Tuesday 28 February 2017

Snooker: Trump goes on attack to take control at Crucible

John Skilbeck

Judd Trump had John Higgins running scared last night as he raced ahead in the Betfred.com World Championship final.

Trump's attacking exuberance versus the stoicism of Higgins was proving an enthralling battle, and it was the 21-year-old sensation from Bristol who was in charge as Scotland's three-time champion largely fed on scraps.

Higgins had sufficient chances to remain within touching distance, and Trump's only regret may be that he did not build up a bigger lead.

At the end of last night's second session, Trump led 10-7, and Higgins was clinging desperately on.

The pair were locked at 4-4 at the end of the afternoon session, the highlight of which was provided by Trump's 102 break in the sixth frame. Trump then dropped 5-4 behind after the opening frame of the evening session, when Higgins had a break of 60.

But Trump managed breaks of 55 and 58 to lead 6-5 and turned on the style in frame 12, playing a run of exhibition shots on his way to a break of 101 and a two-frame lead, finishing with an immense black played at high speed from close to the top cushion near the yellow pocket.

Higgins came back to 7-6, and levelled after a scrappy frame. Trump made a 49 break to lead 49-18 at 7-7, and although he broke down there, a further run of 28 made the frame safe.

A touch of controversy came at the end of the 16th frame, when Higgins conceded when 51 behind with 51 remaining on the table.

That is against the usual etiquette, but it suited Trump as he gained a two-frame lead, and then took the next to take control.

Higgins headed into the final on the back of an uncomfortable ending to his semi-final win over Mark Williams.

A spectator stood up in the 28th frame and, before being ejected, shouted at Higgins: "How did you swallow that £300,000 John? We know what you did. You're a disgrace to snooker."

The disgruntled fan was referring to the story that broke on the eve of the 2010 final, when Higgins and his then manager Pat Mooney were caught up in a newspaper sting after a meeting with reporters posing at businessmen in Ukraine.

Higgins was banned for six months after admitting to breaching rules around betting, but more serious charges of agreeing to throw frames for money were dropped. Higgins firmly denied wrongdoing.

Williams said: "It's going to be very tough for him. He doesn't want to get reminded of it, especially when he's down on a shot. But it's just something he's got to take on the chin."

There was no repeat of the episode yesterday.

Trump has claimed he feels "invincible" during his Sheffield run and that sense would have been accentuated when he took two scrappy frames, helped by breaks of 46 and 42, to edge 2-0 ahead.

But the 35-year-old Scot hit back, coming from 38-13 behind to take the third frame and 54-0 down to pinch the next, before runs of 51 and 64 nudged him ahead for the first time.

Higgins was pegged back to 3-3 by a 102 break by Trump, who attempted a 147 in the next frame but failed to put away the ninth red. That gave Higgins a chance in a frame which had looked lost, and runs of 42 and 27 saw him go in front once more.

Trump reached 47 for a 49-8 lead in the final frame of the session when he ran fractionally out of position on the next red. He played what seemed a good safety, only for Higgins to make an exceptional pot.

The Scot was unable to make a frame-winning contribution though. After a safety exchange Higgins had another chance, but he already needed one snooker and when he missed black off the final red he was left with too much ground to make up and conceded.

Trump then went on to win the evening session 6-3 for a 10-7 lead.

The World Championship,

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