BRADLEY Cowdroy survived a “terrible start” to claim his third winner’s trophy of the season on the Cuestars South of England Under-21 Gold Tour.
The 15-year-old Dorset warrior nearly succumbed to the pressure of wanting to perform well on home tables at Greenbaize Snooker Club, Bournemouth.
But he battled his way through another high-quality field and, in a repeat of last month’s fourth leg in south London, defeated Connor Benzey 2-0 in the final.
“It was a terrible start,” admitted the rankings leader. “I was feeling the pressure as it was my home event.”
Indeed. Cowdroy looked to be heading home after losing his first two matches in his four-man round-robin group without winning a frame.
He needed a 2-0 victory over Arron Smith (Selsey) to force a tiebreak for the second of the two best third-place finishers.
After winning the one-frame shootout against newcomer Elliot Weston (Portsmouth), he battled past Steven Hughes (Chandler’s Ford) 2-1 in the last-eight and overcame England international Mickey Joyce (Basingstoke) 2-0 in the semi-finals.
Reflecting on a dramatic day, Cowdroy said: “I knew that if I didn’t beat Arron 2-0, there was no way I was going to go through so I put my full concentration into that.”
Turning to the knockout, he continued: “It’s never easy against Steven. He’s a granite player and any win against him is taken with a lot of satisfaction.
“And it didn’t get any easier. In the first match of the day, Mickey had smashed me 2-0. But I knew I was cueing better so I had more confidence in myself.”
Cowdroy also added that it was nice to see old rival Benzey back in form.
“At the start of the season, it was quite obvious that Connor was struggling,” he said.
“I know he’s been banging in lots of centuries and playing great in his own club but he wasn’t really producing it at tournaments.
“So it’s nice to see him come back to form over the last couple of months because he’s too good a player not to be getting to the finals of competitions regularly.”
Cowdroy, Benzey and a number of the other Gold Tour lads will be in Coulsdon next Sunday for the English Under-16 Championship qualifier.
Benzey, 15, who cleared the table for a personal best 131 break in the Open Series final on home tables at Chandlers Ford SC the previous day, topped his group and defeated his clubmates Ryan Hughes and Oliver Sykes, both by 2-0 scorelines, in the knockout.
Anthony Rice (Fordingbridge) recorded the day’s highest break of 76 against Dan Sykes (Chandler’s Ford) in his first group-stage match.
Cowdroy takes a 28-point lead over Rice into the second half of the season. Bristol’s Aidan Murphy is two points further back in third.
The sixth leg of ten is at Top Spot Snooker Club, Havant, on Sunday, February 4.
For more information about event sponsor Greenbaize SC, visit www.ambassadorsnooker.com.
Anthony Rice: 76.
Mickey Joyce: 59, 52.
Connor Benzey: 56.
Oliver Sykes: 54.
Bradley Cowdroy: 49.
Dan Sykes: 49.
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP A: 1st, Mickey Joyce (Chandlers Ford SC); 2nd, Oliver Sykes (Chandlers Ford SC); 3rd, Bradley Cowdroy (Greenbaize, Bournemouth); 4th, Arron Smith (Selsey RBL, Chichester).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP B: 1st, Steven Hughes (Chandlers Ford SC); 2nd, Ryan Hughes (Chandlers Ford SC); 3rd, Elliott Weston (Top Spot, Havant); 4th, Reece King (Greenbaize, Bournemouth).
ROUND-ROBIN GROUP C: 1st, Connor Benzey (Chandlers Ford SC); 2nd, Aidan Murphy (Fishponds Cons Club, Bristol); 3rd, Dan Sykes (Chandlers Ford SC); 4th, Anthony Rice (Salisbury SC).
QUARTER-FINALS (12 points): Joyce 2-0 D Sykes, Cowdroy 2-1 S Hughes, Benzey 2-0 R Hughes, O Sykes 2-1 Murphy.
SEMI-FINALS (15 points): Benzey 2-0 O Sykes, Cowdroy 2-0 Joyce.
FINAL (£60/£30, 25/18 points): Cowdroy 2-0 Benzey.
Picture by Tim Dunkley
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Tim Dunkley (World Snooker coach)