MANILA, AUGUST 29, 2006 (STAR) The Philippines lived up to the hype and ruled the inaugural World Cup of Pool in smashing fashion, routing Team USA, 13-5, and bagging the silver trophy, the crown and the check worth a whopping $60,000 (P3.06 million) in Newport, Wales Sunday (Monday in Manila).

With Efren "Bata" Reyes playing a series of stunning shots and Francisco "Django" Bustamante finally dishing off a solid game, the Philippines hammered the US pair of Earl Strickland and Rodney Morris in their race-to-13 duel to crown themselves the world champions before a packed arena at the Newport Centre.

Reyes, the 1999 world 9-ball champion, and Bustamante, the former world No. 1, pounced on their rivalsí loose shots and bad luck in the early going then broke out from a tight 4-all count by winning the next three racks to seize control en route to the victory.

"This is a very important tournament and we are happy and very proud to win the first World Cup. There was actually a lot of pressure on us in the early going but when we went three games ahead, the pressure was somehow eased up," said Bustamante.

"Efren played lots of unbelievable shots, some of them Iíve never seen in my life thatís why we won," added Bustamante. "When he plays perfect and I play well, we knew we had a great chance and itís a great feeling to be World Cup of Pool champions."

The Filipino duo, respected and revered all around the world for their talent and skills on the felt table, reached the final by outlasting Germany, 9-7, while Team USA stopped the Vietnamís dream run, also via a 9-7 win in the other semis duel.

"Itís funny that every time there is a new big tournament, I almost always win it. And all week I thought if we could get to the final then we could win. Team USA is a good team but the Americans were unlucky and that made it easy for us," said Reyes.

The fansí support likewise helped make things happen for the Filipino tandem.

With upwards of 900 people in the arena, including a large contingent of expatriate Filipinos, the atmosphere was electric and the tension mounted as the two teams shared the first eight racks of the race-to-13 final.

From there though, the Americans lost control of the cue ball on the break and consequently found it difficult to get anything going.

In contrast, the Philippines turned up the heat with Reyes in particular playing a series of stunning shots to get out of a fix and knock in some seemingly impossible balls.

The Filipinos then dominated the second half of the match, winning seven consecutive racks to pull away. Strickland and Morris got one back to take the score to 11-5 but Reyes and Bustamante knocked off the final two racks to finish them off.

"It was pretty disappointing. After 4-4, it didnít go our way although the match was closer than the score suggested but when it went to 7-4 we were both pretty deflated and felt it slipping away," said Morris.

The top seeded RP tandem won the lag but Reyes was forced to play safe on the 1-ball although Morris scratched on the next shot to give the Philippines ball in hand for a 1-0 lead.

It quickly became 3-0 when Strickland scratched on his break in the second before Philippines broke and ran in the third. ó Dante Navarro

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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