LAYING DOWN THE GAUNLET
BY LUKE RICHES
(Las Vegas)–AFTER the first day’s play at the 2011 PartyPoker.net Mosconi Cup, Team Europe holds a commanding 4-1 lead as they cashed in on some tentative play from the Americans at the MGM Grand.
Aside from Archer and Putnam’s solid show in the first doubles match of the tournament, none of the Americans were firing on all cylinders and captain Charlie Williams will have a job to do for tomorrow.
Europe by contrast looked like thoroughbreds with big names like Souquet and Feijen looking the part and rookie Chris Melling pulling off a stunning win in the last game of the day.
Watched by his father, who was celebrating his 60th birthday, the 32 year-old Melling looked superb as he came from 3-0 down to steal the final match of the day from Shane Van Boening with a hill-hill win.
It was a bitter pill for the Americans to swallow as the difference between 3-2 and 4-1 is immense, and they will need to dig deep tomorrow if they are to reverse their fortunes.
Earlier, the Europeans drew first blood as they took the opening team match which featured all ten players. The format differed from previous years, in that each rack was contested by just two players rather than the alternate shot method involving all five.
It was Chris Melling who took the deciding rack against Mike Dechaine for the point but the Americans looked a little nervous throughout.
2010 MVP Darren Appleton was delighted with the win; “I’m really happy with the start. The format had changed a bit and it adds more pressure. You’re a bit cold and have no help from your friends. I played the first rack and was shaking really badly.
“Chris didn’t get a shot in the first game but he managed to win the rack that won us the point and I think he will go on and play very well.
“We don’t have to gel as we just come together and are a lot more relaxed than ever before. We’re playing really good, feel calm in ourselves and pretty sure we’re going to win.”
The American pair of Johnny Archer and Shawn Putnam – close friends off the table – dug their heels in to overturn a 3-1 deficit and beat the Euro duo of Chris Melling and Nick Van den Berg.
It was a big point for the Americans as Archer and Putnam grew in confidence as the match went on and they came with the critical shots in the closing stages. The communication between the pair was excellent as they kicked on for victory.
“Representing your country is the most pressure you will feel,” said Putnam.
“Everyone is used to playing for yourselves but when you play for your country the nerves are about ten times more and your friends on the team are looking for you to come through.
Archer added “It’s early but any match can turn anything around. We were 3-1 down and the momentum was in their favour but a bad break gave us a bit of a lifeline and we started creeping back.”
Rodney Morris, for so long a stalwart of the US Mosconi Cup side, looked a forlorn figure as he slumped to a 6-0 defeat at the hands of Niels Feijen. The Dutchman looked clinical throughout as he capitalised on Morris’s lacklustre display.
“That match was great,” said a delighted Feijen.
“In the first team match it was the most nerve-racking match I’ve played in so it was nice to settle down in the singles match.
“I played really well and it was a lot of fun. It’s a big confidence boost, especially against someone like Rodney Morris who has a super record in the Mosconi Cup.”
The USA suffered a huge kick in the teeth in the fourth match of the day as Mike Dechaine and Shane Van Boening relinquished a 4-0 lead to lose 6-4 to Darren Appleton and Ralf Souquet.
The critical moment came in the seventh rack when Dechaine needed a tricky 9 ball cueing off the rail to take the US to the hill at 5-2, but his head came up far too early and the chance went begging.
What should have been 5-2 became 4-3 and Appleton and Souquet had shifted the momentum in their favour. From there, they never looked back as they took Europe into a 3-1 lead and it was left to Melling to complete the route.
Europe 6-4 USA
Melling / Van den Berg 3-6 Archer / Putnam
Niels Feijen 6-0 Rodney Morris
Appleton / Souquet 6-4 Van Boening / Dechaine
Chris Melling 6-5 Shane Van Boening
Notes: Matchroom Sport are one of the world’s leading producers of televised sport and are responsible for over 1,100 hours of original programming across a range of sports. Based in the UK and chaired by charismatic founder Barry Hearn, the Mosconi Cup is one of a stable of pool events that include the World Cup of Pool and the World Pool Masters.