CONNOR Benzey is snapping at the heels of rankings leader Bradley Cowdroy after clinching a second successive tournament win on the Cuestars South of England Under-21 Gold Tour.
The 16-year-old from Eastleigh defeated his Chandlers Ford clubmate Dan Sykes to collect the winner’s trophy at the seventh leg at Fareham Snooker Club.
Benzey, appearing in his fourth straight final, fought back from 1-0 down to prevail 2-1 – despite a bit of a wobble when the decider was all but won.
“I enjoyed today,” smiled Benzey. “It was fun.
“I didn’t mind the scrappy frames, either, which helped.
“I knew if I got the second frame I’d probably win the last one.”
It was a game stuffed full of intelligent matchplay from both players on one of the club’s professional standard Star tables.
Sykes took the first frame on the black but needed snookers on the green in the next.
Benzey won the decider after a minor scare. With his opponent needing a snooker on the yellow following a foul, he opted for an easy free-ball blue and managed to send the cue-ball into the same middle pocket.
“I was trying to come off the cushion for the yellow and I went straight in-off,” he explained.
Second-placed Benzey is only 11 points behind Cowdroy, who finished bottom of his five-man group seven days after securing a spot in the final of the English Under-16 Championship.
But can he catch the Bournemouth teenager with three legs to play in Swindon, Salisbury and on home tables in Chandler’s Ford?
“Yes,” insisted Benzey. “But I need to win a couple more.”
Benzey – who is sponsored by Pitman Training Winchester, Hillcrest Structural and GH Property Management – recorded the day’s highest break of 62 in the group stages against Jamie Wilson (Havant).
He beat England international Mickey Joyce (Basingstoke) 2-0 in the semis while Sykes, 19, overcame his 12-year-old brother Oliver 2-0 to reach his first final since winning the corresponding event nearly two years ago.
Evan Plummer impressed in the event sponsored by the host club. The Londoner qualified for the knockout for the first time since earning promotion from Silver at the end of last season and posted a 50 break in a 2-1 quarter-final defeat by Benzey.
For more information about Fareham SC, visit www.farehamsnooker.co.uk.
The eighth leg of ten is at the 147 Snooker Club, Swindon, on Sunday, March 18.
Connor Benzey: 62, 41.
Mickey Joyce: 58.
Evan Plummer: 50, 43.
Steven Hughes: 46.
Anthony Rice: 43, 42.
Jamie Wilson: 42.
Aidan Murphy: 42.
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP A: 1st, Arron Smith (Selsey RBL, Chichester); 2nd, Evan Plummer (Frames, Coulsdon); 3rd, Olly Gibbs (Chandlers Ford SC); 4th, Aidan Murphy (Fishponds Cons Club, Bristol); 5th, Cameron Holt (Liberal Club, High Wycombe).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP B: 1st, Oliver Sykes (Chandlers Ford SC); 2nd, Mickey Joyce (Academy, Basingstoke); 3rd, Dan Sykes (Chandlers Ford SC); 4th, Ryan Hughes (Chandlers Ford SC); 5th, Bradley Cowdroy (Greenbaize, Bournemouth).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP C: 1st, Anthony Rice (Salisbury SC); 2nd, Connor Benzey (Chandlers Ford SC); 3rd, Steven Hughes (Chandlers Ford SC); 4th, Jamie Wilson (Waterlooville Sports Bar); 5th, Elliott Weston (Top Spot, Havant).
QUARTER-FINALS (12 points): D Sykes 2-0 Smith, O Sykes 2-1 S Hughes. Joyce 2-0 Rice, Benzey 2-1 Plummer.
SEMI-FINALS (15 points): D Sykes 2-0 O Sykes, Benzey 2-0 Joyce.
FINAL (£80/£37.50, 25/18 points): Benzey 2-0 D Sykes.
Picture by Tim Dunkley
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Tim Dunkley (World Snooker coach)