Unfortunately it wasn't to be in the glamourous location of Riley's Bristol as I came 4th after the 6 challenges. Not enough to get a nice trip to the Crucible, but I'm pretty pleased with how I played on these challenges
There were 7 of us at the regionals and we were given the Match table to take it in turns to do the challenges on. We would each take a card with a number on to work out the order of the task ahead, and we would all watch each other attempt the challenges. We would get 3 goes for each challenge with the best score submitted to the overall leaderboard. My rivals were a great standard though, a Welsh Under-18 national champion, an England Under-something national champion, and two England internationals. I realised winning was pretty slim, but was determined to do the best I possibly could, and see where that would put me.
First up was Cush Pot, a challenge I had had terrible difficulty with in practice, failing to get all 3 reds and blacks. It seemed as though it was difficult as well for the others, and the highest score was only 16. Unfortunately I froze with the pressure of the first challenge and made only 1, missing simple blacks on 2 of my 3 attempts.
Next up was Long Ball, and I was up first after drawing the Ace card. I nominated black for my first attempt and potted it first time before nailing a tricky red with the rest for maximum points, buzzing. It was mixed results for the rest as they all nominated black, while 2 or 3 missed on all 3 attempts.
Third was Screw Back. I was first up again, and 1st shot I hammered it with as much follow through as possible, but could only get the white up for the pink. I potted the pink for a decent point total, but could not do any better with the next two attempts, missing two difficult long blacks with the rest as I failed to get enough reaction on the white. A number of my rivals were able to make it up for the black for maximum points within their 3 attempts, while some even overscrewing it. A couple of miscues were also made in that challenge.
Fourth was Snookered, and for the third out of four challenges I was drawn first, which was very frustrating for a challenge like this. Unlike my rivals I was unable to learn the lines for the escapes by watching everyone else and missed my first two attempts on the pink. I went safe on the third and nominated the pack and hit it easily, but as a couple of the others hit the black for maximum points, I realised my chances of winning looked very slim.
Next up was Cushion Control. I finally was not drawn first and watched the four in front of me struggle with the task, although most got it in their 3 attempts and were able to get a high value colour, there were plenty of missed attempts so I knew this would be difficult. Knowing my chances of winning were fairly low, I didn't have much pressure on this one so I was fairly confident. 1st attempt however I missed by a long way, and started to get worried. 2nd attempt I potted, but could only watch as the white flew into the middel pocket. I was gutted knowing I had done superb to actually pot the ball, but it was worth nothing. Final attempt the pressure was back knowing I had to get it or I would be facing 0 points. I slammed it into the pocket and watched the white cannon the blue right over the far pocket, just stopping before I fouled again. I knocked in the simple blue to keep my decent position.
The final challenge was the one I had practiced to death with inconsistent results, 6 red challenge. For the 4th time out of 6 I was drawn first, and realising that a 70+ clearance would suddenly put me in with a great chance of playing at the Crucible, I completely froze. I made 16, 15 and 9. Wobbling easy pots as my Crucible dream faded away. The tension got to the others as well as one made just 1 and the current leader made 9, losing his place.
The winner in the end was Jamie Clarke, who was in the Final 8 last year and me and my dad recognised from seeing in the Junior Welsh Pot Black final two years ago when we went to the Welsh Open. He was superb the whole day and got maximum points in most challenges, apart from 9 in the 1st and a 40-something in the 6-red.
I finished a proud 4th, delighted that I'd played the best I feel I really could and had no regrets. Competing against top-level players like this was a great experience, and I was delighted to hold my own against them. It makes me hungry to play against this standard a lot more, and work till I can get to their standard and then surpass them. Will definitely enter if there is another one next year, and hopefully by then I will have improved a lot.