An emotionally-charged Peter Wright ended his wait for a maiden televised title with a memorable triumph in the Coral UK Open, defeating Welsh number one Gerwyn Price 11-6 in Sunday’s final at Butlins, Minehead.
The Scot had lost to Michael van Gerwen in his previous five televised finals, and had been runner-up to MvG in the previous two stagings of the UK Open. The world number three was highly fancied by many after Van Gerwen withdrew through injury, but he dealt with the pressure superbly to secure the title and the £70,000 winner’s cheque.
Wright defeated his fellow Premier League stars Dave Chisnall and Raymond van Barneveld en route to reaching the final, where he dispatched Price 11-6 with a 100.55 average and a 48% checkout success rate. Price fired in four maximums and acquitted himself well, but came up just short in his maiden televised final.
Wright drew first blood with an assured 110 checkout, before doubling his advantage with a 65-kill to complete a 15-dart break of throw. Price landed his first maximum as he attempted to break back, but he was punished for missed doubles as Wright converted a clinical 104 checkout on D12 to establish a commanding 3-0 advantage.
The Welshman opened his account on D5, but Snakebite restored his three-leg cushion with an effortless 87 finish. ‘The Iceman’ responded well after the break; posting a classy 117 checkout for a 12-dart hold. However, Wright sank D8 to regain his three-leg lead, before punishing a basic error from Price to move 6-2 ahead with a 14-darter on tops.
Snakebite clinched his third straight leg by hitting D5, but Price stopped the rot via D12, having wired the bullseye for a 132 checkout in the preceding visit. The Scot fired in a 14-darter to establish an 8-3 lead, but the world number three suddenly endured a temporary slump and Price capitalised, pegging D10 to remain in contention.
He then completed an accomplished 14-dart break on tops, before following up his fourth maximum with another 14-darter to secure his third leg on the spin. Wright was displaying fallibility but halted the Welshman’s surge with a clinical two-dart 86 combination to move to within two legs of victory.
This ultimately proved to be decisive. After the break, Price spurned key darts at double which would have reduced the arrears to 9-7, as Wright pounced and posted a 14-darter to move to the brink of victory, which he duly sealed moments later. Wright converted a majestic 85 kill on the bullseye, to spark brilliant scenes of raw emotion.
Snakebite has been in terrific form of late. He won three of the six UK Open qualifiers which ensured he was top seed in Minehead, and he posted an astonishing 119.50 average in Thursday’s Premier League- the second highest televised average in darting history. Nevertheless, this victory marks a watershed moment in Wright’s career.
Earlier in the day, he defeated two-time UK Open champion Raymond van Barneveld in one of the tournament’s all-time classics to reach the last four. It was a magnificent tussle, with Wright averaging 110.88 and landing thirteen maximums. Van Barneveld averaged 108.10 himself but was left ruing a controversial climax to the contest.
The coverage on ITV4 was temporarily disrupted as Van Barneveld established an 8-7 advantage, before the players went off for an unscheduled break. This shifted the momentum and Snakebite reeled off three successive legs after the interval to prevail 10-8 in an absolute epic.
In the last four, Wright faced Daryl Gurney, appearing in his second PDC major semi-final having seen off second seed Simon Whitlock in a deciding leg shootout. However, ‘Super Chin’ was unable to oust the imperious Scot, as Wright recorded a convincing 11-5 triumph after crashing in eight maximums and averaging 100.77.
On the other side of the draw, Price survived a major scare in an epic quarter-final clash with Ian White. The Welshman had lost all five of his previous encounters against ‘The Diamond’ and history appeared to be repeating itself, with Price chasing the Stoke star for the majority of the contest.
White led 9-8 with an average in excess of 107, but he lost his composure in the decisive moments. He failed to register even a dart at bull from a 70 finish in the eighteenth leg, before busting D10 in the decider, as Price took out a spectacular 160 outshot to secure a place in his maiden PDC major semi-final.
In the last four, ‘The Iceman’ faced Alan Norris, who also came through a pulsating last-leg decider against Kim Huybrechts earlier in the day. It was an attritional affair, but the pivotal moment came in the nineteenth leg.
Norris squandered three clear darts at double to break Price and move to the cusp of victory, and the Welshman responded by taking out a majestic 100 finish (S20, D20, D20). The former Rugby League star then sealed victory via D10, to complete a hard-fought 11-9 triumph with a 95.97 average and seven maximums, but he was to fall at the final hurdle.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Coral UK Open
Sunday March 5
Alan Norris 10-9 Kim Huybrechts
Gerwyn Price 10-9 Ian White
Daryl Gurney 10-9 Simon Whitlock
Peter Wright 10-8 Raymond van Barneveld
Best of 19 legs
Gerwyn Price 11-9 Alan Norris
Peter Wright 11-5 Daryl Gurney
Best of 21 legs
Peter Wright 11-6 Gerwyn Price
Best of 21 legs