USA LEAD DRAMATIC PARTYPOKER MOSCONI CUP BY ONE

Van Boening/Woodward 5-1 Filler/Kaci
Skyler Woodward 5-3 Niels Feijen
Woodward/Styer 5-4 Kaci/Kazakis
Shane van Boening 0-5 Joshua Filler
Bergman/Thorpe 4-5 Shaw/Feijen

Team USA lead the partypoker Mosconi Cup 8-7, setting it up for a dramatic Thanksgiving finale at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino Convention Center, live on Sky Sports and DAZN.

The day began with the scores at 5-5 and USA extended that to 8-5, with Skyler Woodward involved in all three wins. A Joshua Filler inspired Europe fought back though as the German beat Shane van Boening 5-0 before Jayson Shaw and Niels Feijen won a hill-hill thriller against Justin Bergman and Billy Thorpe that had it all and sparked wild European celebrations.

USA Coach Johan Ruijsink had scheduled Woodward to play in each of the day’s opening three matches, starting with a doubles pairing alongside Van Boening, with Filler and Eklent Kaci in opposition.

The Albanian carried the adrenaline of the walk-on into his break and scratched to the middle pocket, handing early initiative to USA. Europe’s next shot was their break at 2-0 down, but they couldn’t capitalise, and the rack went to USA. Kaci and Feijen took the fourth but a poor Filler push out gave America control of the fifth and they duly moved to the hill.

Breaking for the match, Woodward had the 8 down but Van Boening was left unsighted on the 1. No problem, though, for the South Dakota Kid, who jumped the 3 to cut the 1 to the top corner and America were perfect from there to move 6-5 ahead.

Woodward remained at the table to face Feijen, who was yet to find his stroke this week. The Dutchman looked to be staring down a 3-0 deficit when Woodward missed an uncharacteristic 9-ball and Feijen was able to put a three-pack together for the lead. But if any confidence was being built by the four-time MVP, it wasn’t able to grow any further. Woodward ran the sixth rack and a dry break by Feijen in the seventh was his last shot of the match as the Kentucky Kid, who is fast becoming ‘Mr Mosconi’ for Team USA, cleared the table twice for a 5-3 win and a 7-5 US lead.

That heaped pressure onto European pair Kaci and Kazakis, who were out next in doubles against Woodward and Styer. The Euro duo were both losing debutants last year and Kazakis had struggled so far this week too.

An American break and run in the first rack served to increase the decibel level from the US audience, but Europe took the next two for the lead. A fluked 3-ball – an attempted Kaci jump to the bottom corner which clipped the draw and screwed diagonally to the top corner – set Europe on their way to 3-1.

They reached the hill with a three-rack advantage, but a dry Kaci break handed an opportunity to USA, and Styer and Woodward took two racks to close to 4-3. Another European dry break brought the US duo straight back to the table and they gave the crowd the second hill-hill match of the week.

When Styer missed a tough cut on the 1, things looked promising for Europe. Kaci left Kazakis a 3-ball which was straight, but with the cue ball against the side rail on the jaw of the middle pocket. It was the kind of shot you need to make to win Mosconi Cup’s, but what followed was a Kazakis miss which was symptomatic of his struggles at this competition over the last two years, and it meant Europe were 8-5 down. Woodward had the final 9 and before shooting it urged the Mandalay Bay crowd to its feet. To a man, they obeyed, and gave perhaps the week’s loudest raw as the new yellow and black Aramith 9 hit the bottom of the pocket.

“I said to Tyler, anything can happen – they won four in a row, so can we,” said Woodward, who was involved in all three US wins. “MVP would be nice but I don’t care about that as long as we win. I don’t care who is MVP, let’s just get the cash! It is a huge point. We will win the session before and it’s a big confidence booster for Shane coming in now.”

Both captains went strong with their next singles picks, giving the fans what they’d voted for on day two. The Fans’ Choice saw Filler win 5-1 on Tuesday and Europe were desperate for the repeat. In this match, it was America looking for revenge.

Filler, though, was in no mood for a US party. He won the lag and first rack and as he gained position on the 9 in the second, he turned to the home crowd and put his finger to his lips.

It was his performance, though, that would silence the American fans. The German lost control in the next rack but when Van Boening’s 3-ball cut missed the top corner, Filler was straight out of his seat, ran around the table and completed the rack in no time at all.

Van Boening’s next break was dry but Filler missed a 4-ball jump. The South Dakota Kid, though, left an easy 6 in trying to play safe. He’d intended to tie it up with the 9 on the bottom rail, but it didn’t hold and was left invitingly over the pocket. The rack was Filler’s and he was on the hill.

The fifth rack turned out to be the last one of the match and though it wasn’t without drama, it was what happened after the handshake that had America infuriated.

Van Boening left the arena, and Filler turned to his fans. At that moment he spotted his picture, complete with a crown on his head, on the big screen and turned back to the American side of the auditorium, asking ‘Who is the King, who is the King?’ USA Coach Johan Ruijsink urged him back to the European side, where captain Marcus Chamat lifted Filler into his chair to receive the adulation of the travelling support.

“The fans make this event so specially but when I am in the arena there is no time for respect,” said Filler. “I respect Shane as a player and everybody said he is the king but I had to show everybody that I am the King now.

“We were three points behind but now just two, and we are getting closer. The last match is so important for us if we can go to just one point behind. Tomorrow is all singles matches and I see us as having a big advantage in the singles.”

The final match of the night dished up one of the most dramatic finishes to a day’s play the partypoker Mosconi Cup has seen. From 3-0 and 4-2 down, Feijen and Shaw drew level with Thorpe and Bergman and the final rack was huge; 9-6 or 8-7 going into day 3. The break was USA’s and, hooked on the 6, Thorpe played a superb bank to the bottom corner. It was a great shot under pressure, but it left Bergman a tricky 7, which the Illinois man missed. With the 8 already down, Shaw and Feijen just had one ball each remaining and as the Dutchman sealed the point, European celebrations began.

“There was a tonne of pressure,” said Feijen. “I was struggling the first two days and every little thing that goes wrong you get punished severely. We didn’t do a lot wrong but we were down 3-0 so the heat was on right away but we stuck with it, played some really nice shots, quick wins and the crowd were unbelievable.

“This was a monster win. When Billy got hooked at 4-4, he made a tremendous bank but the shape was tough on the 7 and Justin had a lot of pressure on him.”

“It is a big win and we are only one point down now with all singles to play tomorrow. It’s game on,” added Shaw. “Last year we were three down going into the last day and we came back strong. One match changes everything and there is a lot of pressure out there now, so tomorrow the singles will be massive.”

The 2019 partypoker Mosconi Cup concludes on Thursday with a maximum of six singles matches. The first team to 11 will take home the trophy.

The 2019 partypoker Mosconi Cup is partnered by Rasson Billiards who supplies the Official Table; the cloth is supplied by Iwan Simonis and Saluc is the Official Ball Provider. Predator is the Official Cue of the event, Kamui the Official Chalk and Tip and Ultimate Team Gear provide all partypoker Mosconi Cup apparel. CSI is the official sponsor of Team USA and Just Eat sponsor Team Europe.

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