Northern Ireland Open 2016 – Day 5 aboard the Titanic … no quarters given

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These are the results of the quarter finals day in Belfast, and here is Worldsnooker official report on the day’s action.

Saturday 19 Nov 2016 12:08AM

Kyren Wilson emerged from an epic battle with Mark Williams to book his place in tomorrow’s semi-finals at the Coral Northern Ireland Open in Belfast.

Both players secured huge wins in yesterday’s last 16. Williams ended the 11 game winning run of John Higgins and Wilson was victorious in his first ever meeting with 28-time ranking winner Ronnie O’Sullivan.

Today’s tie was played out to a tremendous standard. Between them the pair made a break over 50 in each of the first seven frames in the match.

There was never more than a solitary frame between the two players, however Wilson started best with a run of 58 to take the opener.

Williams then turned up the heat on the world number 15. The two-time World Champion made contributions of 44, 86 and 68 to move 2-1 ahead.

The barrage of high scoring persisted in the fourth and fifth frames with Wilson producing runs of 91 and 95 to go  3-2 up. They continued to trade frames but it was Wilson who found himself in position for the victory at 4-3 up. After a great recovery pot on the brown, he missed a blue to the top pocket and handed his opponent a lifeline. The ball came to rest over the middle and Williams duly forced a decider.

The 24-year-old Wilson didn’t let his missed opportunity in the previous frame deter him and forced himself over the line courtesy of a contribution of 47.

Wilson said: “That game was probably harder than the one with Ronnie. When you beat O’Sullivan some players get ahead of themselves and crumble in the next match. I felt I had to put a performance in to follow that up. Against Mark Williams that is never easy so I’m really pleased with the performance.

Mark Allen’s hopes of a dream title on home soil were ended by Anthony Hamilton in a 5-2 defeat. The win for the Sheriff of Pottingham sealed his first semi-final appearance since the 2009 Welsh Open, but he showed no signs of big match nerves in the opening exchanges.

The 45-year-old started brilliantly with a run of 96. Playing against a strong home backing Hamilton managed to control the game throughout. A further run of 78 helped him to move 3-0 in front. The Pistol kept himself in touch with a break of 72 in the fourth only for Hamilton to re-establish his three frame lead in the next. With the scores at 4-2 the world number 76 Hamilton made a clutch counter clearance to claim frame and match on the black.

Mark King secured a semi-final place courtesy of a 5-3 victory in a fiery encounter with Iran’s Hossein Vafaei. Both players exchanged words throughout the match, however it was King who pulled through. The Romford potter clinched victory with a break of 63 in the last frame. He faces Kyren Wilson for a place in the final.

Barry Hawkins continued a terrific run of form to book his place in the last four. The Hawk has dropped just three frames throughout the event and proved to be too strong for world number 24 Michael White. He made breaks of 60, 59 and 70 during a 5-2 victory. Next up for Hawkins is a clash with Anthony Hamilton.

Ronnie also had very nice tongue-in-cheek words about Kyren Wilson before his excellent match against Mark Williams. Listen here. Clearly, he rates Kyren very high.

Listen here to Anthony Hamilton’s reaction after his win

One thing that isn’t in this interview, but that Anthony told to the Eurosport pundits in the studio, is how badly he struggles financially. Having suffered a neck injury last season, his results were bad and his earnings dropped so much that he had to borrow from his parents to keep playing on the main tour (Ronnie immediately offered to help him, he’s always liked and rated Anthony very high).

Players need about £20000 just to pay their entry fees and their travel expenses. With no money if they lose their first match – which half of them do – and very little until the last 16 or QF, lots of them have a hard time to make ends meet. Barry Hearn always goes about “not rewarding mediocrity” and “it’s about ability”, but that’s incredibly arrogant and borderline stupid in my opinion. It’s a very, very difficult game and many top players needed several years before really finding their feet on the tour, especially if they are very young and need to cope with all that comes with being an expat. Just ask yourself: would Neil Robertson have been able to sustain himself in the current system? I very, very much doubt it: coming from Australia at 16, with £500 in his pocket, his game very raw because he never had top opposition to play against at home, he dropped off the tour twice  and needed about 10 years before establishing himself firmly at the top. How would he haved lived meanwhile? Yet, nobody would say today that he is mediocre or lacks ability. What about investing in the future of the game, Barry, by making it easier for the rookies and the unfortunates who suffer temporary health issues to survive on the tour?

Also there was some controversy during the King-Ayouri match. People on social media accused King of bad sportsmanship and trying to put his young opponent off. I didn’t see the match, but one incident that was reported was this: King needed snookers and only the pink and black were on the table, he left the arena to go to the toilet, leaving his opponent and the referee waiting, and immediately conceeded when back. Ok, that sounds weird. However, Mark has been open in the past about struggling badly with bladder control after sustaining a surgery. So who are we to judge him there? Maybe he just couldn’t wait any longer and was concentrating so hard on keeping control that he wasn’t thinking clearly about how  his conduct could be seen by others, including his opponent.

As for Ronnie, he had a busy day: supporting a charity, to help pancreatic cancer sufferers, getting himself some reading, working in the studio for Eurosport, with some nice tongue-incheek words about Kyren Wilson before his match versus Mark Williams.

images posted on twitter by Ronnie and fans

And last but not least trying to teach Colin Murray the basics of snooker with some unconventional methods …