Hosts Great Britain A progressed safely into the second round of the BetVictor World Cup of Pool after seeing off Malta at the Morningside Arena, Leicester on Wednesday evening, when there were also wins for Canada and Greece.
Jayson Shaw and Chris Melling were flying the flag for the host nation and were up against Malta – Clayton Castaldi and billiards legend Tony Drago – and avoided the potential banana skin and a Maltese fightback as they moved into round two with a 7-5 win. Earlier in the evening Canada had beaten France 7-2, while Greece were 7-3 victors over New Zealand.
The hosts were well supported but it was Malta who took the first rack, before Great Britain levelled. Malta had a chance to go 2-1 ahead but Drago missed a tricky cut to the middle on the frame ball. Shaw had a long pot but secured the rack and instead it was Great Britain A who moved in front.
They built a 5-1 advantage before Malta were back on the board, and looked set to reach the hill at 6-2 before Melling missed an elementary 9 ball. Instead it was 5-3 and it wasn’t long until there was only one rack between the teams after Shaw failed to make a 4/9 which he’d usually expect to sink.
Great Britain had some thinking to do and in the next rack they found a way and finally got to the hill. Castaldi, though, have been breaking well all match and again gave his team a roadmap as they looked to stay in the match.
The Maltese runout piled the pressure on the hosts, who would break next knowing that if they let their opponents take the rack, it would be the visitors to break at hill-hill. But Shaw and Melling, who had looked strong early in the match, eliminated their mistakes when it mattered and booked their place in the second round.
“We played perfectly to get 5-1 up but then it was a bad 9 I missed,” said Melling. “We have played enough tournaments around the world to know that when you do make a mistake you can’t take it back, so you can’t dwell on it, you have to forget it straight away.”
Shaw added: “Every match is going to be tough, so it’s one match, one ball at a time. There is a lot of play left in this tournament and a lot of good teams.”
Earlier in the evening France were defeated by Canada, who had John Morra back in the side after missing last year’s World Cup in Shanghai, alongside Alex Pagulayan. The 30-year-old has switched style and is now playing left-handed due to back issues and looked just as good as ever as a southpaw. Canada took a quick 2-0 lead and despite being pegged back in the third, gave their French opponents Alex Montpellier and Fabio Rizzi a mountain to climb as they move to 5-1 ahead.
France got their second rack on the board to narrow the gap to 5-2, but Canada responded to reach the hill and took little extra time in securing the victory and a second-round clash with Estonia.
New Zealand took the lead in their match against the Greek team of Alexander Kazakis and Nick Malaj, Matt Edwards playing a smart plant for the 4/9 combo. His playing partner, Simon Singleton, was born in the UK and had plenty of support in attendance in Leicester. But the New Zealand followers would be disappointed, as Greece responded to going behind with five consecutive racks.
When Malaj missed the 3 with a jump shot, New Zealand cleared for their second rack. They broke dry but Kazakis scratched on the 1 and the Kiwis worked the table for their third. The comeback was short lived, however, and Greece were soon scoring again and took the next two racks for the match. They will face Chinese Taipei in round two.
Play continues with the remaining four first-round matches and the first two second-round fixtures played across two sessions on Thursday. The BetVictor World Cup of Pool is broadcast live in over 100 countries around the world, including on Sky Sports and DAZN.
The BetVictor World Cup of Pool is sponsored by Rasson Billiards, who supply the Official Table; the cloth is supplied by Iwan Simonis and the Official Balls are Super Aramith by Saluc. Predator are the Official Cue of the event and Kamui the Official Chalk and Tip.