DEFENDING champion Mike Talmondt (pictured) began and ended the second leg of the Cuestars South of England Seniors (40+) Tour by beating his main title rival.
A notorious slow starter, the Portsmouth taxi driver was quick out of the blocks when drawn against leg-one winner Matt Ford in the first round-robin game at Fareham Snooker Club.
“Sometimes it’s a good thing to get a strong player in the first match because it wakes you up quick,” he said. “You can’t play bad all day and win it, that’s for sure.”
Talmondt prevailed 2-0 and, despite losing to Neil Herd (Frome, Somerset), topped the five-man group.
The 42-year-old ex-professional then accounted for Martin Luker (Swindon) 2-0 in the last-eight and chalked up an 81 break, the highest of the day, in a 2-0 victory over first-time semi-finalist Paul Lawrence (Southampton).
Ford (Bracknell), who won last season’s Championship Tour and triumphed on his Seniors debut in Bournemouth last month, had beaten Wayne Muddiman (Southampton) 2-1 and Richard Swaffield (Salisbury) 2-0 in his knockout matches.
Although the two attacking players ripped through the best-of-three frames final in 56 minutes, they both broke down on several occasions when huge breaks seemed imminent.
This was typified by Ford’s first scoring visit. The 40-year-old constructed a fine 11-ball break of 23 but when he eventually achieved perfect position on the black, missed it off the spot.
Talmondt took the frame on the colours following a run of 35. Ford squared the match on the pink and in the decider made a 39, which kicked off with a stunned red into the yellow pocket with the cue-ball close to the top cushion.
But, again, it wasn’t enough and Talmondt potted the pink to pocket the £80 prize money.
“It was hard work,” he said. “My form was a bit patchy today. I had a couple of breaks but it wasn’t very consistent.
“I was happy to get a win over Matt. He doesn’t make it easy for you. He’s very aggressive.
“It’s never going to take long with me and Matt playing. It’s not going to be a long, boring safety battle. I’m looking forward to the next one.”
And he added with a smile: “I don’t want to let Matt get too far ahead.”
In the group of death that included the two finalists, Chris Stocker (Ascot) made a 60 – the highest break of the group stages – in his 2-1 defeat by Ford and finished third, one frame ahead of Herd.
Lawrence qualified for the knockout for the first time at his sixth attempt by winning all five of his matches, which included the scalp of John Hunter (Andover).
Three-time champion Hunter also lost to Neil Carroll (Rownhams) but qualified on frames difference from Steve Ashton (Salisbury) before going down 2-0 to his Cuestars South Wilts Snooker League rival Swaffield.
Muddiman was the only player not to drop a frame in the groups.
Ford remains top of the rankings, three points ahead of Talmondt. Muddiman is 13 points further back in third. Hunter and Lawrence are joint fourth.
The third leg of seven is at Salisbury Snooker Club on Sunday, December 20.
Mike Talmondt: 81, 57, 48, 40.
Wayne Muddiman: 61, 44, 42.
Chris Stocker: 60.
Richard Swaffield: 59, 40.
John Hunter: 54, 42.
Neil Herd: 51.
Matt Ford: 43, 42, 41.
Stephen Hills: 43.
Paul Lawrence: 40.
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP POSITIONS
GROUP A: 1st, Paul Lawrence (Park Gate RBL, Southampton); 2nd, John Hunter (Salisbury SC); 3rd, Steve Ashton (Salisbury SC); 4th, Stephen Hills (Traders, Northfleet); 5th, Neil Carroll (Chandler’s Ford SC); 6th, Peter Chin (Woking SC).
GROUP B: 1st, Mike Talmondt (Copnor SC, Portsmouth); 2nd, Matt Ford (Sunninghill Comrades Club, Ascot); 3rd, Chris Stocker (Sunninghill Comrades Club, Ascot); 4th, Neil Herd (Player’s, Westbury); 5th, Nick Miles (Ashlett Club, Fawley).
GROUP C: 1st, Wayne Muddiman (Chandlers Ford Central); 2nd, Martin Luker (Jesters, Swindon); 3rd, David Stewart (Chandler’s Ford SC); 4th, Alan Thomas (Jesters, Swindon); 5th, Jasbir Bansal (Woking SC).
GROUP D: 1st, Richard Swaffield (Salisbury SC); 2nd, John Monckton (Woking SC); 3rd, Martin Wallace (Crowthorne RBL); 4th, Richard Arnold (Salisbury SC); 5th, Ray Mears (Sovereign SC, Farnborough).
QUARTER-FINALS (£10, 12 points): Lawrence 2 Monckton 0, Talmondt 2 Luker 0, Ford 2 Muddiman 1, Swaffield 2 Hunter 0.
SEMI-FINALS (£25, 15 points): Talmondt 2 Lawrence 0, Ford 2 Swaffield 0.
FINAL (£80/£40, 25/18 points): Talmondt 2 Ford 1.
Report and picture by Tim Dunkley