THERE was an early birthday present for an 11-year-old from Chandler’s Ford.
Riccardo Drayton, who turns 12 on Monday, proudly held aloft his first regional winner’s trophy outside Salisbury Snooker Club.
The young potter survived a dramatic day of twists and turns on the Cuestars South of England Under-21 Bronze Tour.
“I feel really proud of myself and I’m really happy that I’ve won my first Bronze tournament,” he said.
Drayton, who lost to Ronnie Sullivan in the final of the first leg in Waterlooville, turned the tables with a 2-0 victory in the final of the second leg sponsored by Attic Life.
In the second frame, Sullivan (Coulsdon) potted a re-spotted black and the cue-ball travelled the full length of the table to stop, momentarily, on the lip of a top-corner pocket before dropping in.
“It was unlucky for Ronnie to go in-off,” admitted Drayton. “I thought it was going to stop and then it fell in.”
And he revealed that he learnt lessons about safety shots and about taking on risky pots from last month’s defeat.
He said: “When I lost, I just thought I’d take what I did wrong and – if I got into a final again – I’d try to correct them.”
The finalists are now joint top of the rankings.
Drayton travelled a rocky road to the final. He lost his first group-stage match to Zak Truscott, won his other two, finished third in a three-way play-off and qualified for the knockout as one of the two best third-place finishers.
After beating Rio Smith (Portsmouth) 2-1 in the last eight, he edged Samuel Laxton (Portsmouth) by the same score in the semi-finals.
Drayton, a Year 7 pupil at Thornden School, trailed Laxton by 14 points on the colours in the deciding frame and won on the black.
The blue may leave a deep scar in Laxton’s memory for some considerable time, though. A wild shot by Drayton double-kissed it over a middle pocket only for the cue-ball to come back around the table and nudge it in.
Earlier, Sullivan chalked up his highest competitive break of 40 against Harry Wilson (Havant) in his first group stage match, beat first-time quarter-finalist Truscott (Waterlooville) 2-0 and then O’Shay Scott by the same score in the last-four.
Meanwhile, Dean Russell (Portsmouth) recorded a personal best 22 in his 2-1 quarter-final defeat by Waterlooville Sports Bar clubmate Laxton.
And eight-year-old Scott (Eastleigh) qualified for the knockout via a three-way play-off in the group stages and defeated Oliver Cooper (Banstead) 2-1 to make his first semi-final appearance.
The third leg of ten is at Jesters Snooker Club, Swindon, on Sunday, October 29.
For more information about loft conversion specialists Attic Life, which also sponsored rookie professional Billy Castle in last week’s European Masters in Belgium, visit www.atticlife.co.uk.
Ronnie Sullivan: 40, 34, 21.
Riccardo Drayton: 32.
Will Forster: 25.
Rio Smith: 25.
Lewis Wilson: 24.
Dean Russell: 22.
Samuel Laxton: 21.
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP A: 1st, Rio Smith (Copnor SC); 2nd, Oliver Cooper (Frames, Coulsdon); 3rd, Dean Russell (Waterlooville Sports Bar); 4th, Lewis Wilson (Waterlooville Sports Bar); 5th, Mason Wilson (Academy, Basingstoke).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP B: 1st, Samuel Laxton (Waterlooville Sports Bar); 2nd, Zak Truscott (Waterlooville Sports Bar); 3rd, Riccardo Drayton (Chandlers Ford SC); 4th, Viktor Balgariev (Jesters, Swindon).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP C: 1st, Ronnie Sullivan (Frames, Coulsdon); 2nd, O’Shay Scott (Chandlers Ford SC); 3rd, Will Forster (Mayfair, Gosport); 4th, Harry Wilson (Waterlooville Sports Bar).
QUARTER-FINALS (12 points): Drayton 2-1 Smith, Laxton 2-1 Russell, Sullivan 2-0 Truscott, Scott 2-1 Cooper.
SEMI-FINALS (15 points): Drayton 2-1 Laxton, Sullivan 2-0 Scott.
FINAL (25/18 points): Drayton 2-0 Sullivan.
Picture by Tim Dunkley
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Tim Dunkley (World Snooker coach)