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Crucible players pay tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh

Crucible players pay tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh
© Reuters
As one of the Government's pilot events the venue in Sheffield opened its doors to fans again.

Spectators returned to the Crucible on Saturday as Ronnie O’Sullivan started the defence of his World Championship crown.

As one of the Government’s pilot events, which are being used to help England and sport out of lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, the venue in Sheffield opened its doors to fans again.

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

Neil Robertson returned to his seat midway through a break of 25 in his match against Liang Wenbo, and the partition wall was raised in order for players on the adjoining table to also take part.

MC Rob Walker said: “We interrupt live play at the Crucible for a moment of national respect and reflection.

“May I please now ask everyone who is able to stand and join us in a minute’s silence in memory of His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh.”

All four players in the afternoon session – also including Stephen Maguire and Jamie Jones, wore black armbands.

Earlier, six-time world champion O’Sullivan established a 6-3 lead over Mark Joyce in the opening session of the tournament, while Martin Gould and Yan Bingtao are tied at 4-4.

All four players walked to the table to applause from the crowd, which was set to be at 33 per cent capacity for the first round.

With sanitiser stations provided around the venue, fans had their tickets scanned before sitting in designated seats socially distanced.

World Snooker Tour chairman Barry Hearn tweeted: “Here we go! Blood sweat and tears but after all the problems and setbacks we are on the brink of a return to normality thanks to the unbelievable efforts of the World Snooker Tour team.

“My thanks to everyone involved. Now sit back and enjoy the greatest snooker show on earth.”

O’Sullivan 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 when play concludes on Saturday evening.

Robertson established a 6-3 lead over Liang 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.

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