Hughes ends seven-year wait for U19 title

STEVEN Hughes has ended a near seven-year bid to be crowned champion of one of the Eastleigh & District Junior Leagues.

The 16-year-old secured his first Premier title on a tense final day at Chandlers Ford Snooker Club.

Taking a one-point lead over defending Under-19 champion Oliver Sykes into the 20th week, Hughes overcame his rival in a frame played out in a deadly hush.

Sykes then needed to win his final two matches and hope that Hughes lost his.

But Hughes fluked a red and helped himself to a break of 48 to beat former champion Connor Benzey and clinch top spot just as 12-year-old Sykes embarked on a run of 89 against Ryan Hughes that ended with a missed long pink.

The 55th winner of the Saturday morning competition said: “It’s something I’ve wanted to do for ages.

“I’ve been playing for a long time in this league.

“To finally win one is really good, really rewarding.”

Benzey finished third, ahead of Ryan Hughes (no relation), Riley Ellis and Riccardo Drayton. Jamie Wilson took the Division 1 title.

Steven Hughes, who is sponsored by Quickdraw Supplies, made his debut in the Under-13 League early in 2011 at the age of nine.

He also competes on the EASB Regional Junior Tour South and the Cuestars South of England Under-21 Gold Tour.

And he turns out for Super League leaders Chandlers Ford Central A, who are also in the semi-finals of the Burroughes & Watts KO cup, in the Southampton & District Social Clubs League.

Eight previous Under-19 champions have gone on to play for England in various age groups. Among them is Billy Castle who is now a professional.

Earlier, Lennon Savage, seven, clinched the runners-up spot behind champion O’Shay Scott in the Under-13 Premier. Five-year-old William Thomson was one point adrift in third.

Hughes then capped a memorable day by completing back-to-back Open Series tournament wins to move up to fourth place in the 26-week handicapped competition.

Beaten finalist Callum White (Havant) climbed to sixth.

Rankings leader Benzey, who recorded the afternoon’s highest break of 85 against Phil Morgan (Salisbury), extended his advantage over second-placed Sykes to nine points.

But only 19 points separate third-placed Ellis (North Wilts) and Wilson (Havant), who is 12th, with four weeks left.

New 20-week junior leagues start today at Chandlers Ford Snooker Club. The under-13 session runs from 9-11am followed by the under-19s from 11am-1pm. Complete beginners are catered for.

For more information about this and other opportunities for junior snooker players, ring the club on 02380 254834.

Picture by Tim Dunkley

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Tim Dunkley (World Snooker coach)