THEY say the old ones are always best . . . and you won’t catch the city’s snooker fans arguing.
Pot-a-holics turned out in force over the weekend as the East of England Showground played host to the second staging of the Wyldecrest Parks World Seniors Championship.
It might be snooker’s version of a Saga Holiday, but pipes, slippers and mugs of Horlicks were all in short supply at the Exec Peterborough Arena as the stars of yesteryear demonstrated their brilliance on the baize.
And no-one played better then eventual winner and giant-slayer Darren Morgan – a man who is clearly snooker’s answer to a fine wine. The ‘Welsh Wizard’ failed to win a ranking tournament during a 19-year professional career and had to qualify for this event, but he has certainly matured with age (even if he is a relative whipper-snapper in seniors terms at 45).
Morgan, who still plays regularly and boasts a couple of big amateur successes in recent years, saw off the two main men to get his hands on a cool £18,000 top prize.
He came from behind to sink the great Steve Davis 2-1 in the final after dumping out Jimmy White an hour earlier in last night’s closing stages.
“There’s life in the old dog yet,” joked a man who will be returning to the principality today considerably richer than he left it on Friday.
Rival Davis was left to reflect on falling at the final hurdle for the second successive year. He went down to White in the 2010 showpiece
But he was magnanimous in defeat. Davis insisted: “It was a great tournament but it would obviously have been that bit more special to win it.
“The fans turned out in force though and I’m sure they had plenty to enjoy.”
He wasn’t wrong even though the snooker wasn’t always sensational. In fact a lot of it was pretty average. Plenty of simple pots were missed on both days but that didn’t affect the adulation that the majority of these players from the sport’s golden age are held in.
A diehard audience even managed to stay awake during a near two-hour first round showdown between Cliff Thorburn and Doug Mountjoy late on Saturday night.
‘The Grinder’ Thorburn fought his way back to claim victory in a match where the players had a combined age of 132 and where fireworks were sadly lacking, but the Canadian and fellow long-distance competitor Dene O’Kane of New Zealand both went out in the second round.
By then the scoring was hotting up and the clock was being turned back courtesy of some spectacular potting and solid break-building.
There were a host of 50-plus runs and huge excitement in the second frame of the final as Morgan sunk eight successive blacks but, unfortunately, no century.
It certainly wasn’t a bunch of old codgers reminiscing about days gone by though. Sure plenty of that went on backstage where regular bouts of laughter could be heard from the players’ room, but there was also some serious business to attend to. The not-to-be-sniffed-at financial reward made sure of that.
The pre-tournament favourite to trouser the cash was Nigel Bond, but he was promptly dumped out in the opening round by Dennis Taylor.
The legendary Northern Irishman couldn’t resist toasting the success by recreating his famous 1985 World Championship celebration by raising his cue above his head.
Bond’s departure left reigning champion, people’s champion and the best player never to be world champion, White, at the top of the bookies’ price lists.
It looked a good bet until he came unstuck in the semi-finals against Morgan. That came after Davis had dumped out John Parrott in the other last-four meeting.
The most bizarre incident of the weekend arrived in that match when Parrott had three misses called as he attempted to escape a snooker - a set of circumstances that in this tournament gives the opponent ball in hand.
Referee John Williams was forced to retrieve a sheet of rules from his jacket pocket to convince the players he was right. Even when that was proved to be the case, Davis refused to take on an easy pot and instead sportingly asked for the white to be put back and for Parrott to play again.
He successfully hit a red at the fourth attempt but Davis went onto to win that opening frame comfortably and quickly sealed his passage with no such drama in the next.
At that point the dream final between Davis and White was still on the cards for the second year running, but Morgan soon ensured it wouldn’t become a reality.
And he then saved his best for last to become the cream of the ageing crop.
First round: Steve Davis 2, Tony Drago 1; Dene O’Kane 2, Neal Foulds 1; Karl Townsend 2, Steve Ventham 0; John Parrott 2, Joe Johnson 1; Jimmy White 2, Tony Knowles 0; Dennis Taylor 2, Nigel Bond 0; Darren Morgan 2, Gary Wilkinson 0; Cliff Thorburn 2, Doug Mountjoy 1.
Quarter-finals: Steve Davis 2, Dene O’Kane 0; Darren Morgan 2, Cliff Thorburn 0; Jimmy White 2, Dennis Taylor 0; John Parrott 2, Karl Townsend 1.
Semi-finals: Steve Davis 2, John Parrott 0; Darren Morgan 2, Jimmy White 0.
Final: Darren Morgan 2, Steve Davis 1.
Darren Morgan 83, Jimmy White 77, Steve Davis 72, Steve Davis 70, Dene O’Kane 69, Steve Davis 69, Tony Drago 62, Jimmy White 62, Jimmy White 59, Darren Morgan 55.
A few quotes:
“It’s a great venue, a great arena and a great tournament,” a clearly impressed John Parrott.
“My eyesight’s not what it used to be,” Joe Johnson after getting the wrong cue out of his case.
“Legend versus Legend,” how Sky Sports’ graphics described the Jimmy White v Tony Knowles match.
“Tortoise v Tortoise,” how Sky Sports’ graphics described the Cliff Thorburn v Doug Montjoy match.
“I’m pleased because the last semi I had was in Poland,” Steve Davis’ unfortunate turn of phrase after reaching the last four.
“I could have done without that stupid clock,” Cliff Thorburn not too enamoured with the 30-second shot-clock.
“Where has this rule come from,” Steve Davis to referee John Williams amid confusion over the ball-in-hand rule after three misses.
“I’ve got it here in my pocket,” referee Williams’ reply.
“Missing blacks off the spot is the reason why I sit in the commentary box these days,” John Parrott.
“I was snatching shots all over the gaff,” Jimmy White after his semi-final exit.