. It is amazing to witness the speed at which he plays. He raced through the first 3 frames and  finally clinched his match 4-2, which pleased his devoted followers immensely.

The other game was a straight forward win by current world number 2 Judd Trump over a lacklustre Andrew Higginson who to be totally honest looked totally disinterested in the whole affair. Newport will do that to you!!! I left the Centre at the same time as Mr. Higginson and I must say he was very matter of fact about how bad he was, which was refreshing to say the least!

Sport needs to be so much more nowadays than the event itself. Snooker is a sport that is traditionally played under a cloak of silence, broken only by the ripples of applause for a good shot or decent break. In the push for media coverage and fan engagement, all of a sudden, something happens to try and put itself on the map:

The Harlem Shake has overtaken Gangnam Style as the “in-thing” to be a part of. With the crowds at snooker events being typically doddery, you would have thought that a Harlem Shake would have been a lacklustre affair, but just check them out going crazy. Only in Newport!!!

The Welsh Open is a nice friendly event and gives the high proportion of unemployed dole recipients in the town something to do during the week. Long may it continue to give Newport’s profile a welcome boost in the far outreaches of Guangzhou Province and Basildon to try and get back some of that Ryder Cup money! Up the Port.

WELSH OPEN SNOOKER 2ND ROUND

STEPHEN MAGUIRE 4 – 2 MATTHEW STEVENS

STUART BINGHAM 4 – 3 NEIL ROBERTSON

JUDD TRUMP 4 – 1 ANDREW HIGGINSON

DING JUNHUI 4 – 2 MARK ALLEN

Number of Events

TBC

Number of Sports

TBC

Gigs (Bands: Headlines + Support)

TBC

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