Snooker: Welsh fight back to shock the favourites

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The Independent Online
WALES IGNORED the form book and their lack of experience to stun a powerful Scottish outfit with a 6-4 victory in the final of the Nations Cup at the Telewest Arena, Newcastle, yesterday.

Having hammered Wales 8-3 in the group phase of the event, World Cup holders Scotland were strong favourites to complete a notable team title double. But the Welsh, Darren Morgan, Mark Williams, Dominic Dale and Matthew Stevens, refused to be intimidated by their opponents' combined reputation on the way to collecting a pounds 17,500 per man first prize.

An emotional Morgan said: "We got the format right and I was delighted with the way we played. This is a very proud moment for me. Why shouldn't it be? We've lifted the trophy by beating the best team in the world."

John Higgins won a scrappy opening frame before Stephen Hendry took Scotland into a 2-0 lead, playing flawlessly against Williams. Stevens, who performed solidly all week, comfortably accounted for the third frame against Alan McManus, before Hendry and Chris Small overcame the Dale/Morgan partnership to give Scotland a 3-1 advantage.

The Welsh captain, Morgan, then provided a vital success against Small before Williams helped his side draw level 3-3.

Higgins led 22-0 when he missed a straightforward red, allowing Williams to pounce with a 101 clearance.

Small enabled Scotland to regain the lead at 4-3 with a methodical 79 break which also gave him a tournament best record of 12 wins from 16 frames played, but the Welsh again proved stubborn.

When Higgins, playing alongside McManus, missed a red to a middle pocket bridging awkwardly over the pack, Williams put together a run of 74.

Williams then remained in the auditorium to wear down McManus in a singles frame and gives Wales the upper hand for the first time in the contest at 5-4.

And Stevens, at 21 the youngest member of the Welsh quartet, applied the finishing touch to their fight-back with runs of 41 and 46 as he made short work of Hendry in the clinching 10th frame.

The disgruntled Scottish skipper, Higgins, said his missed chances led to his side's unexpected defeat.

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