It has been some year for pool at Durham. In December, the Cue Sports club clinched the 9-ball pool championship in their inaugural appearance at the tournament, overcoming a lack of resources to bring the title home. Then it was the women’s turn as they conquered the 8-ball competition in Great Yarmouth earlier this month, with Charlotte Elliott’s side winning the Trophy and the captain herself earning bronze in the individual event.
The talk around the club is that they have contributed more BUCS points to Durham than rowing so far this season, a phenomenal achievement for a sport which is not usually considered one of the University’s strongholds. When you factor in that this was the first time the club fielded four teams at the 8-ball championship and the first time all teams made the knockout stages, you can see why people are starting to get excited about pool in Durham.
Women’s captain Charlotte Elliott was in spectacular form at the championships and was particularly proud of her team’s performance, which took on added significance given they were absent from last year’s edition.
“Having won the championship the year before that, it was sad to not send someone to defend the title,” she tells Palatinate. “This was the first time that all three players in the women’s team had ever competed at BUCS, which I think made it extra special to all be new on the scene and do so well. Hopefully, the women’s success will encourage more women to start playing pool and expand and add depth to the women’s squad.”
The women’s route to the final was fraught with tension. Having finished fourth in their group to qualify, they swept past the University of Strathclyde’s first team in the last 16 with a resounding 4-1 victory to make sure they would be back to play on Sunday. A nail-biting tie ensued in the quarter-final against York’s second team as a 3-3 draw went to a decider after an impressive tactical frame. In what would become a common theme, Elliott stepped up to wrap up the game.
It was almost exactly the same story in the semi-final against Lancaster’s second team as Elliott and co. took the 3-3 draw to a decider. The final was a much more standard affair, as a thumping 4-0 victory over St Andrew’s seconds ensured the title came home.
Elliott’s run to the semi-finals in the individual event was just as impressive in her inaugural appearance at the tournament. She had to endure a two and a half hour, seven-frame slog to make it into the last four. There she met Phillippa Orme, a St Andrew’s student and previously a finalist for the past three consecutive years. Although Elliott was disappointed at losing a tight battle 4-3, the bronze medal means she is likely to be invited to represent English universities in a competition later this year against the Home Countries.
“On reflection I’m frustrated at the way I lost in the semis,” she says. “But also immensely proud of reaching the semis given it was my first time at BUCS. Hopefully I’ll be back next year to go one or two better.”
Great Yarmouth was also notable for the 4s’ maiden performance in the competition. The team went unbeaten in a group stage which included one university first team, two second teams and a third team. That included a huge 6-2 victory against Stirling’s first string which confirmed them as group winners and which represented the highlight of the tournament for 4s captain Ben Dickinson.
“It felt really good as a fourth team to be able to go toe to toe with, and eventually beat, a university first team,” he says. “The winning margin of 6-2 also really highlighted the fact that we were there to play, not just make up numbers.”
Dickinson’s side went on to lose to Liverpool’s second team in the first knockout round of the Vase, but their performance had wider ramifications. Having won their group in Great Yarmouth, the 4s will be entered into the first tier competition at next year’s edition — all the more remarkable given most universities only field one or two teams.
Having proved their mettle at the 9-ball and 8-ball championships, it seems the only way is up for Durham’s pool players.
Image: Cue Sports Club.