Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright will collide in the World Darts Championship final on New Year’s Day after recording 6-3 victories over Nathan Aspinall and Gerwyn Price respectively on an action-packed night of semi-final action at Alexandra Palace.
The night felt slightly subdued in terms of the standard, with Wright’s 98.39 average the highest of the semi-finalists, although there was plenty of fireworks in his controversial clash against the enigmatic Price, with the pair refusing to shake hands following their tetchy tussle.
Wright and Price have contested two major finals with the spoils being shared and although the pair are friends away from the oche, there weren’t many pleasantries exchanged in the capital as Wright progressed to set up a repeat of the 2014 finale against Van Gerwen.
“Before the match me and Gezzy were winding each other up. He said he was going to win the first two sets and I would change darts, I like him but I don’t appreciate what he did. He wanted me to concentrate and I did, there you go, you lost,” the Scot told Sky Sports Darts.
Van Gerwen was nowhere near his blistering best against Aspinall, who had darts to win four of the opening five sets. The Dutchman led 3-2 and although ‘The Asp’ bravely battled away, he was unable to halt MvG’s title charge.
Michael van Gerwen 6-3 Nathan Aspinall
For the fourth time in five matches, Van Gerwen registered an average below 100, but he remains on course to retain the Sid Waddell Trophy courtesy of a battling 6-3 victory against UK Open champion Aspinall.
‘The Green Machine’ has not produced the heavily artillery we’ve come to expect from him for the majority of this year’s event, although the world No 1 has relinquished just six sets in a relatively serene progression to his fifth world final in seven years.
Van Gerwen admitted he lacked focus in his quarter-final victory over Darius Labanauskas and labelled his performance ’embarrassing’, therefore we were expecting an emphatic riposte but the expected fireworks were not forthcoming.
Aspinall has performed superbly to reach back-to-back semi-finals at Alexandra Palace but he produced statistically his worst performance in this event and despite Van Gerwen’s struggles, a 92 average was never going to be sufficient to topple the world’s best.
The Dutchman drew first blood in a tightly-contested opening set after Aspinall wired one dart at double six to hit the front, although ‘The Asp’ bounced back with a classy 124 combination to kick off set two, which he wrapped up courtesy of a 14-dart hold – ironically via double six.
The third set was eerily reminiscent of the opening stanza. Aspinall held throw to secure the initiative, although in another set-decider his scoring power deserted him. The UK Open champion threw 18 darts and was unable to register a dart at double, which was duly punished by MVG.
The three-time world champion converted a classy 103 finish to begin set four with a bang, although that was book-ended by a nerveless 110 kill from Aspinall to level up proceedings at two apiece and complete a fourth successive set that was won against the darts.
The fifth set marked another near miss for Aspinall. With the scores locked at 2-2 in the fifth set decider, the Stockport star suffered an extremely unfortunate ‘Robin Hood’ yet he almost salvaged the leg – wiring tops for a double-double 96 outshot.
Van Gerwen exploited his good fortune to capitalise and regain the advantage, before storming to the sixth set in a matter of minutes – reeling off three consecutive legs in 17, 11 and 13 darts – an average of 110 – to establish a two-set cushion.
Aspinall demonstrated the character and resolve that’s seen him break into the world’s top ten as he responded with a clean sweep of his own in set seven. The 28-year-old registered legs of 12, 16 and 14 darts to reduce the arrears to 4-3, although he was unable to make further inroads.
The eighth set went the distance and Aspinall knew a precious break of throw would have squared proceedings at 4-4. Nevertheless, Van Gerwen held firm to move to the brink of victory and after striking early in set nine, the 30-year-old closed it out to maintain his bid for title number four.
Peter Wright 6-3 Gerwyn Price
Price produced a scintillating display to dismantle ‘Snakebite’ in last month’s Grand Slam final but ‘The Iceman’ was unrecognisable in this contest as he was denied a spot in his first World Championship final.
The pair squandered 74 darts at double in an error-strewn affair, although Wright comprehensively outscored Price in all departments, posting 31 scores of 140+ compared to Price’s 16, whilst the Scot also landed 16 maximums – seven more than the third seed.
Price’s form has fluctuated throughout the event and he was plagued by inconsistency once again – averaging just 89.94 in a lethargic display, as Wright kept his cool to reel off the final three sets, averaging 98.39 to reach his first world final since 2014.
Wright drew first blood in a nervy opening stanza, firing in a stunning 11-darter against the throw. The Scot was comprehensively outscoring the Grand Slam champion but Price somehow restored parity, conjuring up a 150 set-up shot and pinning double 10 for a 15-dart leveller in set two.
Price had quipped that Wright would be lucky to win a set before a dart was thrown and the colourful Scot gave the former Rugby star a nudge and chuckled as he headed off for the first interval, although the humour wasn’t reciprocated by Price, who appeared agitated from the outset.
‘The Iceman’ responded to winning the second set with his trademark exuberant celebrations right in front of Wright, which raised eyebrows with many, particularly when considering Price’s infamous history with the Darts Regulation Authority.
Nevertheless, this appeared to inspire a brief flurry from the Welshman – finishes of 72 and 100 saw him wrap up the third set, only for ‘Snakebite’ to claim the fourth without reply – averaging over 107 in the process.
The former UK Open champion was completely monopolising the scoring stakes as he kicked off set five with legs of 12 and 13 darts, only to squander four set darts moments later. However, he made amends in the fifth set decider – converting a clinical 81 kill for a 12-dart break.
The beleaguered world No 3 was being emphatically outplayed but he somehow restored parity at three sets apiece in a dramatic sixth stanza – capitalising on more profligacy from Wright to break, which he followed up with a 15-dart break.
Price secured the early initiative in set seven with a sumptuous 11-darter and the tide appeared to be turning, although he then suffered an inexplicable slump – losing six of the next seven legs and averaging 87 and 78 in the respective sets as Wright established a two-set buffer.
The former Rugby star was at the point of no return and Wright converted 98 and 72 finishes to move to the cusp of victory and despite handing Price an unexpected reprieve after frittering away SIX match darts, the seventh seed eventually sealed the deal via double one.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC