TJ Hales emerged the victor in a hard fought Singles Handicap finals' night at Clarence tonight.
He started the evening with a semi-final against Preston club-mate Jamie Gibson. After a cagey start, TJ was the first to make an impression as he opened up a lead with the help of a 24. Jamie hit back with 28 but it was TJ that stretched the lead to 39 with the last three colours left on the table. Any efforts by Jamie to gain the penalty points necessary were in vain as TJ sank the pink.
The second frame took a different direction as Jamie started and finished well with breaks of 28 and 26 respectively to level the match. Neither player scored heavily in the third, the majority of reds unaccompanied by colours, leaving the frame finely poised with one point difference going into the closing stages. But it was TJ that stepped up to pot yellow to pink in two visits and secure his final berth.
Two of this season's title winners, William Gemmell A's captain Paul Gibson and Mike Preston of Welton A, locked horns in the second semi-final. The first frame was nip and tuck in the early stages before Mike Preston started to chip away at the 43 point handicap with a succession of scoring visits to take a 13 point lead with four colours left. Although Paul resisted with the brown, Mike stepped up to take blue, pink and a 1-0 lead.
Paul sought to make amends, opening up with a 33 break in the second to leave Mike with too much to do, resulting in the inevitable concession and a decider. Needing to make a good start, a 23 visit from Mike immediately ate into the handicap. But he was unable to build on this as Paul steadied the situation to leave Mike needing snookers on the colours. This was the beginning of the end for Mike and Paul closed out the frame and the match.
Giving 16 points per frame in the final, TJ gradually clawed his way into the frame and led briefly before Paul pulled back in front to lead by 14 as the frame arrived at the brown. Needing all four balls, TJ made an excellent clearance to steal the frame from Paul's clutches.
Despite increasing his lead early in the second, once again Paul was pegged back as TJ hit the front with useful scoring contributions. The players potted alternate balls to keep the score close before Paul knocked in blue and pink and the match headed for a final showdown.
With a sense of deja vu, the third went the same as the second in the opening stages, with Paul extending his lead before TJ overturned the deficit, not least with the assistance of an unfortunate miscue from Paul when presented with a chance to post some serious points. Having laid a snooker on the final three reds, TJ watched on as Paul failed to escape on several occasions, and this all but settled the match as TJ picked off the remaining balls necessary to force Paul to concede and to leave TJ victorious.
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