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Ronnie O’Sullivan beats Mark Joyce in World Snooker Championship with fans back at Crucible

Fans were allowed back into the Crucible for the first round of the World Snooker Championship on Saturday with the attendance capped at 33 per cent of the venue’s capacity; World No 2-ranked Ronnie O’Sullivan began the defence of his title with a comfortable win over Mark Joyce

Last Updated: 17/04/21 10:34pm

Ronnie O’Sullivan eased to a comfortable 10-4 win over Mark Joyce in the first round

Ronnie O’Sullivan beat Mark Joyce 10-4 in the first round of the World Snooker Championship as fans were permitted back into sporting events in the UK for the first time this year.

632 tickets were sold for the three sessions at the Crucible on Saturday with the crowd capped at 33 per cent of the venue’s total capacity for the first round.

The Championship is acting as one of the Government’s pilot events for the return of fans, which are being used to help England and sport come out of lockdown.

And snooker came together shortly before 3pm to pause the action and pay tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh.

​​​​​​​​O’Sullivan began the defence of his World Snooker Championship title with an unconvincing 6-3 lead over Mark Joyce in the opening session of the tournament.

O'Sullivan (L) and Mark Joyce (R) bump elbows ahead of their first round encounter

O’Sullivan (L) and Mark Joyce (R) bump elbows ahead of their first round encounter

The ‘Rocket’ was a long way from his best, firing a top break of 70 in a session scattered with errors, including the last two frames to put himself four frames from victory ahead of the evening session.

Despite resuming the evening session with a big advantage, it seemed O’Sullivan’s frustrations would continue as he missed a simple red and allowed Joyce to reduce the deficit to 6-4.

The World Snooker Championships are hosting a limited number of supporters at the Crucible who must adhere to coronavirus protocols

The World Snooker Championships are hosting a limited number of supporters at the Crucible who must adhere to coronavirus protocols

But a half-century re-established O’Sullivan’s three-frame advantage before brilliant back-to-back centuries of 124 and 137 moved him one frame from victory.

Joyce finally ended a run of 343 points against him in the next frame but he missed a red to the middle and O’Sullivan duly responded with his third consecutive ton – this time a cool 112 – to wrap up a 10-4 victory.

Either Ricky Walden or Anthony McGill will be O’Sullivan’s opponent in the second round.

Neil Robertson holds a 6-3 lead over Liang Wenbo going into Sunday's session

Neil Robertson holds a 6-3 lead over Liang Wenbo going into Sunday’s session

Elsewhere, Yan Bingtao, the current Masters champion, is tied at 4-4 with Mark Gould.

Neil Robertson established a 6-3 lead over Liang Wengbo at the end of their first session, which is due to conclude on Sunday.

Robertson fashioned a break of 108 on his way to establishing a healthy advantage, and moved three clear at 5-2 after Liang fluffed the simplest of blues.

But Liang, who lost the UK Championship final to Robertson in 2015, rallied with a break of 126 in the ninth frame giving him a glimmer of hope.

Jamie Jones recovered from a three-frame deficit to claim a 5-4 overnight lead against eighth seed Stephen Maguire.

Jones, who got the better of an increasingly scrappy encounter, is playing at the Crucible for the first time since a one-year ban for failing to report an illegal betting approach.



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