Judd Trump successfully defended his Northern Ireland Open title in a repeat outcome of the previous year’s final by defeating rival Ronnie O’Sullivan 9-7 in Belfast on Sunday.
Trump had claimed the Home Nations title at the Waterfront Hall 12 months ago by denying his box office rival 9-7 and repeated the feat in their rematch to clinch the £70,000 title once again.
The world number one continued his incredible spell of dominance to pick up his third ranking final in five attempts this season and a fifth of 2019.
A high quality final witnessed six century breaks as the sport’s two headline acts locked horns, but it was the reigning World Champion who came out on top after maintaining the lead from the outset.
“It’s always hard to defend any title but to do it against Ronnie is amazing,” said Trump.
“Ronnie was scoring heavily and so was I so I think it must have been good to watch.
“Every time I play him it’s important to get off to a good start and today was no different.
“I know every time I play him I’ve got to up my game to stand any chance, it’s as simple as that.
“It’s been a good start to the season, some more games against Ronnie would be nice so I can try and learn more from him every time I play him.”
Trump began brightly with breaks of 68 and 56 to establish a 2-0 lead before O’Sullivan got off the mark in style with a break of 126.
Trump replied in typically clinical fashion with a break of 123 before ‘The Rocket’ countered with an 89 to reduce the deficit to 3-2.
Breaks of 57 and 56 in frame six saw Trump move two clear again, and after a quick-fire 88 extended his lead to 5-2, O’Sullivan pulled one back to trail 5-3 at the close of play in the afternoon.
O’Sullivan, who was chasing a record-breaking 37th ranking title to move clear of Stephen Hendry, took the ninth frame to trail by one, but only for Trump to make a 106 for a 6-4 advantage.
Trump looked on course to make a maximum in frame eleven but broke down on 113, before O’Sullivan replied with a 72 in the next to peg back to two adrift.
The Shanghai Masters champion then overturned a 55-point deficit with a superb 76 clearance to trail 7-6, but a stunning 124 break restored Trump’s safety cushion.
O’Sullivan rallied back as the one-visit snooker continued with a sublime 135 clearance, but that proved to be his final contribution as Trump sealed the deal in style with a break of 84.
O’Sullivan, appearing in his first ranking final since March, admitted: “It was open, attacking and quite quick. I think everyone must have enjoyed watching that.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of this week and I was enjoying watching Judd playing some fantastic shots and great break-building.”