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Cini Defends Maltese Title

Defending champion Brian Cini came back from two down with three to play to oust Duncan Bezzina 6-5 in the final and win his fourth Maltese National Snooker Championship. 

A national championship first contested in 1947, the tournament was organised by the Malta Billiards and Snooker Association and held over several weeks at the purpose-built Malta Snooker Academy in Hamrun.

The domestic circuit on the Mediterranean island sees players split into divisions depending on their playing ability. The 19 in the Premier Division contest Malta’s biggest snooker title.

Qormi cueist Cini breezed through the league phase of the competition, topping Group A by winning all eight of his fixtures and dropping only eight frames in the process.

In the knockouts he made a 99 break in the final frame of a 5-1 quarter-final victory over Chris Peplow before pipping experienced former professional Alex Borg 5-4 in the last four where he crafted an effort of 76 in the deciding frame.

Cini’s opponent in the title match was four-time champion Bezzina who booked the ninth final appearance of his career after eliminating Aaron Busuttil 5-3 in the other semi-final; top scoring with 71. Group B winner Busuttil had reached the championship’s previous four finals.

The best-of-11 frames final started well for Cini as a 51 break helped him claim the opening frame. However, Bezzina levelled up courtesy of the final black in frame two before taking four of the next six frames to go 5-3 ahead and on the brink of regaining the title.

Reigning champion Cini was not to be denied, though, as he staged a comeback by stringing together the final three frames to win 6-5 and defend the title for the first time in his career.

Also a winner in 2016 and 2018, the 25-year-old has won all four national championship finals he has played in.

Elsewhere on the Maltese circuit, Frans Abdilla, Lee Grima and Kevin Vella respectively won the first, second and third division titles.

Article by Michael Day.

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