Phil Taylor bid an emotional farewell to the World Matchplay by claiming an unprecedented 16th Winter Gardens title, after producing an imperious display to thrash Peter Wright 18-8 on a memorable night of action in Blackpool on Sunday evening.
‘The Power’ boasts an astonishing record at the Winter Gardens; having won 15 of the previous 23 stagings of this remarkable competition. However, competing in his final World Matchplay campaign ahead of his impending retirement, Taylor bowed out in sensational style to clinch the title and the £115,000 winner’s prize.
He performed superbly throughout the event. Having knocked out UK Open finalist Gerwyn Price in the opening round, he demolished world number one and reigning champion Michael van Gerwen, whilst also seeing off world-champions Raymond van Barneveld and Adrian Lewis to book his place in the final.
Nevertheless, he saved his best performance until last to demolish an emotional Wright, who was unable to seal his second major title; having triumphed at the UK Open back in March. Snakebite acquitted himself impressively, averaging 99.74 and firing in seven maximums, but his 27% checkout success rate was brutally punished by Taylor.
The 56-year-old had rolled back the years throughout the tournament and once again delivered on the big occasion- posting his highest average of the event to stun the Scottish star. Taylor averaged 104.24, crashed in seven maximums and converted 55% of his attempts at double to secure his first major ranking title in exactly three years.
Taylor kicked off proceedings with a 14-dart break of throw, before doubling his tally on D10 after Wright missed four darts at double to level. ‘The Power’ missed tops for a third successive leg and a double-break, which allowed Snakebite to open his account with a vital 101 kill, but the Stoke star responded by regaining his two-leg cushion via D8.
The next two legs both went with throw, before Wright took out an exhibition 100 checkout (S20, D20, D20) to reduce the arrears to 4-3. Nevertheless, Taylor remained unflappable and continued his fabulous finishing to seize total command of the contest.
He dispatched a clinical 72 outshot to regain control of the tussle, before defying a third maximum from Snakebite to peg a clinical 81 finish on the bullseye for a 12-darter. The following leg was a carbon copy, as Taylor followed up three 140’s by registering his second consecutive 12-dart 81 finish, to head into the second interval 7-3 ahead.
Wright was performing strongly in the scoring stakes, but his doubling profligacy was costing him dearly. He spurned five darts at double in the eleventh leg, which Taylor ruthlessly punished by converting a nerveless 82 finish on the bull to extend his advantage to five legs.
Nevertheless, the Scot produced an astonishing sequence of scoring to fight his way back into contention. He stopped the rot with a 12-darter, before overcoming some double-trouble to register a 14-darter on D1; having earlier left 16 after just 9 darts. Wright then crashed in his sixth 180; rounding off a sublime 11-darter for his third consecutive leg.
However, ‘The Power’ showed no sign of panic and produced a stunning response to re-establish his dominance. He fired in a brace of maximums to complete an 11-darter of his own to regain his three-leg cushion, before pegging D12 for a 14-dart leg and a 10-6 advantage.
The 16-time world champion won the next two legs inside 27 darts to storm into a 12-6 lead, but the world number three halted Taylor’s charge with a 13-darter via tops. However, he was simply unable to make significant inroads into the 56-year-old’s throw, as Taylor followed up his sixth maximum with a 14-darter to regain his six-leg cushion.
‘The Power’ continued his clinical combination finishing by pegging an effortless two-dart 62 checkout for another 14-darter, before nailing D16 for a 15-7 lead. It was an unrelenting display from the 16-time world champion, and as Wright began to flounder, Taylor pounced.
The Stoke-on-Trent star pegged tops after Snakebite had earlier missed six darts at double, before he then dispatched D10 for his fourth consecutive leg to move to the brink of a historic victory. However, Wright continued to battle admirably and prolonged the contest with a classy 95 outshot.
Despite this, it merely delayed the inevitable. Taylor piled in his seventh maximum and rather fittingly, the 16-time world champion secured his 16th World Matchplay title with a 16-dart leg via D16, to clinch arguably one of the finest triumphs of his illustrious career.
Reflecting on a magical victory, Taylor admitted: “It’s lovely, it really is and I’ve loved every minute of it. To win a major at my age is fantastic. I’ll miss this place tremendously – I’ve loved it here since the first time I walked through the door.
“During the final I was watching every bit of Peter’s body language and he showed every sign of being a little bit tired and I wanted to keep putting him under pressure. He came back but I was playing ok and I kept him under pressure,” he added.
Wright struggled to hold back the tears in his post-match interview due to the enormity of the occasion, but he was full of praise for ‘The Power’, claiming: “I learned a lesson today and I’m grateful to be in the final. Phil is still the best in the world and he’s showed that this week.”
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
BetVictor World Matchplay
Sunday July 30
Phil Taylor 18-8 Peter Wright
Best of 35 legs