Europe take three point lead into Mosconi Cup final day

Nick van den Berg is mobbed by Team Europe

TEAM EUROPE enter the final day of the 2006 Mosconi Cup with a valuable three point advantage over their American counterparts after another day of high drama at the Cruise Terminal in Rotterdam.

Leading by three at the close of play on Friday, team coach Johan Ruijsink set his side a minimum target of sharing the day's points and maintaining their lead and this was exactly as it unfolded.

Johnny Archer's American side have an uphill struggle tomorrow as play commences with the team game followed by three trebles matches.

The evening started well for the Americans as a fired up Rodney Morris dispatched Mika Immonen 7-5 in a match that they really had to win. ‘The Rocket' looked composed throughout whilst his opponent struggled at the critical moments.

All the controversy happened in the next game as Mosconi veteran Earl Strickland took on Germany's Thomas Engert. Strickland was wound up from the start and gave the most cursory of interviews to Sky Sports presenter Andy Goldstein.

His play though was impressive but interspersed with his customary spats with members of the audience.

Leading 6-3, Strickland missed the brown 7 and such was his annoyance that he smashed his cue into the floor, splintering the shaft of his cue into pieces.

The crowd gave him a rousing boo but Engert composed himself to take the rack but he was too tentative throughout and Strickland ran out a 7-4 winner.

The final match of the day, Nick van den Berg v Mike Davis, was critical. An American win would leave them trailing overnight by just a single point, whilst a European win would restore their three point lead.

Neither player was at the top of their respective games but it was the Dutchman, roared on by a sell-out home crowd who had too much for Davis and it was Europe who prevailed.

Match Reports

Mika Immonen 5 - 7 Rodney Morris

RODNEY Morris secured a valuable point for USA with a 7-5 singles victory against Mika Immonen.

A delighted Morris said: "I've got a bit of a cold and it's started to kick in but it was a battle and there's no excuses. You've got to get in there and fight. Everyone knows I can play a bit but it's a team effort and that was only one match. It's about momentum and Earl's playing well.

"Even though he lost both doubles matches, it was my fault and I'm looking forward to seeing him win. We've got to win every match - it's going to go 12-12 so get ready!"

Going into this match 8-4 behind, USA needed to start collecting some points and Rodney Morris was called into action in the first of three evening matches and he was up against Mika Immonen.

Morris won the lag and ran through the opening rack and was soon at the table in the second after Immonen had to push out as he had no shot at the 2-ball.

Both players missed shots at the pink four in the second before Morris failed to hit the same ball when Immonen had got lucky and left the ball behind the green six. Immonen then had ball in hand and completed the rack with no problems for 1-1.

Morris ran through the third and had a chance to make the lead 3-1 after Immonen had missed a thin cut on the brown 5. However, Morris failed to perform a jump-shot correctly and that gave Immonen a easy chance to make it 2-2.

But the American regained the lead before each player claimed one of the next two racks in what looked like being a very close tie.

Immonen missed a shot at the 1-ball in the next but Morris then did exactly the same and Immonen took advantage of this second chance for 4-4.

Once more, the American edged in front at 5-4 and had a chance to move to the hill when Immonen made a poor safety shot on the blue two. Morris completed the rest of the rack to give himself a 6-4 lead and only one rack away from pulling the deficit back to three.

He had a great chance to clinch the match when Immonen left an opportunity to pot the three but Morris over hit the shot and lost position. But the safety was not good enough and Immonen made it 5-6 but with the break in the next.

However, Immonen missed a 6-9 combination and Morris made a 6-9 carom to seal the point.

Thomas Engert 4 – 7 Earl Strickland

EARL Strickland threw a major tantrum on Day Three as he smashed his cue into three pieces.

The Pearl had been 6-3 ahead of Thomas Engert when he missed a crucial brown seven and then had to use the shaft of his spare cue to complete the match, which he won 7-4.

Strickland then stormed off when Sky Sports presenter Andy Goldstein tried to interview him immediately after the match but did then speak later on.

"I enjoyed it because I won but people don't understand the pressure that sportsmen are put under and if they don't understand they shouldn't be watching sport," said Strickland.

"Thomas didn't play well and it was a comedy of errors at the end of the match. But I couldn't perform like I do if I wasn't like this. It's good for you guys because it carries on your soap opera."

Engert won the lag but immediately lost the advantage as he scratched with his first shot of the match and then did not get out of his seat again as Strickland ran through the opening rack.

The American then made it 2-0 after Engert missed a shot at the green six and left it hanging over the bottom right pocket for an easy chance for The Pearl.

Engert's disastrous start continued as he scratched again in the third rack, the second time from two breaks he had done so. It proved to be as costly as the scratch in the opening rack and in a very short time Strickland had moved 3-0 ahead and looked in total control.

Strickland potted the seven on the break but had to push out. However, Engert misjudged his shot on the 1-ball and scratched again, the third time in four racks. This time he was not punished as The Pearl missed the 4-ball to bring Engert back to the table.

But the European No.2 was having a nightmare match as he failed to pot the 5-ball and then, incredibly scratched again to bring his total up to four, all inside the opening four racks.

This time there was to be no reprieve as Strickland, who could barely believe his luck, stormed into a 4-0 lead with the match looking over.

Engert broke in the fifth and missed the 2-ball but luckily left the ball safe. But Strickland made his first error to give the German ball in hand and he salvaged a bit of pride by claiming the rack, although the match still looked to be over.

Strickland missed the 1-ball in the next but Engert played a poor safety and then missed the same ball to give the American another ball in hand opportunity as it became 5-1.

Engert won the seventh but Strickland then moved to the hill by taking the next. The German kept the game alive by securing the ninth before a length safety battle took place in the tenth.

That ended when Engert left Strickland a shot at the blue and that should have been the last time the European was at the table.

But The Pearl missed an attempt at the brown seven and Strickland slammed his cue on to the floor, smashing it into three pieces, before Engert took the rack to huge cheers from the home fans.

However, Engert missed a black in the 11th rack and Strickland, who was now using his spare shaft, sunk the black and 9-balls to win the match 7-4.

Nick van den Berg 7 – 4 Mike Davis

NICK Van Den Berg handed Europe a 9-6 lead at the end of Day Three of the 2006 Mosconi Cup.

The Dutchman thrilled the home crowd by securing a 7-4 singles victory against American Mike Davis at the Cruise Terminal, Rotterdam.

Van den Berg insisted his side still had a lot of work to do to win the competition. He said: "I tried to stay calm and focus on my game and not think about the crowd. They're supporting us well, all of the team. We'll sleep well tonight but we're not there yet."

Van den Berg made a positive start and edged 2-1 ahead before Davis fought back to take the fourth to leave it tied at 2-2.

A composed van den Berg regained the lead in the fifth rack as he cleared from the break, never looking in trouble. Davis pocketed two balls off his break shot but had no pot on the 2 ball which was stuck to the bottom rail. A poor safety failed to obscure the cue ball and the Dutchman took on the pot down table.

He missed the pot but got lucky as the cueball was hidden behind the 9. Davis escaped but left it on for van den Berg who cleared the table to steal the rack and take his lead to 4-2.

Van den Berg took the next with his break but both players had chances. In the end it was the Dutchman who prevailed in the safety battle on the 5 ball and from there he wrapped it up to increase his lead.

In the next Davis made an unforced error as he missed the 3 ball off the rail. Van den Berg took it on and made it but left himself a tough one on the 5 ball with hampered cueing. He missed it and left it hanging for Davis. The big American completed the run out to get the score to 5-3 in the European's favour.

Van den Berg was forced to push out in the next and Davis took the table to leave him hooked. The Dutchman made a mess of the escape to give Davis a real chance to take the rack against the break.

Davis lost position slightly going from the 2 to the 3 and had to force the cueball to gain position. When the white drifted into the centre pocket, it gave van den Berg a golden opportunity. With ball in hand he gratefully accepted it to increase his lead to 6-3 and put him on the hill.

The American elected to push out in the next and van den Berg left him in a snooker. Davis escaped but left a cut on for van den Berg. He made it but snookered himself and his escape shot fouled and with ball in hand, Davis dished up to reduce the arrears. Van den Berg kicked out of a safety and left Davis with a full ball snooker.

He too elected to kick and made the 1 ball into the corner pocket. He missed a long pot on the 2 ball though to give van den Berg a great chance. He ran through the table but left himself a horrible position on the 9 but he redeemed the situation with a brave pot to take the match 7-4 and increase the European lead to 9-6.