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What a Peach: Unheralded Brit Completes Improbable Run at World Championship
by Mason King Nov 11, 2007, 10:24 PM EST

MANILA, Philippines – For Daryl Peach, slow and steady won the race-to-17 and the $100,000.

Facing a flashier opponent in the biggest final of his life, Peach handled the pressure better, played better safeties and made the shots when they counted to win the 2007 World Pool Championship on Sunday evening at Araneta Coliseum.

“To be honest, it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” the always-composed Peach said after his 17-15 victory over Roberto Gomez of the Philippines. “The pressure was just unbelievable.”

Neither player was even on the radar at the start of the nine-day WPC. The 29-year-old Gomez was the first qualifier to ever reach the final, and although 35-year-old Peach had been playing the event steadily for almost a decade, he never before came close to the final.

Peach was the underdog to crowd-favorite Gomez, who had been annihilating opponents with his aggressive play and a creative shotmaking. But the crowd got a different Gomez for the final – a player who felt the hopes of a nation on his shoulders with all their cheering and chanting.

“The crowd thinks they’re supporting me, but actually they added pressure,” Gomez said later.

Gomez couldn’t find the speed of the table until the middle of the match, when Peach had taken an 8-3 lead. Peach scratched on his next break, and Gomez was able to string together six racks, appearing to have settled his nerves and regaining control of the cue ball.

The pair traded smartly timed blows in several protracted safety battles until they knotted the score at 12-12, turning the World Championship into a race-to-5. Gomez gained control of the table and stumbled to a 15-12 lead, often shooting himself out of poor position play.

Meanwhile, Peach kept himself together, despite ego-shaking cheers from the Filipino crowd whenever he would make a mistake. He was able to force Gomez into a foul – hitting the blocker ball first on a jump shot – and then went on a deliberately paced, three-game run to knot the score at 15-15 and stifle the crowd.

At this point, Gomez became completely unhinged. In the next game he missed both a 5 ball and an easily makeable, game-winning 9 along the rail. A loose safety spelled his doom in the final rack. Peach nailed a cross-side bank on the 1 ball and then cleaned up for the win as Gomez wept in his chair. Peach shot his arms above his head, and soon was giving long hugs to the handful of fellow Brits in the front row who had rooted him on throughout the match.

“It’s unbelievable; it’s like a dream,” Peach said. “My game plan went out the window. I was just trying to take the shots as they came.”

Gomez will take home $40,000 for second place, as well as a heavy heart.

“I was almost there,” a disconsolate Gomez said. “This was my big opportunity. I am so depressed.”

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