NORTHUMBRIA’S Laura Neill was the pick of the junior county crop at the North’s biggest Silver tournament of the year.
The 14-year-old hit top form at the Pontefract Junior Open, between Christmas and New Year, to finish in the top four of the Girls Under 15 event.
Harry Little – of Northern and Northumberland Club – grabbed an impressive sixth spot in the Boys Under 13s event, while there were also top 10 finishes for Michael Mattimore (Boys Under 17s), Cai Younger (Boys Under 19s), Charlotte Cooper and Tegan Younger (both Girls Under 19s).
Following close behind were Emma and Amy Rowell (12th and 13th in Girls Under 17s), Dan Neill (14th at Boys Under 13s), Tom Cornell and Andrew Shipley (12th and 13th respectively in the Boys Under 15s event) and Jamie Todd (13th at Boys Under 17s).
The Pontefract tournament always attracts some of the best young players in the country – and a fair smattering of upcoming juniors from much further afield, who use the competition as a warm-up for the British Junior Open in Sheffield a few days later.
Players from Malaysia, India and Canada brought an international flavour to many of the monrad line-ups, meaning bumper competitive fields at all age levels.
Seventh seed Laura Neill got off to a great start with a 3-0 win over Sara Scofield, then followed that up with a 3-2 result against Amber Marshall. Eventual runner-up Alice Green proved too strong for our girl in the third round, and Jessica Kheng edged a 3-2 win over Laura in an epic 3/4 place play-off – this one going right to the wire at 11-9 in the fifth.
At Boys U13s, Harry Little beat Abd-Allah Eissa 3-0 in Round 1, then lost 3-0 to No 2 seed Kevin Shanmugan, before bouncing back with a strong 3-1 win over Alhassan Khalil in round three. No 5 seed Oliver Green clinched the 5th/6th place play-off to leave Harry in an impressive sixth spot out of the 29-man field.
Northern’s Tom Cornell beat Jonathan Wright 3-1 on his way to 12th at Boys Under 15s, while Andrew Shipley beat Rayyan Haq and Samuel Gibbon (both 3-1) to clinch his 13th placing.
After a first round bye in the Boys U17s event, Michael Mattimore lost 3-0 to Elliott Ridge, then found form to beat Joseph Twigge and Alex Engstrom by the same scoreline to set up an epic 9th/10th place play-off.
The Northern hotshot was 2-1 down but levelled at 11-8 in the fourth, only to be edged out by Yorkshire’s Yusef Forster in the fifth by the same scoreline. Tynemouth’s Jamie Todd beat Joe Twigge 3-0 on his way to a 13th placed finish in the same event.
At Boys Under 19s, Cai Younger beat Northampton’s Haydn Tetley (3-2) then lost to eventual finalist Adam Turner before beating Daniel Bray of Yorkshire 3-2 and Merseyside’s Adam Pritchard (3-2). A marathon 5-setter against Brock Janzer in the 9th/10th place play-off kept the crowd on their feet and finally went the way of the Canadian who closed it out 11-8 in the fifth.