RISING snooker star Connor Benzey defeated the current English Under-18 Champion to claim a first winner’s trophy on the Cuestars South of England Under-21 Gold Tour.
The 15-year-old from Eastleigh overcame rankings leader Mark Lloyd 2-1 in a dramatic final at Jesters Snooker Club, Swindon.
Gosport-based Lloyd, 17, fluked a re-spotted black to take the lead, went in-off the black in the next to square the match and conceded when needing snookers with two reds left in the decider.
Benzey, who pocketed £85 prize money, had lost to Lloyd in the group stages of the event sponsored by Swindon-based Smarter Cue Sports but fancied his chances when the pair met again.
“I felt good,” he said. “I thought I could beat him.
“I played well in the final and made four breaks of over 30. That’s the reason why I won.”
Earlier, he recorded a fine 2-1 last-eight victory over 21-year-old England pool international Jack Smithers (Tadworth), who won a Gold Tour event on home tables at Frames Sports Bar, Coulsdon, in December, 2015.
Benzey said: “Every time I came to the table I was in trouble because his safety play was good.”
And he then defeated Chandler’s Ford clubmate Mickey Joyce 2-0 in a “scrappy” semi-final.
It’s been a rapid rise through the Cuestars ranks for the teenager, who made his Bronze Tour debut a little over three years ago in February, 2014. He won the Bronze play-off championship the following season and the Silver rankings title in 2015/16.
Lloyd needs just one point from the last two legs to retain his rankings title. Benzey and Joyce (Basingstoke) are joint second.
Elsewhere, Dan Sykes (Chandler’s Ford) recorded his highest match break of 82 against Smithers in the group stages.
Sixth-placed Anthony Rice (Fordingbridge) was knocked out 2-0 by Lloyd in the semi-finals.
And Jamie Wilson (Havant), Adam Stacey (London) and Mike Trigg (East Wellow) can consider themselves unlucky after all five players in their group won two matches each.
Bradley Cowdroy (Bournemouth) qualified for the knockout – along with Olly Gibbs (Gosport) – with a frames difference of just three more than bottom-placed Trigg.
The ninth leg of ten is at Chandler’s Ford Snooker Club on Sunday, April 9.
For more information about Smarter Cue Sports, which supplies cue sport products to clubs and retailers, visit www.smarter-cuesports.co.uk.
Dan Sykes: 82.
Mickey Joyce: 60, 55.
Anthony Rice: 59.
Mark Lloyd: 55.
Bradley Cowdroy: 54.
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP A: 1st, Mark Lloyd (Stoke SC, Gosport); 2nd, Connor Benzey (Chandler’s Ford SC); 3rd, Oliver Sykes (Chandler’s Ford SC); 4th, Aidan Murphy (Fishponds Conservative Club, Bristol).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP B: 1st, Bradley Cowdroy (Greenbaize, Bournemouth); 2nd, Olly Gibbs (Chandler’s Ford SC); 3rd, Jamie Wilson (Waterlooville Sports Bar); 4th, Adam Stacey (Legends, Leytonstone); 5th, Mike Trigg (Chandler’s Ford SC).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP C: 1st, Mickey Joyce (Chandler’s Ford SC); 2nd, Anthony Rice (Salisbury SC); 3rd, Callum Browne (Player’s, Westbury); 4th, Arron Smith (Selsey RBL, Chichester).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP D: 1st, Jack Smithers (Frames Sports Bar, Coulsdon); 2nd, Ronnie Blake (Frames Sports Bar, Coulsdon); 3rd, Dan Sykes (Chandler’s Ford SC); 4th, Steven Hughes (Chandler’s Ford SC).
QUARTER-FINALS (12 points): Lloyd 2 Blake 0, Rice 2 Cowdroy 1, Joyce 2 Gibbs 0, Benzey 2 Smithers 1.
SEMI-FINALS (15 points): Benzey 2 Joyce 0, Lloyd 2 Rice 0.
FINAL (£85/£40, 25/18 points): Benzey 2 Lloyd 1.
Have you got any snooker news?
Send me your snooker news now. It doesn’t have to be from a Cuestars tournament. E-mail me details or contact me via Facebook and you could be on the Cuestars website and in your local newspaper. E-mail: [email protected]
Tim Dunkley (World Snooker coach)