Phil Taylor defeated reigning women’s world champion Mikuru Suzuki in an entertaining soft-tip showdown on the electronic Target Nexus board, which raised over £11,000 for charity.
The 16-time world champion was up against one of the stars of the women’s game in a virtual contest broadcast on Sky Sports on Thursday night and the pair put on a wonderful show for a tremendous cause – a concept devised by bookmakers Paddy Power.
Incredibly the pair were competing 6,000 miles apart – Taylor was based at his home in Stoke-on-Trent, whilst the Japanese sensation was playing eight hours ahead on the island of Shikoku in lockdown with her family.
Suzuki possesses soft-tip experience due to the sport’s immense popularity throughout Asia, although Taylor has featured on the soft-tip circuit since retiring from competitive darts in 2018, losing out in the final of ‘Super Darts’ to Japan’s World Cup captain Haruki Muramatsu two years ago.
‘The Power’ was beaten 7-6 by his old adversary Raymond van Barneveld last month in a tussle which raised £15,000 for charity, although Taylor triumphed on this occasion, defeating ‘The Miracle’ 7-5 with a 109.18 average, six maximums and a 64% checkout success rate.
Yet more importantly, the pair raised over £11,000 for charity. Paddy Power pledge to donate £1,000 per maximum hit, plus an additional £200 for every time a double was hit at the first attempt. Taylor raised £6,800 for the NHS Heroes, whilst Suzuki amassed £4,400 for Peace Winds Japan.
There are some fundamental differences with the Target Nexus Boards as opposed to ordinary steel-tip boards. In soft-tip, the size of the trebles are bigger and the bullseye is often a preferred target for players, particularly in the latter stages of legs, as the outer bull also counts as 50 points.
Taylor made a blistering start, firing in three maximums in as many legs to close out legs of 11, 14 and 11 darts to lead 3-0 with a sensational 125 average. However, Suzuki rallied, kicking off leg four with a 180 of her own before pinning double 16 to open her account inside 15 darts.
‘The Miracle’ put herself firmly back in contention with a sublime 150 checkout to break Taylor and reduce the arrears to 3-2, but the Stoke star restored his three-leg buffer moments later; finding the double at the first attempt to complete legs of 13 and 14 darts to stretch his lead to 5-2.
Nevertheless, with the 16-time world champion seemingly closing in on victory, Suzuki launched an improbable fightback. She held throw in 13 darts courtesy of three consecutive 140’s, before capitalising on a missed dart at double 13 from Taylor to break via double ten.
The two-time world champion then pegged the same target in leg ten to restore parity at five apiece, but she was unable to complete the comeback as Taylor produced the goods in the latter stages.
‘The Power’ stopped the rot in leg 11 by crashing in his fourth 180 en route to a 14-dart hold and although Suzuki had the throw to force a decider, Taylor posted a brace of maximums and sank double two to seal the deal inside 12 darts.
Suzuki was ultimately punished for a lacklustre start but she acquitted herself impressively against the greatest of all-time, averaging 99.62, registering four maximums and converting 56% of her attempts at a double.
MC John McDonald was on hand to introduce the players and Sky Sports host Dave Clark was joined ahead of the clash by ‘Queen of the Palace’ Fallon Sherrock. Sky Sports duo Wayne Mardle and Stuart Pyke provided commentary and the entire clash can be viewed below.
Image: Lawrence Lustig/PDC