Oxfordshire B Team Triumphs at National Finals
The Team: Shaun Taylor, Nick Mansell, Peter de Banks, John Street, Ben Scott, Ashley Penny-Larter (Captain), Kenny Saunders, Adam Luck and Rhys Freemire.
Friday morning 11.30am saw Oxfordshire B face Middlesex, and Oxford got off to a weak start, going down 7-2 despite wins from Ben and Peter. Oxford were guilty of not taking their chances and silly mistakes saw winnable frames slip away. The second leg was an improvement, but not enough, losing again 5-4, with wins from Kenny, Adam, Ashley and Peter. This left Middlesex needing just 2 frames to finish the match, and although Oxford were coming back at them with wins from Ben, Adam and Shaun, there just wasn’t enough time to catch them. Oxfordshire faced their first defeat at Nationals losing 14-9, and the 2010 Selsey campaign was off to a shaky start.
The Friday afternoon session began at 1.30 with Oxfordshire B facing Warwickshire C. Despite being a C team in the B section Warwickshire were known to be a strong side, with England players in their ranks. Oxfordshire made a more confident start this time taking the first leg 5-4 with wins from Peter, Shaun, Rhys, Kenny and John. Oxfordshire were off and running, and went on to take the second leg with ease, wins coming from Adam, Nick, Ben, Kenny, John and Rhys, producing a second leg score 6-3. Oxfordshire needed just 3 frames to secure a win and they soon came from Adam, Nick and Rhys (getting the first 3 out of 3 for Oxfordshire). They had found their feet and Oxfordshire won the match comfortably 14-8.
Friday early evening soon came round and Oxfordshire faced Essex B. Oxfordshire wobbled at the start losing the first leg 5-4, wins came from Adam, Nick, Ben and Shaun. We came back stronger in the second leg losing only 1 frame of the next 8 to bring the score to 11-6. Wins from Peter, Kenny and Adam secured victory for Oxfordshire, winning their second match of the day 14-6. Adam Luck getting 3 out of 3.
Saturday morning soon came round and Oxfordshire faced Warwickshire B at 9.30am. Some of the Oxford team were looking more than a little worse for wear – were Oxfordshire going to throw it away just as they were clicking into gear? Oxfordshire knew this would be a tough match as they were facing the defending champions and needed to win – but Oxford were buoyed by the fact they had been the only team to beat Warwickshire last year on their march to glory. Oxfordshire stormed ahead taking the first leg 6-3, which was just the start they needed. Wins came from Rhys, Shaun, John, Kenny, Ashley and Adam. Again they started the second leg and seemed to lose their way a bit but still managed to win the second leg 5-4, wins from Rhys, John, Adam, Nick and Ben. It looked almost over as Oxfordshire went into the third leg needing just three frames Rhys got the first to get his second 3 out of 3 of the weekend. Nick followed shortly after and with Captain Ashley cueing well he takes out a neat clearance and gets onto a straight black, only for Peter to deny him his win by potting the winning black before him!! Oxfordshire take the match 14-10 and things are looking good.
1.15pm soon comes round and Oxfordshire know from that Bristol B are more than capable of taking frames from them, Oxfordshire yet again lose the first leg and Bristol take it 5-4, with wins from Ben, Nick, Adam and John. Oxfordshire quickly find their form and take the second leg with wins from Rhys, John, Shaun, Ashley and Kenny. Going into the third leg its 9 a piece and Oxfordshire know that they need to win this match to keep any hope of topping the group. Rhys takes the first followed shortly after with wins from Nick, Ben, Adam and Ashley after deftly potting a long red to finish straight on the black. It was a close call but Oxfordshire beat Bristol 14-12.
Oxfordshire were topping their section with Warwickshire B and Middlesex close behind, Warwickshire B had no more games and so it all rested on Oxfordshire B v Cambridgeshire B and Middlesex v Bristol. Middlesex needed to win to stay in the competition and Oxfordshire needed just to stick at it, they were two points clear at the top with a game in hand. Could it be the year for the B Team?
Its 9.30am Sunday morning and after a heavy night Oxfordshire don’t look the part. However, with wins from Rhys, Peter, Nick, Adam, Ben, Ashley and John Oxfordshire storm ahead with a 7-2 lead. The second leg starts quickly and Cambridgeshire are playing like they have nothing to lose. Oxfordshire take the second leg 5-4 with wins coming from Kenny, Ben, Shaun, Ashley and John. Oxfordshire go into the third leg needing two frames, they soon come from Nick and Kenny. Oxfordshire win their last qualifier 14-8 and make the semi finals. With Bristol beating Middlesex it meant that Warwickshire B were through to the semi finals again.
Its soon announced that Oxfordshire will face London B and they would be no walkover. Oxfordshire and London quickly get down to it and the first leg goes 4 a piece with Nick getting the winning frame to nudge Oxford ahead 5-4. With support coming from xevery direction and wins coming from Shaun, Nick, Rhys, Kenny and John Oxfordshire win the second leg again 5-4. Going into the third leg and being 10-8 up Oxfordshire want 4 frames and want to get them quickly. With the other semi final finished Oxfordshire B and London B know that the winner of the match will face Warwickshire B in the final. The third leg gets going and wins come quickly from Ben and Rhys. Adam and Nick lose the next two and it again goes to a two frame difference Oxfordshire being ahead by just 12-10. Peter loses and Ashley wins, Shaun and John still playing and the score is 13-11, Oxfordshire need one of the last three but none of the frames look like certainties. Suddenly Shaun is gifted two shots and does not hesitate about finishing it off as quickly as possible, Oxfordshire taking the match 14-11. The supporters go crazy: Oxfordshire B have made the final and they have just about an hour to get ready to face Warwickshire B in what would be a riveting final.
Oxfordshire B had played some of their best pool over the weekend and had really behaved as a close knit team, with vocal support provided from their fellow Oxfordshire squad members. Whatever happened now the men had done an excellent job and had done Oxfordshire proud.
There was plenty of banter as the match begun. Oxfordshire use the same order that beat Warwickshire B in the group the day before. However, things don’t go to plan. 3 of our first 4 players went in off the break and had to stand by as their opponents took full advantage and started clearing up. Things were looking woeful, and quick as a flash we are 8-1 down, and even the most optimistic of Oxford supporters must have started to have doubts. Oxfordshire just couldn’t seem to find it until Warwickshire started to chant “That is why we are the Champions”. Oxfordshire didn’t take this lightly and came out fighting with quick wins coming from Ben. Shaun, Adam, Kenny, John, Nick leaving Rhys playing a long tactical frame that he looked to be on the losing end of. However some solid snooker escapes and keeping a cool head kept Rhys in with a chance, and an excellent shot to clear the key pocket followed by a couple of carefully selected positions for the white ball turned the tables and Rhys emerged triumphant after a superbly played frame.
Oxfordshire had taken the second leg 6-3, and now there is everything to play for as Oxfordshire go into the third leg just 10-8 down. Oxfordshire certainly had the support behind them and this would be their biggest leg of the weekend and boy did they want it. The first frame of the third leg ends quickly with Shaun losing at 11-8. Was this as close as Oxford were going to get to them? Was it still too late to catch Warwickshire? If Oxfordshire wanted it then they had to pull something out. The wins for Oxfordshire started rolling in again from Kenny, Adam, Nick, Peter and Ben. This brought us to 11 all and then at last into the lead. It is 13-12 to Oxfordshire with just Rhys and John left playing and we just need one of them to win. The whole hall is watching as John is on a clearance and goes about taking it out. Then he’s on a straight black to middle… but somehow it doesn’t go in. His opponent now looks certain to clear.
Rhys has his eye on Johns table, and he now realises that its going to all come down to him. He’s at the table and all his balls go, but the clearance isn’t nailed-on easy. He takes them confidently, and leaves himself on the Black just off straight to the corner pocket. For the first time all weekend the supporters are completely silent. Is this going to be it? One shot to either make Oxford champions or to ruin Oxfords dreams? Rhys hits it and the crowd go absolutely mental – its in!!!! Oxfordshire B have won the National title for the first time ever!!! Very well played guys!!! And that sterling performance from Rhys with another 3/3 in the final was also enough for him to top the Mens B Team rankings.
Never have I seen a team so determined to win, and to come back from 8-1 down was a perfect end to a fabulous weekend. Bring on 2011.