DETHRONED champion Ronnie O'Sullivan is locking his cue away till next year after his shock exit from the PowerHouse UK Snooker Championship in York.

Far from living up to his nickname of 'The Rocket' he played more like a damp squib as he tamely surrendered the crown he won in the city last December.

The biggest crowd-puller in the game was outflanked by snooker's Henry the Navigator.

Drew Henry, a 34-year-old Glaswegian who is ranked 22 in the world, plotted a canny, if sometimes uncertain, course at the Barbican Centre last night which took him to a 9-6 quarter-final triumph and the biggest match of his career tomorrow.

O'Sullivan, whose magic touch deserted him this week, floundered in all but a couple of frames yesterday. The only breaks of note he made, 80 in frame 12 and then 71 two frames later, were not a convincing sign that he might be staging a serious recovery such as he staged last year to beat Peter Ebdon.

Just before the end of the final frame last night he bit off the tip of his cue, just as he had done after a poor performance in beating rank outsider Adrian Gunnell last Saturday.

"That was just because I won't be picking up my cue again till January," he explained later.

"I got slaughtered. I don't know why I did not get going and I am not even going to try to think why I did not play well. If you have a bad day at the office that is how it is.

"I am not too disappointed at present but it will probably hurt tomorrow."

Henry, who was behind only once yesterday at 2-1 after having won the first frame, punched the air with delight as he clinched victory with a final frame break of 74 in a match littered with errors by both players.

He admitted that he did not play at his best and his form in his last two matches was not as good as it was last week. On the second day of the championship he was on the brink of a 147 maximum but missed pink.

Henry has never reached a ranking tournament final, his best tournaments being the China Open semi-finals two years ago and the Regal Scottish semis last year.

"That was probably my biggest win," he said. "The UK being the second highest prize in snooker my next match will be the biggest of my career."

Updated: 12:21 Thursday, December 12, 2002