Disappointment for home fans as Mark Allen exits Northern Ireland Open

Mark Allen
Mark Allen

Mark Allen was dumped out of the Northern Ireland Open, losing 4-1 to Niu Zhuang at the first hurdle on Monday.

Allen was not at his best but looked set to get out of jail when 3-1 down, forcing two snookers to breathe new life into the game.

However, it was Niu who got the better of a safety battle as a double on the blue effectively sealed a surprise win.

Barry Hawkins suffered an early exit when losing 4-3 to rookie to Chen Zifan in Belfast.

Breaks of 99, 92 and 80 had put Hawkins on the verge of victory at 3-2 but Zifan fought back to pinch the sixth frame before holding his nerve to win a scrappy decider.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was to come in the evening, though, as Rory McLeod beat John Higgins for the first time in his career.

From 2-1 down, McLeod won three frames in a row to advance as Higgins’ woes continue.

Stephen Maguire was another big-name casualty in the first round as Micheal Holt progressed.