Somerset pool players win UK title
- Credit: Archant
SOMERSET’S pool players were named as national champions this week – beating five-time winners Staffordshire in the final to secure their first ever title.
The cream of the county’s green baize experts made the 280-mile trek to Great Yarmouth to lock horns with rivals from around the country in the English Pool Association contest.
For the first time since the inception of the Inter County Finals contest in 1984, all four Somerset teams – Men’s A and B squads, Ladies and Youth teams – had qualified.
All four squads boasted strong Weston representation, and although there was disappointment for the B team, Ladies and Youth elevens despite creditable performances, Somerset A lived up to their status as one of the pre-tournament favourites to bag a first ever championship.
Seven of the 11-strong Somerset A line-up were representing the Weston league (Gareth Manning, Russell Burgess, Daryl Lovegrove, Anthony Doble, Paul Sturmey, Mark Bell and Jamie Ross) and all made key contributions throughout the weekend.
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The team edged a nip-and-tuck opening fixture against Surrey to run out 23-20 winners, before enjoying a relatively comfortable 23-13 win over Lancashire to complete day one.
Sunday morning’s semi-final against Cambridge looked in the bag until the eastern team won four out of five frames to force a play-off at 22-22.
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However, Somerset’s nominated trio of Burgess, Doble and Manning held their nerve under intense pressure to see the team through to the final.
Players from the other three Somerset teams stayed to support Somerset in the final and the event was streamed live to Weston, where it was watched by other players at the Somerset home venue Allstars, in Weston’s Regent Street.
Final favourites Staffordshire lived up to their billing with an explosive start to go 8-4 up. It was a margin they held until 18-14, before the Somerset boys clicked into gear with a five-frame salvo.
The contest seesawed over the final frames, before a superb clearance from Bell saw Somerset 22-20 in front, and Yeovil’s Steve Whatley won the next to secure the title.
Team captain Gareth Manning said: “I was unbelievably proud of how my team handled themselves under the pressure of that final.
“Each and every player at some point over the weekend made vital contributions. The sense of achievement and relief when we got over the line was amazing.”
And outgoing team manager Emilio Palumbo said: “This success for me is a clear message to the whole county about what can be achieved with hard work and team effort.
“I really can’t thank the players enough for their efforts over the years and I wish them all as much success in the future.”