MIKE Finn has gained ground on rankings leader Ryan Mears in the race for the Q School place on the Cuestars South of England Championship Tour.
Southampton’s Town Champion beat his title rival 3-1 in the final of the fourth leg at Salisbury Snooker Club.
Finn raced into a 2-0 lead in the 56-minute clash with runs of 32, 49 and 64 but Mears pulled one back by clearing the table for the day’s highest break of 105.
The 31-year-old from Eastleigh secured the £130 prize money after winning a safety battle on the last red in the fourth frame following some well-laid snookers and equally excellent escapes.
“I didn’t play great but I played solid,” said The Mighty Finn.
“I played really well in the first two frames against Ryan. I kept him pointless. Playing Ryan, it’s difficult to stop him potting a ball.
“We’ve got quite a tight record against each other. It’s always a close game.
“I managed to win more than I lose but I managed to win more than I lost last year and Billy (Castle) still got ahead of me. We’ll see what happens.”
At the halfway stage of the season, Finn, who won the first leg in Swindon, is just four points behind Aldershot hotshot Mears, 29, who won the third event in Havant.
Earlier, Finn topped his five-man round-robin group, despite losing 2-1 to his Churchills teammate Adam Nash, and defeated youngsters Charlie Pringle, 16, 3-0 and Jamie Wilson, 14, 3-1 in the knockout.
Mears also won his group, despite losing 2-1 to Wilson. Trailing 2-1 to Oliver Sykes (Chandler’s Ford) in the last-eight, he fired in breaks of 85 and 53 to secure a hard-fought 3-2 victory.
Paying tribute to his 11-year-old opponent, Mears said: “He was awesome. I was really impressed. That was probably my best win.”
And he followed that by battling back from 2-0 down to beat Christian Chislett (Basingstoke) in the semi-finals.
Second-placed Mark Lloyd (Gosport) and joint third-placed Paul Bunyard (Aldershot) both missed out on one of the three best runners-up spots by one frame.
The 25-strong entry for the event sponsored by Salisbury-based independent financial advisers The Aaron Partnership returned 20 breaks of 50 or more.
Fareham Snooker Club hosts the fifth leg of eight on Sunday, January 14.
For more information about The Aaron Partnership, visit www.theaaronpartnership.co.uk/
Ryan Mears: 105, 85, 65, 53.
Callum Lloyd: 69, 69, 57.
Paul Bunyard: 68, 67, 50, 50.
Jamie Wilson: 67, 64.
Mike Finn: 64, 63, 50, 50.
Christian Chislett: 60, 58.
Ryan Hughes: 52.
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP POSITIONS
GROUP A: 1st, Charlie Pringle (Chandlers Ford SC); 2nd, Oliver Sykes (Chandlers Ford SC); 3rd, Mickey Joyce (Academy, Basingstoke); 4th, Lewys Smith (Wexa Sports, Newport); 5th, David Rice (Salisbury SC).
GROUP B: 1st, Mike Trigg (Chandlers Ford SC); 2nd, James Cullen (Woking SC); 3rd, Ryan Hughes (Chandlers Ford SC); 4th, Labeeb Ahmed (Frames, Coulsdon); 5th, Ronnie Sullivan (Frames, Coulsdon).
GROUP C: 1st, Ryan Mears (Sovereign, Farnborough); 2nd, Jamie Wilson (Waterlooville Sports Bar); 3rd, Callum Lloyd (Redz, Cwmbran); 4th, George Heatley (Woking SC); 5th, Ally Pollard (Salisbury SC).
GROUP D: 1st, Christian Chislett (Selsey RBL, Chichester); 2nd, Mark Lloyd (Stoke SC, Gosport); 3rd, Anthony Rice (Salisbury SC); 4th, Ronnie Blake (Frames, Coulsdon); 5th, Nick Miles (Ashlett Club, Fawley).
GROUP E: 1st, Mike Finn (Churchills, Eastleigh); 2nd, Paul Bunyard (Woking SC); 3rd, Adam Nash (Churchills, Eastleigh); 4th, Dan Sykes (Chandlers Ford SC); 5th, Ray Mears (Sovereign, Farnborough).
QUARTER-FINALS (24 points): Finn 3-0 Pringle, Wilson 3-1 Trigg, Ryan Mears 3-2 O Sykes, Chislett 3-2 Cullen.
SEMI-FINALS (£30, 30 points): Finn 3-1 Wilson, Ryan Mears 3-2 Chislett.
FINAL (£130/£60, 50/36 points): Finn 3-1 Ryan Mears.
Picture by Tim Dunkley