Northern Ireland Open: Judd Trump beats Ronnie O'Sullivan 9-7 in thrilling final

Judd Trump
Judd Trump

Judd Trump completed a successful defence of his Northern Ireland Open title, beating Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-7 in a repeat of last year’s final.

Trump was ahead from the opening frame of the match as the two best players in the sport served up a quality conclusion to the second event in the Home Nations Series.

Returning for the evening session with a 5-3 advantage, the reigning world champion produced some mesmerising snooker to keep the equally brilliant O’Sullivan at bay.

After a break of 106 put him 6-4 ahead, Trump's second maximum attempt of the final fell short on 113 before the Rocket responded with runs of 72 and 76 to stay in touch, with the second of those coming in a closely fought 13th.

Trump earned himself breathing space again with his fourth century and his highest of the match - 124 - only for O'Sullivan, who was seeking to win a record-breaking 37th ranking title, to thrill the crowds with a clearance of 135.

The defending champion threatened another ton in what proved to be the final frame before another sparkling run ended at 84 but it mattered little as he picked up his third ranking title of the season.

"It feels amazing to win again," Trump told Eurosport. "To defend any title is always difficult but to do it against Ronnie is extra special. The game was free-flowing, we were both scoring heavily and I think it was good to watch as well.

"I knew it was important to get a good start against him because anyone who goes behind to him can just get steamrolled.

"I have to up my game every time I play Ronnie to have a chanc. The fans in Belfast were amazing once again, as they were last year."

It was a final which helped lay the foundations for the next six months in snooker, from the UK Championship in York to The Masters and then the World Championship, where Trump will again look to successfully defend a title.

O’Sullivan hinted earlier in the week that the latter two events may not be on his agenda, but the UK Championship certainly is – he’ll be bidding for an eighth victory in the first tournament of the Triple Crown, having secured a record-breaking seventh last year.

The UK Championship is also where Trump first broke through in 2012 and, seven years on, he heads to York at the very top of the sport, producing snooker of a standard which even O’Sullivan is struggling to live with at times.

This victory in Belfast was all the more impressive given that it came seven days after he’d lost 10-9 in the final of the Champion of Champions, which in turn came on the back of victory at the World Open in China, while his other ranking title this year came at September's International Championship.

Clearly, wearing the crown sits well with the brilliant left-hander, who has earned his break before the UK Championship begins with the game’s standout talents both firing on all cylinders.


AFTERNOON SESSION

Judd Trump holds a 5-3 lead over Ronnie O'Sullivan after the first session of the Northern Ireland Open final.

Trump was denied a 147 break by a heavy kick in the penultimate frame of the session, and he may well be kicking himself at not having extended his advantage to 6-2 come the end of the final one.

After O'Sullivan had gone in-off when in the balls, Trump was left with an opening which, had he taken it, would have presented his opponent with a mountain to climb this evening in a race to nine frames.

But he missed by a wide margin with a rare, stray bullet from range, and that allowed O'Sullivan to keep within touching distance and set up a mouthwatering denouement at 7pm.

Trump won the first two frames of the final with runs of 68 and 56, before O'Sullivan knocked in a 126 break to halve the deficit.

The response from Trump was immediate as he made a century break of his own, a 123 which put him back in a two-frame lead in his bid to repeat last year's victory over O'Sullivan in Belfast.

After the following two frames were shared, Trump's lead became three with an 88 break which might have been a maximum had he not suffered an almighty knick on the 12th red, which rattled across both jaws before being spat back onto the table.

It was unfortunate, but Trump had nobody but himself to blame for losing the final frame of the session, one O'Sullivan had dominated until an unfortunate in-off the blue put the cue ball in Trump's hand.

With reds spread across the table, the world champion needed one mid-range red to set-up a golden opportunity, only to produce arguably his worst shot of the weekend so far to had the frame to his opponent.

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