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Fired-up Ronnie O'Sullivan defeats good friend Jimmy White at Northern Ireland Open

By Ross Lawson

Published 17/11/2016

Focused: Ronnie O’Sullivan beats Jimmy White last night
Focused: Ronnie O’Sullivan beats Jimmy White last night

It was a match built up with great expectations, and Ronnie O'Sullivan said his Coral Northern Ireland Open second round match with good friend Jimmy White "felt like a final".

The pair took to the baize to a rapturous ovation at Belfast's Titanic Exhibition Centre, with O'Sullivan prevailing 4-1 to reach the last 32.

In truth both players found form hard to come by, with the legendary White initially taking a one-frame lead against the World No.8 before eventually succumbing. But from there O'Sullivan upped his game, executing a wonderful break of 141 before closing out the match with breaks of 68 and 95, to set up a clash with China's Zhang Anda in today's third round.

"I was really quite nervous before the match, there was a lot of hype surrounding it and sometimes you just want to play snooker," admitted O'Sullivan.

"Jimmy didn't play his best game tonight, he struggled a bit and I don't care what anyone says, if you're struggling you can miss anything out there.

"It's probably the hardest game in the world, except for boxing, because you get really hurt there. It's very much a mental battle.

"It's a tough match with Jimmy. I think we could have both played better, we're both attacking players but it was one of those games that went a bit scrappy and you just have to stay mentally strong in those games.

"It felt like a final in all honesty with the crowd, we're fantastic friends on and off the table and it can be hard sometimes but you've got to get on with it."

White was disappointed not to make the most of his opportunity, unable to bring his A-game to the big stage where a packed-out enthusiastic Belfast crowd awaited.

"I was very jabby and slow and couldn't get any rhythm going," he said. "If you don't take your chances against Ronnie O'Sullivan then you get punished."

Meanwhile, John Higgins scored a maximum 147 in the final frame of his second round win over Sam Craigie.

Higgins defeated Craigie 4-1 to book a place in the last 32 against China's Zhou Yuelong.

Antrim's Jordan Brown went out at the last 64 stage - after beating Ben Woollaston in the first round- going down 4-2 against Kyren Wilson.

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