CLS 2011: Stevens Downs Murphy For Premier Place

Congratulations to Matthew Stevens who has continued his excellent run of form by defeating Shaun Murphy 3-1 this evening to win the 2011 Championship League. As well as the trophy, the win also ensures that Stevens will now return to the Premier League for the first time since 2002…

Having been arguably the two strongest players during the recent PTC finals event in Dublin, perhaps it was no surprise to see Matthew Stevens and Shaun Murphy to top today’s Championship League winner’s group before coming through to meet in the final.

Matthew’s semi-final was a relatively quick affair as he defeated countryman Mark Williams 3-1 while Murphy had to survive a brave effort from Ali Carter who twice came back from behind to force a deciding frame.

In the final it was Stevens who struck first, largely thanks to a mid-frame break of 51 followed by a timely fluke which allowed him to put Murphy in a decisive snooker. The 2005 world champion however soon drew level with an excellent 81 in frame two, effectively rendering the final a best of three.

The next frame was to prove the scrappiest of the match as both appeared to struggle with an unusually slow table, but eventually the key moment proved to be a missed brown from Murphy to the left-centre which let Stevens in to clear for 2-1.

Stevens again got in first in frame four and after a couple of visits looked to be in with a reasonable chance to take the frame. A missed black from nowhere however gave Murphy an unexpected reprieve, but he soon missed a blue to leave himself on the brink of defeat. As Murphy soon failed to escape from a snooker having trailed by 32 points with just 35 remaining, the writing was very much on the wall and Stevens eventually potted up to the brown to secure the title.

Having won each of his opening round matches so far this season including that dramatic black ball thriller against Fergal O’Brien to qualify for the Crucible, this puts the icing on the cake for Matthew and marks his first piece of silverware (well, glass anyway), since the Pot Black Trophy in 2005. Already a safe bet to move back into the top 16 at the end of this season, he is now very much back where he belongs and has to be one to watch at the season’s two remaining events. Hopefully given all that he has gone through during the past couple of weeks he will not suffer from any sort of burnout which would be my only concern for him at the moment.

For Murphy meanwhile it will be a disappointment to lose but having won the PTC finals recently he cannot be too unhappy with his recent run and will surely be a contender for an invite for the Premier League in any case, particularly having won it back in 2009 and reached last season’s final.

For the day’s results in full, please click here.