Sunday 6th May marked another incredible day of pool in the Stephenson calendar with the second installment of The Caswell Cup. So named after a recent Stephenson alumnus and pool captain, the event takes place once a year and aims to find the best of the best in Stephenson’s pool community over a grueling afternoon.
With the weather peaking at roughly 23 degrees Celsius, conditions inside our very own crucible (Room 21) were stifling and players were forced to gather around the large fans in the room between shots for a little bit of relief from the heat. 11 names went into the hat at the start of the tournament and were drawn into two leagues, with the top two players from each league meeting in the semi-finals.
In usual Stephenson fashion, no winner emerged from the off and pre-tournament favourites all suffered defeats in their respective leagues. We even lost two past captains, including the man after whom the trophy is named, in the group stages as the games, and clock, ticked slowly on. After what seemed like days due to the heat, we eventually found our semi finalists in the form of A team player Craig Young and captain Joe Hardaker, and B team player Josh Crawshaw and captain Deniz Taylor – the only man to escape the group stages unbeaten!
As Taylor finished top of group 1, he was pitted against group 2’s runner up, and fellow Stephenson pool team captain, Hardaker for the semi final, leaving Young and Crawshaw to battle it out in the other semi final. Both semi finals saw the A team players assert their dominance with Young racing into a 5-2 lead during the race to 6, and Hardaker never being behind throughout the encounter.
Indeed, both games finished with a fair score line of six frames to four and saw Hardaker make his way into the Caswell Cup final for a second successive year, continuing his fine individual form having already lifted the Stephenson College JCR Pool Competition trophy in December. Meanwhile, this was Young’s first semi final victory in a Stephenson pool competition, at the third time of asking.
So far in the day, Young had been the only player to have stopped Hardaker, trouncing him 4-1 during the group stages to take the group, and it looked set to be heading to a similar storyline when Young took a 2-0 lead early on with some incredible and ruthless play. Hardaker offered brief resistance taking the third frame but when Young extended his lead to 3-1 it looked set to be another year of disappointment for Hardaker.
Digging deep, Hardaker managed to snatch the next two frames to level at 3-3 and took a third successive frame to move in front for the first time in the match. The next three were split, due to a bit of good fortune for Young, 2:1 in his favour, despite Hardaker looking set to take another and open a two-frame advantage. This left the game poised in the balance at 5 apiece and when Hardaker took the next frame, the pattern of the game so far meant it was pretty much even money to go to a decider. But, as we know, nothing is a certainty in sport and with Young going in off, Hardaker was afforded two shots with 5 balls on the table. A calm, and uneventful, clearance of his 5 reds left Hardaker with 2 shots on the black, however he was only to need one as he stroked the black into the top pocket from the bottom third of the table.
Celebrations were muted as eight hours of play had taken its toll on both men, but a firm handshake shrouded in mutual respect was a fitting end to the marathon day. The event really did bring a pleasant end to what has been a wonderful pool season for everyone at Stephenson, and with that we sign off with a very warm goodbye and hope that we see an even more successful campaign next year!