THE new leader of the Cuestars South of England Championship Tour reckons “you never forget how to win”.
Mike Finn progressed from the round-robin group stages via a play-off and went on to clinch the sixth leg at The Crucible Sports & Social Club, Newbury.
The 32-year-old from Eastleigh defeated Londoner Ronnie Blake 3-0 in the final to collect £150 prize money and take a six-point lead over Ryan Mears in the race for the Q School place.
“I scraped through (the group stages),” admitted The Mighty Finn.
“Ryan went out so that pricked my ears up a little bit and I played quite well towards the end.
“Sometimes you forget how to play but you never forget how to win. And I know what to do at the right times.
“For playing once a week, I’m happy with that.”
Finn took the opening frame of the 44-minute final with a run of 56.
Blake was chasing snookers with one red left in the next and Finn cleared the last five colours – which included a massive screw shot on the brown that was near the green side cushion to get on the blue which was near the black spot – to win the third on the black.
Blake had knocked out Aldershot hotshot Mears 3-0 in the last-eight.
As Finn beat Cuestars newcomer Mike Forgione (Northampton) 3-0 in the semi-finals, his former Churchills teammate Billy Castle was practising on an adjacent table hours after his last-32 exit to Stuart Carrington in the Coral Shoot Out in Watford.
Earlier in the group stages, Southampton’s seven-time Town Champion was beaten by his travelling companion Adam Nash and joined Craig Marsh (Thatcham), who beat Labeeb Ahmed (Chessington) on a re-spotted black, in a three-way six reds play-off for two of the three best runner-up places.
And title contender Paul Bunyard (Aldershot) lost his first match 2-1 to Reece King (Bournemouth) despite making a 75 in the second frame.
He then knocked in the day’s highest break of 100 against George Heatley (Hersham, Surrey) but missed out on qualifying for the knockout.
Following World Snooker’s recent announcement that the cost of Q School has risen from £600 to £1,000, Cuestars has pledged to honour its commitment to award a free entry to the Championship Tour winner.
Frames Sports Bar, Coulsdon, hosts the seventh leg of eight on Sunday, March 4.
The event in Newbury was sponsored by Mr Gold, which buys and sells new and used gold, diamonds, jewellery and watches. Contact Mr Gold, which is run by Jamie Sullivan, dad of Bronze Tour rankings leader Ronnie Sullivan, via [email protected] or ring 07930 355677.
Paul Bunyard: 100, 75.
Adam Nash: 74, 56, 55, 53.
Mike Finn: 69, 60, 56, 53.
Neil Craycraft: 68.
Ryan Mears: 58, 57.
Labeeb Ahmed: 57, 50.
Reece King: 52.
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP POSITIONS
GROUP A: 1st, Neil Craycraft (Jesters, Swindon); 2nd, Labeeb Ahmed (Frames, Coulsdon); 3rd, Dale Prout (Crucible, Newbury); 4th, Martin Wallace (Crowthorne RBL); 5th, Daniel Walker (Cousins, London).
GROUP B: 1st, Adam Nash (Churchills, Eastleigh); 2nd, Mike Finn (Churchills, Eastleigh); 3rd, Dan Sykes (Chandlers Ford SC); 4th, Paul Bateman (Crucible, Newbury); 5th, James Budd (Fareham SC).
GROUP C: 1st, Ronnie Blake (Frames, Coulsdon); 2nd, Mark Alexander (Crucible, Newbury); 3rd, Paul Bunyard (Woking SC); 4th, Reece King (Greenbaize, Bournemouth); 5th, George Heatley (Woking SC).
GROUP D: 1st, Ryan Mears (Sovereign, Farnborough); 2nd, Craig Marsh (Crucible, Newbury); 3rd, James Cullen (Woking SC); 4th, Andrew Darken (Chertsey SSNR Club); 5th, Antony Foxcroft (Salisbury SC).
GROUP E: 1st, Mike Trigg (Chandlers Ford SC); 2nd, Mike Forgione (Northampton); 3rd, Steve Wheatland (Chandlers Ford SC); 4th, Stu Barter (Chandlers Ford SC); 5th, Ray Mears (Sovereign, Farnborough).
QUARTER-FINALS (24 points): Blake 3-0 Ryan Mears, Marsh 3-1 Craycraft, Finn 3-1 Trigg, Forgione 3-1 Nash.
SEMI-FINALS (£20, 30 points): Blake 3-0 Marsh, Finn 3-0 Forgione.
FINAL (£150/£60, 50/36 points): Finn 3-0 Blake.
Picture by Tim Dunkley
Billy Castle (left) and Mike Finn
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Tim Dunkley (World Snooker coach)