Dancing Leonard Gates, the coolest man on the Seniors Tour, continued his domination of the darts code, claiming his 3rd title in a row. The World Senior’s Matchplay in York is now in his possession adding to the Champion of Champions and the World Senior Masters title. After a long day comprising of the quarter, semi and final in one day, despite their best efforts, no one could lay a glove on the amiable American. Whilst his pearly white smile lights the room, when the oche is toed he is all business and nobody can match his level of scoring. Whilst the Seniors fields are now full of talent, it’s up to them to step up to the Soulger’s challenge.
This time it was the turn of qualifier Jim McEwan who had sensationally came through the field to take his place in the final, but the rank outsider was defeated 9-6 with Leonard Gates frontrunning all the way to the line.
Speaking afterward Jim McEwan said “I tried. Leonard was too good on the night. For a qualifier to get to a final, I’ve really enjoyed it. The night is Leonard’s and he deserves it. I’m very proud of myself.”
The champion admitted it was a great achievement for him to have secured the hattrick and asked if the WSDT would consider a competition in his homeland “Let’s see if we can get a competition over in North America too, it’s a great experience and I hope to see it last for a long time.” Asked if he is looking to add the World Championship when it comes round to complete the set, Gates joked “I’m gonna get in the gym and work hard for that one” adding “these guys aren’t washed up, they are shooting stellar darts”
How It happened:
Leg 1- McEwan’s worst leg of the tournament, clear nerves. Soulger comfortable on D20. 1-0
Leg 2- Much higher quality, both trade trebles. Gates first 180. McEwan misses Tops for a hold, Gates hits his tops for a break. 2-0
Leg 3- Gates again off strongly, he looks as though he wants this to be one-way traffic, the smiling assassin. McEwan already starting to look frustrated. 3-0
Leg 4- Every leg Gates starts off scoring heavily and he’s a great front runner. McEwan responds with his first 180. McEwan makes a mess of the Big Fish and Leonard pounces. 4-0
Leg 5- Chucky needs to slow it down here, his first dart is sliding into the 1 far too often. This is a much better leg though, 117 for a break. PINS it! We may have a match after all! 4-1
Leg 6- A word for Paul Hinks again, a herculean effort from the ref. It was tie-break galore this afternoon and hasn’t made an error all day. All whilst looking sharp as a pin. In the meantime, another max from Leonard and Jim is in trouble again. Gates busts on T16 but Jim can’t capitalise. Another break. 5-1
Leg 7- Soulger will love to see McEwan’s body language, the head shaking has started. Gates misses 2 at double and Jim takes advantage with a break, will that make him feel better? 5-2
Leg 8- Jim head shaking is now taking place before he throws the darts, he can’t hold throw as Leonard’s scoring is so much heavier. 6-2
Leg 9- Chucky adds chuntering to his head shaking, his head has gone unfortunately. Gates strength is to be completely unaffected by his opponent. Mis count from Gates, but no matter, Jim is back on 298 so he can take his time. 7-2
Leg 10- One game too many for Jim it seems, but I hope he looks back on the tournament with great pride. Another single 1 and his shoulders drop. He battles on, but likely needs a 126 to hold. He misses the bull for the check but he returns and holds his throw for the FIRST time. 7-3
Leg 11- Jim pins a 180 and he needs it as Leonard scoring is permanently heavy. 121 for a break for the doughty Scot and he misses Bull again. Gates misses and leaves the door ajar but McEwan can’t walk through. Chances are so rare, when they come the pressure is too huge. 8-3
Leg 12- Out of nowhere Jim bosses the leg and cruises to a hold of throw. 8-4
Leg 13- A twitch from Gates as a D18 from McEwan steals Gates first chance of throwing for the match, all of a sudden the scores don’t read too bad. The last leg is always the hardest. 8-5
Leg 14- Max from McEwan, his arm has released of all that tension being so close to losing. Gates can’t find a treble that came so easy to him until now. The comeback is on! 8-6
Leg 15- Gates needs to refocus here, McEwan fancies the job suddenly. Much better early visits will calm him down, finding the lipstick again. His third visit is a max, it was just a temporary wobble it seems. Tops for the title….takes it first time. A masterclass. 9-6.
Just months after considering quitting darts altogether, Scottish qualifier Jim McEwan dumped out former world champion Neil Duff to progress to the final of the Seniors Matchplay. After failing in a number of qualifiers McEwan admitted “I’ve worked hard on the Seniors since Day 1 but I wondered what’s the point, but I enjoyed watching the tournaments so much I thought I’ll give it another go” Déjà vu must have been strong for Jim as Duffman battled back from 7-2 down to put McEwan under pressure in a repeat of their last encounter but the doughty Scotsman would not be denied. The decisive turning point was leg 13, At 7-5 Duff had won 3 in a row and had all the momentum until McEwan pinned a 4, T18, D18 when the double looked to be covered. Uncharacteristically Chucky fist pumped and that adrenaline and momentum carried him through leg 14 too for a 9-5 win. Speaking to TNT sports McEwan said “I was thinking of Lakeside last year, here we go again. I don’t usually do that sort of thing!” (celebrate). It was clear McEwan was fired up for the match from the first leg, breaking with a 130 outshot, surging into the strong lead before being pegged back.
Gates crashes the party
Leonard Gates continued his quest for a hattrick after a battling win over a desperately unlucky Paul Hogan. After a solid start from Hogan, Soulger clicked into gear taking 4 legs in a row including a 116 outshot. In truth, with 2 efforts at D18 Hogan could have led 4-0 but he was behind at the break. On the return Gates continued the pressure, taking leg 11 for a 7-4 lead. Hogan wasn’t ready to pack his bags though and scrapped manfully to get the game back to 7-7, fist pumping to the crowd. Just when the momentum looked to have shifted, Gates, with the confidence of a man with titles on his mantlepiece, took a clean kill in leg 15 and hit a stunning Shanghai in leg 16 to take the match and to break Hogan’s heart.
Excalibur put to the sword in Classic.
Leonard Gates posted the first ever ton plus average in a sensational Quarter Final which thrilled the York crowd on Sunday afternoon. He needed every one of these points as he finally dispatched his Canadian David Cameron in a classic. “That felt like some amazing darts from two North American competitors to show England what we can do” a visibly elated Gates admitted. When asked about obdurate Cameron refusing to be cowed by the power scoring, Soulger admitted he relies on his mindset too “I never give up, just keep shooting through”.
The attending crowd were completely spoiled by the afternoon action as 3 out of the four quarter finals went to tie-break legs. The only one which didn’t was 16 time champion of the world Phil Taylor bowing out to Paul Hogan 8-6 in their quarter final. Taylor, yet to claim a Senior title, has been remarkably upbeat about the situation in previous iterations, perhaps now is starting to look disheartened by his lack of improvement. Yet to average 90 in the Seniors, how long does a man so used to winning continue? Hogan played reasonably well to book his place in the semis but this wasn’t the stunned surprise of other tournaments, we are now delighted to see the Power, but aren’t viewing him as a possible champion.
Elsehwere, Jim McEwan continued to proudly fly the flag for Scotland after tournament favourite John Henderson and tournament holder Robert Thornton both were felled in Round 1. Always trailing to Kevin Painter throughout their tie, he managed to take the match into extra legs. After some profligate finishing from both, he was able to nick the match 9-7. Speaking to Ray Stubbs after the match McEwan said “We both scored really well but were guilty of messing up on the finishing. But it was my turn tonight” Turning his attention to Neil Duff in the semis he reflected “It’s revenge time after last year. I had my chances and never took them but that’s darts”
The final quarter had yet another tie-break as Neil Duff came through 11-9 against Richie Howson. The Owl has had some great successes in his Senior career, so it will be unusual not to have him in the shake up for the title. Not this time though as tough competitor and WDF world champion Duffman battled from 4-1 down and wouldn’t be denied, finishing the match in style with a double/double on tops. “It’s a different game if I go 5-1 down” Duff admitted “I was lucky, but it was a heavyweight battle out there” Talking about the break between sessions Duff stated “It takes a lot out of you, so I might find a corner and have a lie down for an hour to get my energy levels back”