Contributed by Peter–Douglas Ling and Sean Yeow Huang Meng, Co–Conveners for Pool, Bar Council Sports Committee; with photos by the Malaysian Bar Pool Team
26 Apr 2019, 7:00 pm: Day 2 of the Golden Jubilee Bench and Bar Games 2019. Venue: On1 Sports Bistro, The Grandstand, Singapore.
The Malaysian Bar (“MB”) Pool Team arrived in Singapore minus two players from its victorious 2018 team. One of them was a long standing regular and the form player last year. Three new players were recruited; two of them youngsters. Much of the training aimed to assimilate the new players into the squad. In competition scotch doubles where the partners take alternate shots; the rapport, rhythm and synchronising between the two teammates are critical.
The format of play of eight matches of four singles and four doubles remained. MB had made its annual request to the Law Society of Singapore (“LSS”) for an additional match to make it a nine match format or for a tie–breaker in the event of a 4–4 tie. Once again, LSS turned it down.
In the blind draw just before the matches, LSS surprised us by placing their more experienced 8–ball doubles pair below a new pairing. LSS also decided to have the four singles matches played before the four doubles. This was a change from the previous years’ order of play.
The first 8–ball singles was a tough match between MB’s Michael Tan Ching Hooi and LSS’s Gopal Shivanand. Gopal had a point to prove, having narrowly lost the final singles while leading last year in the Ipoh Games to hand overall victory to MB. Gopal strung a few clearances and played neat safeties to try to bind Michael Tan into fouls or losing the table. Michael Tan, however, dug in and applied all his experience. He played a few spectacular shots including a deep masse shot, a difficult and crucial long pot and a banked 8–ball in the sixth frame to beat Gopal 4–2.
In the second 8–ball singles, MB’s Sean Yeow Huang Meng faced off against a new player that LSS had unearthed, Manoj Belani. The early stages were tight and they split the first two frames 1–1. In frame three, Sean Yeow missed his shot on the 8–ball. Manoj cleared his balls but left himself no direct shot on the 8–ball. He pulled off a brilliant kick shot to knock the 8 ball in. From then on, Manoj impressively did not miss a ball to claim the next two frames and a 4–1 win.
Ten–ball singles (race to five frames) was a match–up between LSS’s vastly experienced Haryadi Hadi and MB’s newbie Ng Jo Yee (Joe). Yet, Joe played beyond his years. He took an early 2–1 lead. In frame four, Hadi missed his attempt on the 10–ball and left both the cue–ball and 10–ball on the rails. From the difficult cueing position, Joe potted the 10–ball but the cue–ball bounced off two rails and scratched. Instead of a handsome 3–1 lead, Joe was pegged back to 2–2. Safety and counter–safety play ensued, both waiting for the chance to clear the remaining balls in one go. Ultimately, Hadi held enough nerves to eke out a 5–3 win.
In 9–ball singles (race to five frames), MB’s Peter–Douglas Ling took on LSS’s Captain Ong Kuan Chung (KC), the current Singapore National 9–ball Champion. Despite starting well, two mistakes by Peter on the 9–ball in frames one and three allowed KC to lead 3–0. Peter re–focused to claw back to 3–3. KC stepped up to win the seventh frame and was in good flow by the eighth but Peter managed to nick it with one clearance. It was now 4–4 or, in pool parlance, “hill–hill” — the winner of the next frame takes all. Peter broke in the deciding ninth frame and took control.
Then, a thin cut on the 5–ball without enough check–side saw the cue–ball scratch in–off the 8–ball into the side pocket. KC proceeded to pot the remaining four balls to prevail 5–4 in the see–saw match.
The MB players’ heads did not go down despite being 1–3 on the scoreboard as LSS singles players were stronger and MB had been a whisker away from 2–2 at that point. The four doubles matches then started.
In the second 8–ball doubles, a shaky start saw LSS’s seasoned pairing of Aylwin Tan and Gopal take a 2–1 lead. Sean Yeow and Joe gathered rhythm and, executing good safeties and pots, got back into the match. Confidence flowed into the Malaysians but the Singaporeans provided hard resistance. The match went to 3–3, another “hill–hill”. It was Sean Yeow and Joe’s break in the deciding seventh frame. They broke and ran out, ie potted all their balls in one go, to win the match in style at 4–3.
In the 9–ball doubles (race to five frames), LSS’s KC and Marcus Lim started strongly, potting almost every ball they had to jump to a 3–0 lead. MB’s new player Brian Law and partner Peter strung together a few good sequences and played safe when needed. Yet, KC showed great skill to get out of tight snookers and even counter–snookered on escaping. The LSS pair were simply too sharp on the day and took the match 5–1.
The 8–ball mixed doubles had MB’s Ong Yee Shin and Elaine Tan in control from the start but pool can be cruel and they found themselves down 0–2 when it could easily have been the reverse. LSS’s Eugene Teo and Junie were playing a carefully–calculated game, deliberating between themselves at length on each shot. Instead of tiring, Yee Shin and Elaine Tan kept to their quicker rhythm and style of play. Elaine Tan made a marvellous fine cut on the 8–ball in the fourth frame to get back to 2–2. This unnerved the Singaporeans. Two crucial mistakes by LSS later and Yee Shin potting a difficult long 8 ball meant MB grabbed the next two frames to win 4–2.
The first 8–ball doubles saw MB’s Michael Tan and Eugene Teo square up against the LSS’s new pairing of Hadi and Manoj. In the first two frames, MB had only one shot (the break) whereas LSS potted every ball they attempted. Hadi and Manoj had clicked and were on fire. Nothing Michael Tan and Eugene Teo did, including some tight safety shots, could stem the LSS pair’s dazzling form and play, both in attack and defence. LSS won 4–0.
Thus, the doubles matches were split 2–2 and MB lost 3–5 overall. LSS’s players, with their new recruits playing at a high standard, performed better on the night.
The MB Pool Team acknowledges the challenge they face and must continue to improve to come back stronger next year.
Appreciation goes out to the LSS Pool Team for their generous hospitality (the friendships forged, in spite of the intense battles on the pool tables over the years, shall remain), all the MB supporters, and the players and coach for their commitment to the cause. Thank you to The Social Group of Restaurants who kindly sponsored the team’s shirts again.