The final Challenge Cup to be played in a divisional format was contested by Darlington’s ‘Locomotive’ Phil Burford and ‘Smuuci’ Courtney Symons, both of whom were contesting their second Challenge final of the year. Little but pride and prize money were up for grabs at this event as the Challenge competition changes format for the 2013 season.
Burford’s route to the final began against Brighton’s Tom Staveley. A 9-4 was enough to take Burford through to the last 32 where he met Mark Foster. 9-3 was the scoreline in that match, and a last 16 encounter against Chris Buckmaster awaited him in the last 16. The Surrey shooter gave it his all, but it wasn’t enough to stop Burford winning through 9 racks to 6 and set up an all north-east shootout against Sunderland’s Adam Benn Smith. He lived up to his Locomotive nickname in this round, powering home to a 9-2 victory against his local rival and putting himself one match away from his second final in the space of three events. Standing in his way, however, was the ever present force of Craig Waddingham. A tantalising match ensued with Burford winning through 9 racks to 7.
Symons started his campaign in a continental fashion, opening his account against Spain’s Javi Lopez. A 9-5 victory took him through to a last 32 match against Daz Cooper, and he made it two wins from two with a 9-4 victory. Another 9-4 win was soon to follow in his next match – this time his victim was Jamie Yates, and this took him through to his second consecutive quarter final in the Challenge Cup. Waiting for him was Norwich’s Mark Bolton who offered a sterner challenge than his previous matches. He eventually saw off Bolton’s efforts 9-6, before coming up against Jack Whelan in his semi-final. His passage to the final was complete with a 9 racks to 3 victory over Whelan where he met Burford.
Burford appeared to have the edge on Symons from the word go in the final. After taking an early lead Symons did manage to peg it back to 4-4, but Burford had another gear to go up to. In winning 5 of the next 6 racks he wrapped up the final Challenge Cup of 2012 with a 9-5 victory, seeing himself finish top of the final Challenge rankings – an excellent achievement for one of the world’s hottest young talents. Symons himself can be proud also of a 2nd place finish – an apt end to the season in the final Challenge Cup.