Robert Milkins and Aaron Hill opened the 2022/23 season with Group 24 and 13 wins respectively to move forwards into Winners’ Week at the 2022 BetVictor Championship League Snooker – Ranking Event at the Morningside Arena, Leicester live on Matchroom.Live and networks worldwide.
Milkins began the day strongly playing with the freedom of a man who clinched the Gibraltar Open title towards the back end of last season. The Milkman making 78 in the opening frame against Sanderson Lam before following it up to win 3-0 and get three early points on the board. Former UK Championship semi-finalist Andy Hicks had something to say about Milkins’ passage to Winners’ Week with wins of his own against Allan Taylor and Hicks respectively to sit top of the group at the break.
Taylor needed to keep his hopes alive against Milkins if he was to progress but in truth, it looked a tall order with Hicks in pole position and soon Milkins not too far behind him after a 3-1 victory against Taylor.
Lam and Taylor were both out the picture by the time the pair met in the penultimate match of the session on Table 1 as Lam got points on the board to claim vital ranking points whilst Taylor would come away empty-handed.
Milkins and Hicks met in the final match of the day in Group 24 to settle things a the top end of the table. Milkins knew a draw would be enough whilst Hicks had to take his opportunity and seal a win to make it though. Hicks was level at 1-1 and 48 points to the good in the third frame after Milkins had fouled to seemingly leave the door open for the Toast of Tavistock to make it through, but it was Milkins who put in a stellar showing from then on in a nervy exchange to get his frame needed. Hick’s last frame proved to be irrelevant for both as Milkins progressed with seven points on frame difference.
“I think it’s worse sometimes when you know when you only need to nick a point. He was a better player than me in that match and he deserved to win it. It’s just the way it goes sometimes. It’s a slow start to the season so it keeps you motivated and keeps you wanting to practice. I haven’t played much, to be honest. My table hasn’t been great. I am getting it reclothed in a week’s time then I can really start to put some hours in. I played okay today. I played well in patches. I thought I played solid in the first two matches. Overall, I am quite pleased. I have nothing to lose now. I just keep going. Even today, I felt like the weight was off my shoulders.” – Milkins.
Hill freshly back on tour through Q School, took the only victory of the morning session in Group 13 live on the Matchroom Multi Sport YouTube channel against Craig Steadman in a 3-0 win which saw the Irishman make the first century of the season along the way (101). Former English Amateur champion Ben Hancorn meanwhile had to settle for draws against David Grace and Steadman to leave the group open going into the evening session but advantage to Hill.
Into the evening session and Hill looked to be on course for Winners’ Week with a match to spare after going 2-0 up against Grace with breaks of 34 and 33 respectively to take him one away. Grace hit back though in the following two frames to settle for his second draw of the day and keep Hill waiting for his moment to progress.
There was plenty to fight for with that draw for all players in the group and Hancorn took the game to Hill to lead 1-0 and put his opponent under the cosh. For Hancorn, it was all about finishing in the money, but Hill came back to lead at 2-1 with breaks of 73 and 32. Hancorn though made sure things went down to the final match to win the final frame to draw all three games in the group and be a good position to avoid the wooden spoon.
The permutations for Grace were clear in his final match with Steadman. A 3-0 win and a high break beating Hill’s 101 would take him through whilst anything else would put Hill into the next stage. Grace took the opener, but Steadman poured the cold water on hopes of Grace progressing forwards to Hill’s delight.
BetVictor Championship League Snooker – Ranking Event continues tomorrow with Zhao Xintong in action on Table 1 in Group 4 live on FreeSports and Matchroom.Live in the UK and networks worldwide with Hammad Miah, Adam Duffy and Michael Holt whilst Noppon Saengkham, Ashley Hugill, Anthony Hamilton and Steven Hallworth live on the Matchroom Multi Sport YouTube for free. See where to watch here.