Raymond van Barneveld survived a valiant fightback from Mark Webster to set up another instalment of his classic rivalry with Phil Taylor at the Grand Slam of Darts.
van Barneveld led Webster 10-4 at one stage, but the Welshman was tenacious as ever, reducing the arrears to 13-12 as van Barneveld began to tire. However, the Five-Time World Champion showed his class, reeling off three successive legs to secure his place in Sunday afternoon’s last four showdown.
The opening exchanges were certainly high-quality. van Barneveld missed D6 for a 126 checkout which would have been a 12-dart break, but the Dutchman soon responded, hitting D2 to open his account.
van Barneveld then forged 2-1 ahead, breaking Webster’s throw with a delightful 121 checkout. However, the left-hander delivered an instant riposte, producing a 12-dart leg of his own to restore parity.
Nevertheless, Webster then surrendered the initiative moments later, missing two darts for a 3-2 advantage, and van Barneveld pounced, taking out 25 for another break of throw to regain the lead.
Webster was incredible on his doubles against Gary Anderson in the last 16, hitting an astonishing 10 doubles from just 14 attempts. Nevertheless, he was struggling to replicate such proficiency on the doubles, despite the fact he was scoring prolifically.
van Barneveld took out 65 on D6 to move 4-2 ahead, before extending his advantage on D8, after Webster had missed D20 for a 111 checkout.
In the following leg, Webster agonisingly missed D14 for a 148 finish, allowing van Barneveld to convert 56 with his final dart at D10, to win his fourth successive leg.
Despite this, Webster is such a tenacious campaigner. Whenever he appeared under threat of being cut adrift, he delivered the goods. He stopped the rot by clinically taking out 64 on D16, before hitting D20 to reduce the deficit to 6-4 at the second interval.
Raymond responded superbly after the break; he hit a delightful 177 against the throw and after Webster squandered two darts at double, the Dutch star took out 80 on D5 to regain his three-leg cushion.
The Welshman fired in another 180 to threaten an instant break back; but he was dealt a crushing blow; as van Barneveld delivered a silky-smooth 161 checkout to extend his advantage. This single shot demonstrated the sheer class of the Five-Time World Champion.
This mammoth checkout undoubtedly deflated ‘The Spider’, whereas van Barneveld was brimming with confidence. van Barneveld took out successive finishes of 76 and 68 to win his third-straight leg to establish a commanding 10-4 lead, with the 2008 Lakeside Champion up against the ropes.
However, Webster salvaged some positives from the third session, following up another maximum with a 56 checkout to earn his fifth leg of the match.
The left-hander carried this momentum forwards into the following session, breaking Barney’s throw with a cracking 110 finish, before capitalising on rare misses from the Dutchman to reduce the deficit to 10-7.
It was a topsy-turvy encounter. Whenever van Barneveld appeared to be cruising, Webby pegged him back, but when Webster threatened to restore parity, RvB would produce another mini-surge. This pattern continued, as van Barneveld hit D18 for 11-7, before delivering a breathtaking 146 checkout to break the Welshman’s throw.
The next two legs also saw breaks of throw, but van Barneveld, leading 13-8, was on the cusp of his first Grand Slam semi-final since 2012, the year he won this competition. Nevertheless, suddenly, the Dutchman began to fatigue, which Webster exploited to perfection.
Raymond’s 140 scoring had been outstanding, but he began to throw some low darts and finishes of 107, 96 and 52 brought Webster back to within one leg of van Barneveld. Although the man from Den Haag had the lead, Webby had all the momentum.
However, both men produced a scrappy 26th leg, with Webster only mustering one big treble in 12 darts. This enabled van Barneveld to take out 60, which stopped his losing run of four consecutive legs.
With Webster poised to again reduce the arrears to the solitary leg, van Barneveld produced the defining blow, taking out 124; his fourth ton-plus checkout of the contest, to move one leg away from victory. This gave him the energy and vigour to seal the win, which he duly did within 11 exquisite darts on his throw.
It was an enthralling tussle. All the pre-match focus had been on Webster’s finishing, with pundits questioning whether he would have the scoring power to cope with van Barneveld. However, Webster hit 10 180’s to van Barneveld’s 4. Yet, the telling statistic was the 140 count. Webster hit 13, but van Barneveld hit a remarkable 29.
van Barneveld’s combination finishing was also majestic. He hit 16/30 on the doubles, a very healthy 53%, including finishes of 121, 124, 146 and 161.
These all came at crucial junctures in the contest, simply typifying why van Barneveld has enjoyed such success and longevity throughout his illustrious career. However, Webster deserves immense credit for a typically dogged display. The Welshman is now a major contender again; which is wonderful to see.
van Barneveld will now face Phil Taylor for the 71st time in competitive tournament action on Sunday, after ‘The Power’ produced a demolition job against the World Grand-Prix Champion Robert Thornton.
Taylor, who averaged just 91 in scraping past Terry Jenkins in the last 16, was a totally different proposition against the Scot, averaging 104 and hitting an astonishing 16 doubles from 21 attempts, at a ratio of 76%. Over such a long format, this is staggeringly impressive.
The first six legs all went with throw, although Taylor was threatening Thornton’s throw consistently. After Taylor hit a 10-darter to go 4-3 ahead, he secured a crucial break courtesy of D8 and he never relinquished control from this point onwards.
Thornton is another tenacious campaigner who has an unrelenting will to win and this kept him in touch for a short period. Thornton took out 86 on the bull to keep him in the contest.
Nevertheless, the constant pressure place on the Thorn by the 16-Time World Champion inevitably took its toll. Taylor fired in a timely maximum and hit D16 for an 8-5 lead, before moving four legs clear by taking out 84 on the bullseye.
Robert hit D16 to reduce the arrears to 10-6, but he was largely unable to fashion out any break opportunities on Taylor’s throw. Phil was scoring superbly and his doubling was flawless.
Taylor won five successive legs to move just one leg away from victory, hitting a 167 finish for a 13-6 lead, before following that up with an impressive 94 checkout moments later. In the next leg, Taylor produced a majestic 120 shanghai finish and Thornton cut a desolate figure.
Thornton fired in his 3rd maximum before hitting D20 to claim his seventh leg, but his fate was sealed in the 23rd leg, as Taylor followed up his 8th maximum with a decisive 101 checkout. This was Taylor’s fifth ton-plus checkout of the evening, in what can only be described as a merciless performance.
He will face Raymond van Barneveld on Sunday afternoon in what promises to be a thrilling spectacle. The Grand Slam is the only major title Taylor still holds, therefore he’ll be desperate to retain the crown.
However, van Barneveld is finally being rewarded for his consistently impressive performances over recent months. His run to the last-four has seen him regain his all-important Top 16 ranking. It could be a cracker at Wolverhampton this weekend!
Mark Webster 12-16 Raymond van Barneveld
Robert Thornton 7-16 Phil Taylor
|Mark Webster||12-16||Raymond van Barneveld|
|6||Breaks of Throw||8|
|12/35 – 34%||Checkout %||16/30 – 53%|
|Robert Thornton||7-16||Phil Taylor|
|0||Breaks of Throw||4|
|7/15 – 47%||Checkout %||16/21 – 76%|