Robertson sneaks into finals weekend

After the results last week in Grimsby it appeared as though tonight’s final league fixtures in Wales might be something of an anti-climax but that could not have been further from the truth as qualification went right down to the wire. Eventually it was Neil Robertson who despite some very poor preparation, came through to take the final spot at finals weekend…

The first clash of the evening saw Mark Selby take on table topper Ronnie O’Sullivan needing just two frames to all but guarantee fourth place in the league table at the expense of Neil Robertson and Welshman Mark Williams who was not in action tonight.

As I turned my television on with Ronnie leading 3-0 and looking like making it 4-0 however, things were clearly getting interesting! O’Sullivan did however miss a simple black to the right-centre pocket, allowing Mark to get himself back into the frame before snookering his opponent behind the green. O’Sullivan tried to hit the yellow which was on the bottom cushion near the black but controversially having been unsuccessful on a number of occasions, decided to roll up to the green deliberately in order to lose the frame and move on to the next. As he explained afterwards, he indicated that he was not happy with the application of the miss rule, a valid point but for me not one expressed in the correct manner.

Having raised eyebrows however, O’Sullivan then did what he so often does under such circumstances and rebounded in fine style to take the next frame before establishing a significant lead in the sixth and final frame, leaving Mark’s hopes hanging by a thread. With the balls where they were and needing a snooker, I could not see Selby pulling it off but having got the penalty points required, the 2008 finalist then embarked on what was looking like one of the best clearances I have seen in a long time before he narrowly missed the final black down the side cushion. This was to prove costly as a couple of shots later O’Sullivan was to pot it and in doing so end Mark’s hopes of making the final four.

This meant that the situation was now simple, Neil Robertson had to defeat Shaun Murphy in the evening’s second match to qualify at the expense of Welshman Mark Williams. Neil’s preparation however was far from ideal as he eventually arrived at the venue at 9:20pm, less than half an hour before the start of the match!

Not that it appeared to bother him as for me he played as well as I have seen him under shot clock conditions, making two centuries on his way to establishing a 3-2 lead with just one to play. Shaun was playing well and with his epic steal against Mark Selby a couple of weeks previously fresh in the memory banks, Neil still had a job to do but despite an outrageous fluke at one point, he was able to get it done and in doing so book his place in the play-offs.

Neil was understandably happy after the match but equally as self-critical as to his preparation, commenting that it is perhaps the wake-up call that he needs as this could have happened at the World Championship. Indeed it is not the first time that Neil has been ill-prepared for a Premier League evening, I can also remember him arriving late for a match at the Championship League once.

Still, this time it did not cost him and he will now taken on Ronnie O’Sullivan next weekend whilst Shaun Murphy meets Marco Fu in the other semi-final.

Can you see past Ronnie?