Thursday 7th December saw two titans of the Stephenson College Pool club go head to head in the highly anticipated climax to the JCR Pool Competition. A team Captain Hardaker was searching for a first competitive pool competition win at Stephenson at his third time of asking, whilst rookie Pinnock was starting to hit the form that a captain, at any other time, would be ecstatic about.
Starting with 25 in mid-October the competition saw some shock exits throughout, including the as yet undefeated in the league duo of Martin Long and George Bailey. Indeed, it was Pinnock who claimed the scalp of one of the competition favourites Bailey in the Semi Final stage, dispatching him in an 8-2 drubbing. Conversely, Hardaker had the semi final challenge of removing the reigning champion and past A team captain Andrew Moy, doing so with a nervy 8-6 victory. With victories like these, nobody could say that these two didn’t deserve their place at the table for the final and they were about to prove that to the loyal fans of the game that gathered to spectate.
The build up to the final saw plenty of talk from both camps and although much of it was in jest, an air of truth rang through; both men believed this was their time for glory. After a thorough table clean and a new set of balls (all courtesy of, and a huge thank you to, our helpful friends at Room 21) the time was here to stop the talking, or so we thought, and start the playing. Entering to One More Time by Daft Punk, Hardaker had the fixed gaze of a man who knew this really was his last chance to crown what had been a rather mediocre pool-playing career at Stephenson as he made his way to his seat and poured a glass of water.
However, his rather somber and understated entrance was to be somewhat overshadowed by what happened next. Pinnock, with a swagger to match his entrance music, entered to Theory of a Deadman’s No Chance in Hell (better known as WWE’s Vince McMahon’s entrance music) and proceeded to stare Hardaker down as he circled the arena.
After what seemed like years of showboating from Pinnock and the pre-match photographs being taken by JCR Photographer Shivam Nathwani, it was finally time for referee Craig Young to rack them up and the game to begin.
Hardaker took a tense first frame and looked fairly confident as he approached the table to break for the second frame, however Pinnock was to take the next and this pattern continued for much of the game with neither player ever taking more than a one frame lead for the first 14 frames. Some extraordinary pool was played throughout these 14 frames including an exceptional black up the rail from Hardaker and some impeccable snookers from Pinnock however the main talking point that arose from the match came in the 5th frame. With the game delicately poised at 2-2 Hardaker picked the cue ball out of the pocket for Pinnock, a blatant disregard of the rules which many thought would be brushed aside. However, ruthlessly Pinnock decided to throw the proverbial book at Hardaker and took the frame.
Controversy aside, the match ambled on to 7-6 in Pinnock’s favour and looked set to go the distance when Hardaker leveled at 7 apiece however Hardaker finally did what had been illusive to both men taking the next two frames to establish more than a one frame advantage.
At 9-7, Pinnock required 3 straight frames to take the trophy and had a good chance to take one back as he and Hardaker locked horns on a tactical black ball battle. However, Pinnock made the fatal error of going in off leaving Hardaker with two shots and only the black to pot. A delicate first shot took the tricky black off of the bottom cushion and set up the prospect of a fairly straightforward cut back into the bottom pocket for Hardaker to take the trophy. Hardaker obliged the crowd dutifully, potting the black and with a quick glance behind to ensure the cue ball had stopped rolling the game was done.
A handshake and embrace met Hardaker as he set his cue down, Pinnock the first to offer his congratulations embodying, as always, the epitome of sportsmanship after what had been a long and grueling contest.
And so the curtain drew on this year’s competition with Hardaker lifting the trophy after a 10-7 victory. The pool has been, in parts, fluid and the trophy will awaits another in future years, however all that is left to say now is see you in May for the Caswell Cup!