Ray Beierling had been unstoppable at the London Crokinole Championships. Well, until his brother got in the way.
It was another fantastic final, but Ray Beierling's streak of London titles was stopped at 3, after his brother Jason defeated him 2-6, 5-3, 6-4, to claim the title.
St. James Westminster Anglican church was the site of the 4th edition of the London Crokinole Championships, and the 7th of 9 stops in the 2011-2012 edition of the NCA Tour. The London tournament was the first ever tournament on the National Crokinole Association (NCA) Tour in 2009 (then known as the World Crokinole League). Since, London has been a marquee event on the NCA tour.
And since its inception, only Raymond Beierling had claimed the title as London Champion, as he defeated a member of the Toronto Crokinole Club in the finals every year. Those wins came over Fred Slater (2009), Justin Slater (2010), and Eric Miltenburg (2011), with Jason Beierling finishing as high as 4th in 2011.
The 2012 Tournament featured 14 of the top 15 ranked Ontario players of the NCA, including Fred Slater returning from his second trip to the BC Crokinole Championships where he finished second behind Brian Cook, and teamed with Cook to win the doubles title. Also competing was several members of the Belleville club and a participant from the United States.
The day did not start out well for the Beierling brothers, both struggled in the preliminary round, but were able to finish 6th and 7th out of the 22 man field to make the top tier of 8. In the top group, which also included Ab Leitch, Nathan Walsh, Eric Miltenburg, Kent Robinson, Joe Arnup and Jon Conrad, only 4 could advance.
The 4 advancing to the playoff round were Miltenburg, Conrad and the Beierlings, a repeat of the top 4 of the 2011 London tournament.
The playoffs were tight and featured several 4-4 draws, with Jason Beierling finishing first with 16 points. Tied for second was Ray Beierling and Jon Conrad, but Ray Beierling won the tiebreaker by scoring more 20's, setting up the championship final between the two Beierling Brothers.
Despite several years in the top crop of the crokinole world, Jason and Ray Beierling had never played against each other in a singles final, but much to the delight of the crowd, they produced an entertaining affair.
In game one, Ray was able to steal 2 points on Jason's hammer in the 3rd round to take a 4-2 lead. Ray sealed game one 6-2, by comfortably holding in the 4th round.
Jason answered back quickly in game two, by stealing two points without the hammer in round one, but gave one back as the two tied round two, to give Jason a 3-1 lead. Ray was able to hold in round three as he won two points on his hammer to draw game two to 3-3, and move within one win of his 4th London title.
Ray had a lead in the 20 count and was closing in on the title, but he left two hanging discs that allowed Jason to pull in front and win the round, as well as the game 5-3.
For the second consecutive year, the London finals went to a decisive third game, and just like Ray Beierling's classic match with Eric Miltenburg in 2011, this match headed to a 5th round tiebreaker.
Finishing 1st in the playoff round allowed Jason Beierling to have the hammer in the decisive round, which proved crucial as he grabbed an early advantage in the 20 count, and held on for the 2-6, 5-3, 6-4 win for the London title.
The win was the first NCA Tour victory for Jason Beierling and should move him from 5th to 4th in the 2011-2012 NCA Tour rankings. Ray Beierling's 2nd place finish will allow him to move from 3rd to 2nd, and move him from 8 to 6 points back of Brian Cook for the Tour lead.
Remaining on the 2011-2012 NCA Tour are the PEI Crokinole Championships on April 21st, and the NCA Tour Finals in St. Jacobs on May 5th.
A couple non-NCA tournaments coming soon are the Joseph Schneider Haus Invitational tournament on April 21, and the doubles tournament in Varna on April 28.
All these lead up to the 14th edition of the World Crokinole Championships in Tavistock on June 3rd, 2012.