Michael van Gerwen clinched his maiden Champions League of Darts title with a dramatic 11-10 victory over Peter Wright – surviving three match darts and recovering from 10-7 down to sink the Scot on a pulsating night of action in Leicester on Sunday evening.
Van Gerwen followed up last week’s World Grand Prix triumph in Dublin by claiming the £100,000 Champions League title at the Morningside Arena, lifting a specially-commissioned belt after winning all five of his matches across the weekend.
The Champions League of Darts title had evaded the three-time world champion since its inaugural staging in 2016, but Van Gerwen rode his luck and produced the goods under pressure to complete a remarkable clean sweep of major PDC televised titles.
The 30-year-old topped Group A with wins over James Wade, Michael Smith and reigning champion Gary Anderson, before edging out debutant Gerwyn Price in an epic semi-final tussle.
Price had never beaten MvG in 17 previous meetings but the Welshman – who secured his last four spot with victory over Daryl Gurney on Sunday afternoon, led 10-9 as he closed in on a landmark triumph. However, ‘The Iceman’ was cruelly denied, despite averaging 102.49 to MvG’s 105.54.
The final followed a similar pattern. Wright held the early initiative and appeared to be the epitome of composure in the early exchanges, although ultimately his winless run in televised finals against ‘The Green Machine’ continues.
Both players made an electric start to Sunday’s showpiece, with Van Gerwen averaging a staggering 121 after five legs. The world champion opened up proceedings with an 11-dart hold before Wright levelled with a stunning 156 checkout, only for Van Gerwen to reply with a crushing 154.
The pair then traded 13-dart legs before MvG carved out the first break opportunity. in leg six. However, a maximum from Wright piled on the pressure and the Dutchman spurned three darts at a double, which saw Snakebite nail double 15 to level up proceedings at three apiece.
This sparked a stunning surge from the Scot, who fired in a sublime 11-dart leg and produced a majestic double-double 100 finish to establish a 6-3 cushion. Van Gerwen reduced the arrears with back-to-back 16-dart legs, although a 13-darter for Wright saw him restore his two-leg buffer.
The 49-year-old extended his lead to 8-5 as Van Gerwen squandered two darts at double to hold, but Wright was unable to cement this advantage as he was punished for profligacy moments later, missing three darts at tens and double five for a 9-5 cushion.
Van Gerwen capitalised on this reprieve by converting an effortless 136 finish to cut the gap to 8-7 although Wright rallied impressively, closing out crucial 15 and 14-dart legs to move to the cusp of victory at 10-7. However, with the Scot closing in on a second televised title, disaster struck.
The former UK Open champion left himself on 24 after 12 darts and after MvG failed to take out 124, Wright had three match darts to beat the world No 1 in a major televised final for the first time. Nevertheless, Snakebite fluffed his lines and MvG gratefully sank double seven to stay alive.
For Wright, it was painfully reminiscent of his clash with Van Gerwen in the 2017 Premier League final, where he squandered six darts to defeat the three-time world champion. Those missed chances came in the penultimate leg on that particular occasion, yet the end result was the same.
Wright scored magnificently for much of the weekend, but the trebles deserted him in the latter stages and he didn’t get another dart for the title, as Van Gerwen won the remaining three legs to prevail with a 100.87 average, seven maximums and a 48% checkout success rate.
Snakebite – who posted a new record broadcast average of 123.50 in a Pro Tour event last Monday, was again left to rue what might have been, but there were plenty of positives to take for the Scot, who was appearing in back-to-back Champions League of Darts finals.
Wright defeated Van Gerwen in last year’s semi-finals before succumbing to Anderson, but he clinched top spot in Group B with wins over Daryl Gurney, Price and Rob Cross, before wrapping up a resounding 11-5 victory over Michael Smith in the semi-finals.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Sunday October 20
Peter Wright 10-8 Rob Cross (Group B)
Gerwyn Price 10-6 Daryl Gurney (Group B)
Michael van Gerwen 10-4 Gary Anderson (Group A)
Michael Smith 10-8 James Wade (Group A)
Peter Wright 11-5 Michael Smith
Michael van Gerwen 11-10 Gerwyn Price
Michael van Gerwen 11-10 Peter Wright