Gerwyn hits the Jackpot as Lewis pays the Price!

Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Gerwyn Price produced the performance of his darting career to stun two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis in the second round of the World Matchplay last night.

Former Rugby Union star Price was in inspired form and averaged over 110 for the first ten legs, before he maintained his composure in the latter stages to complete a shock 13-10 victory against the 2013 Matchplay finalist.

Price eased past Michael Smith 10-4 in the opening round, which was an impressive scalp. Nevertheless, Smith was way below-par and the Welshman won with a modest 92 average, however he raised his game considerably against Jackpot, who did very little wrong himself.

Lewis endured a tougher first-round assignment, as he edged past Winter Gardens debutant Joe Murnan 10-7. Adrian averaged 99 and looked in excellent form, so the vast majority were forecasting a comprehensive Lewis victory, particularly given that the format had now been extended to the best of 25 legs.

Price underlined his intent from the outset, as he broke Lewis’s throw in the very first leg with a clinical finish, before Lewis responded superbly, breaking throw with an 11-darter, before nailing a delightful 136 finish for a 2-1 lead. Price remained unperturbed, posting a 76 finish for 2-2, before finishing 240 in just 5 darts to break throw and restore his advantage.

Price won four of the five legs in the second session, the highlight coming in the seventh leg, where he produced a tremendous 11-dart leg thanks to an 81 checkout. Price led 7-3 at the second break, where he boasted a stunning 110 average. Lewis was averaging an excellent 102.5 himself and had a 75% checkout percentage, yet he was unable to cope with Price’s relentless scoring and composed finishing.

Almost inevitably, Price’s level dropped as the game progressed and he edged closer to victory, but one of the most impressive facets of his performance was his coolness and confidence in decisive moments.

Although he wasn’t hitting the T20 with such unerring regularity in the second half of the contest, his clutch-doubling at D20 was absolutely sensational. He took out 65 with the solitary dart at tops to move 11-7 up, before moving one leg away from victory after producing a clinical 82 checkout, with another nerveless dart at D20.

Lewis was becoming visibly disillusioned with Gerwyn’s phenomenal finishing, but Adrian showed great character to fightback to 12-10. However, when Jackpot was unable to take out 110 after squandering one dart at D18, Price had three darts at D20 to secure a memorable victory.

His first two darts were just above the top wire, but there was a sense of inevitability that he would maintain his composure and seal the victory with his final dart, which he duly did, sparking jubilant scenes from the Welshman. The outpouring of raw emotion from Price was fantastic to see, he had shown incredible tenacity to nullify the threat of Lewis, and thoroughly deserved his victory.

Wayne Mardle made an excellent point about Price’s sporting background being an important factor in his victory. Price formerly played Rugby Union at Welsh Premier Division level, before ending his rugby career to focus on pursuing darts as a full-time career.

You can have all the natural ability in the world, but sport is also about mentality, belief and temperament.  The ‘Iceman’ lived up to his nickname perfectly, and held his nerve admirably, when many more experienced professionals may have faltered under such intense pressure.

Price will now meet Peter Wright in Thursday’s quarter-final, in a repeat of their first-round meeting from last year’s World Championships. Wright secured a 3-0 set victory on that occasion, although the scoreline didn’t reflect how well Price performed. The Welshman had opportunities to win two of the sets, but ultimately Snakebite’s experience saw him through. Nevertheless, Gerwyn has gained valuable experience since then and will be quietly confident of causing another upset.

The question now is whether Gerwyn can replicate this kind of performance on a more consistent basis, although I firmly believe he can. He has performed very well on the Pro Tour in 2015, reaching multiple quarter-finals, whilst he also reached the quarter-final of the Gibraltar Darts Trophy in March.

I think Gerwyn is a fantastic character for the game. He has a very solid throwing action, he plays with determination and passion, and he also takes his fitness very seriously, which is relatively unsurprising given his Rugby Union pedigree. As John Part humorously acknowledged: “Darts is a game for everyone; even athletic people can play.”

If Gerwyn can produce these performances more frequently, he could be a potential Premier League prospect, as well as an outside bet for this title. He doesn’t fear anybody, as illustrated last night. He played a starring role in unquestionably the best game of the tournament thus far.

It had absolutely everything; high scoring, brilliant finishing, raw emotion and plenty of drama. The Winter Gardens crowd were gripped to what was a captivating spectacle. One thing’s for sure, on last night’s evidence, Gerwyn won’t be ranked 46th in the PDC Order of Merit for much longer!

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