Liam Pullen hit breaks of 139 and 122 as he defeated Oliver Sykes 4-2 in the final to win the 2023 English Under-18 Snooker Championship at the Cueball Derby.
The 17-year-old from York has enjoyed an outstanding season, reaching the finals of both the World Snooker Federation Junior Championship and European Under-18 Championship, winning three of the six English Under-21 Premier Development events and subsequently ending the campaign ranked as the number one junior player in the country.
Following final defeats in the English under-14 and under-16 championships in 2019, victory will taste sweet for the youngster as he joins a list of former winners that includes Tom Ford, Gary Wilson and Judd Trump.
Pullen began his pursuit with a 4-0 win against Dilraj Ryatt – finishing off with a 103 break – before coming back from 2-1 down to defeat last year’s under-14 champion Vladislav Gradinari, 4-2.
Returning on Sunday morning for the final four phase, Pullen top scored with 85 as he ended the run of 14-year-old Kaylan Patel 4-0 in the last four.
Emerging from the other side of the draw was Sykes – another promising star from the junior circuit who continues to show consistency and improvements. This season the Eastleigh cueist has been a finalist on the Under-21 PDT, an EPSB Open Series event winner, and finished top of the Under-21 Junior Series South Region with an event win.
Sykes was relentless in getting to the title match, dispatching Westley Cooper 4-1 (featuring breaks of 113, 70 and 73) and then Brandon Garside, Edward Jones and James Pears all 4-0 in the last 16, quarters and semi-finals respectively. It would be Sykes’ fourth appearance in a national final – all coming since 2020 – having been to tournament deciders in the under-16 (2020), under-18 (2020) and under-21 (2022) categories.
Pullen enjoyed a brilliant start to the final, registering breaks of 61, 33 and 139 – an effort which would stand as the competition’s highest – as he established a 3-0 lead and stood one away from glory.
A resilient Sykes, though, came back into it, as he won frame four with the help of a 63, and then reduced the deficit to just one as he claimed the fifth frame on the black – clearing up with 43 having been 42 behind.
However, with the pressure rising, Pullen produced a wonderful break of 122 to cross the line in emphatic style and become the national under-18 champion.
The EPSB would like to thank all this weekend’s officials and the host venue for the event, the Cueball Derby.