Premier League 2012: Judd Trumps Allen For Play-Off Place

This Thursday saw the Premier League road show resume in Doncaster as Judd Trump and Mark Allen met in a showdown match for a place in the play-offs, while Mark Selby and Shaun Murphy also squared off, with pride and prize money at stake.

Click below for my impressions from the evening…

For someone who is not a fan of shot clocks and is generally something of a traditionalist, it may surprise some readers to hear that I have been to at least one Premier League evening a year since 2006. While nothing compares to the major tournaments however, it is also nice to have a night after work, watching a few frames of world class snooker in a more relaxed setting, though still with prize money up for grabs.

And relaxed was certainly the word to describe the first match of the evening between former world number one Mark Selby, and 2009 Premier League champion Shaun Murphy, both playing for pounds and pride alone having already been eliminated from the competition.

There was a lot of banter and chat between the two throughout, Mark joking to Shaun as he missed a black early in the second frame that he had just lost £25,000 (referring to the prize on offer for a 147), while both players later mimicked the cameraman holding his arm up behind the lens to give Paul Collier the cue to start the next frame following the commercial break.

As far as the match itself was concerned, Shaun looked to be the sharper of the two from the first frame and from 1-1, rattled off the next four frames in fairly quick time to secure a 5-1 victory. The highlight probably came in the fifth frame as following an in-off from Mark, Shaun made a terrific break of 116 to the green during which he never looked like missing.

The next frame could have been even better as he found himself in with a real chance of becoming the first man to make a maximum 147 break under shot clock conditions, only to snooker himself on the black following a difficult red into the left-centre. The disappointment was obvious during the commercial break as he recounted the shots leading up to the miss to presenter Andy Goldstein, but he can still be happy with his performance on the night.

It was a strange match to watch though as while both players were trying and there was £1,000 per frame on offer, there was nevertheless the sense that there was no pressure upon both players and nothing really at stake. All six frames proved to be quick, open affairs and the banter between the two took any hint of tension out of proceedings.

While I would describe that match as entertaining without being exciting, the second between Mark Allen and Judd Trump would prove a different story as with a place in the semi-finals on offer for the first player to make it to three frames, there was a lot on the line in Doncaster.

As was to be expected, Judd received the liveliest introduction of the night as he was introduced as world number one for the first time in his career and he made the stronger start by taking the opening frame.

The second however would prove to be by far the most interesting of the night as it came down to the colours and an entertaining tactical battle as Judd played for snookers, before Mark was able to draw level at 1-1.

As was the case in the first match though, from there the match would be largely one-sided, Trump showing flashes of his best as he swiftly regained the lead at 2-1, before taking the next to reach the all-important three-frame mark and book his place in the play-offs. With the main issue settled, the match petered out as Judd took the next two to secure a 5-1 win and begin his tenure as world number one in fine style.

While Judd, as usual produced a couple of trademark long pots as he entertained the crowds, what particularly struck me was that on a few occasions early in the match, he was actually turning down shots that under normal circumstances you might expect him to have taken on. It is no secret to those who follow the sport closely that he has matured in recent times, remember at the 2011 China Open his all-round game was key to his success, but it was interesting to observe nonetheless.

And after that it was time to leave, with the names of three of the four men through to the semi-finals now confirmed, while Ding Junhui and Neil Robertson will battle it out to join them next Thursday in Durham.

As I began by saying, the Premier League is as fun a way as any to spend a Thursday evening after work and is very good at what it does. There has been murmurs that SkySports are currently reconsidering the position of snooker on their schedules, but I for one hope to see the Premier League remain on their channels for some time yet.