THE numbers say Eric Webber was the best player at a continental tournament last week.

While happy, he would swap a trophy recognising his individual contribution for another frame.

“We didn’t want to finish second,” he said.

“I’m gutted about that.”

He was captain of an England under 23s team that was taking on their Northern Ireland counterparts in the final of the European 8Ball Pool Federation Championships.

The 22-year-old led by example, contributing two maximum breaks as his side established a narrow 4-3 lead in a race to five.

England had won a group-stage encounter between the teams on the tournament’s opening afternoon and felt confident.

However his opponent, James Toner, edged their head-to-head before Webber’s teammate Macauley Gunn lost a decider.

Webber said: “It’s brutal format, and the margins are so fine.

“We gave everything, and it’s not like we missed chances.

“They were just better than us in that moment.”

The Cheshire star, who plays for champions Gladstone C in the Northwich and District League’s top-flight, was not too downbeat though.

It was a third time representing his country on the international stage and he has reached a final twice.

During the group-stage in Ireland, when England A qualified for the semi-finals with a flawless record after seven successive wins, he won 17 of the 21 frames he played.

It is that form which secured for him the award as the stand-out under 23s player.

He said: “It’s the best I’ve played for England.

“I don’t think I missed a pot all the way through.”

Asked by the Guardian if the added responsibility of leading the team had focused his attention, he was unsure.

Perhaps surprisingly, he confessed to feeling less nervous.

He added: “I don’t think the captaincy influenced me that much.

“It’s more likely the format did; in a team game everything is on one frame and you don’t want to let your mates down.

“You know you can’t lose.

“I’ve found my mind wanders in the singles, which are played over a longer format.

“Perhaps in my head I think ‘I’ve got another chance if I lose one’ because often you can come back.”

Webber, who lives in Castle, bowed out of the under 23s singles at the last 32 stage following a 5-1 defeat against Irishman Jordan Synott – a European champion in 2017.

However he progressed through four stages in the men’s competition before a 6-3 reverse against Shaun Sharkey, another Irish star, in the last 16.

His conqueror went on to reach the final too at the Gleneagle Hotel in Killarney.

Webber reflected: “I wanted to go further than I did last year in the men’s event and so it’s another achievement for me.

“I came up against a guy who had beaten a few world class players along the way and maybe one or two loose safety shots made the difference.”

He will have another chance to shine at the world championships later this year.

Before that, there is a double to win with Gladstone.

“I get more stressed out playing in those games because everybody knows me!” quipped Webber.

They will recognise his name in Europe now though too.