By Jethro Bremner-Allison.
CLAYTON PASSES LAST HUMP ON WAY TO FINAL
Johnny Clayton said his win was “for my fans, for my family and for my dad” as he sneaked home 17-15 in a Matchplay epic as his emotional family looked on.
Luke Humphries will be kicking himself after a superb performance, the game was on throw at 16-15 and Luke was putting together an 118 out shot. Treble 20 landed perfectly, he switched his attention to the single 18. A four. In his rush to get to double tops, he missed the big number, dropping low. His face contorted, what had he done?
Darts can be a cruel game at times, but the Ferret smelled blood and he refused to let the match winning opportunity pass. He broke Luke’s throw. He broke Luke’s heart at exactly the same time.
“He’s one of the best players in the world. He’s going to win major after major after major” Clayton assured his crestfallen opponent after the match. Humphries certainly does seem like it’s a case of “when” not “if” he picks up a title, but as we’ve seen in the case of the undoubted world class Dave Chisnall over the past decade, nobody gives you anything in darts.
“I had to dig deep and I took my chances” was Clayton’s summary and that was absolutely the case. A stat breakdown showed how close the match was, a 99 average to 96, 4 breaks of throw and 11 holds each after 30 legs. It was hard to separate them before it all began, even harder once it was underway.
It was always Humphries leading throughut, he led from leg 3 all the way through to leg 24 being either one or 2 breaks ahead across this period. The two occasions Humphries got the double break, Clayton wouldn’t allow it and broke back immediately. When Clayton equalised and took the lead 13-12 it looked as though this was his plan all along.
But Humphries isn’t the new world number 5 because he follows Clayton’s script, he bit back and battled all the way until that unforgiveable error in the very last leg. It deserved the play off extra legs, but Clayton was clinical and will be back to battle for the title tomorrow.
THE ASP CULLS JOE
Nathan Aspinall headed into his first World Matchplay final with a resounding 17-9 win over Joe Cullen declaring “I’ve lost my last 3 finals, I’m not going to do it again”.
The game was saved by the fact it was easy on the eye with two young, fast players who favour a free-flowing match as neither player could say they arrived with their top form. Simply put, they both began with their ‘B’ game and Aspinall’s was slightly better and as the game progressed down to their ‘C’ or ‘D’ game, Aspinall’s was better then too.
If you can’t beat em’, join em’ was Joe Cullen’s motto as he joined Nathan Aspinall in a version of Mr Brightside up on the Winter Gardens stage. Once the concert ended, the darts began.
The first session was close as expected, nothing to show between them as we reached 4-4, but if this was a marathon, Aspinall decided to make a charge at the 5 mile point to get himself a healthy lead. You felt Cullen was only hanging on as Asp was scoring heavier but the break to make it 6-4, Asp had kicked and the Rockstar didn’t react. He continued to be the aggressor with a 116 outshot to make it 7-4.
Joe undid his good work earlier in the night, meekly surrendering his throw once more ending the second stanza 5-10 behind. He could have closed the gap at 10-6 but was profligate on his doubles and the chance was blown. He unravelled completely in the next, missing 9 at double to gift yet another break.
By the time Joe won another leg to make it 13-7, he raised his arms ironically, his race had been run, his game had crumbled that he knew it was a matter of time before he would be put out his misery.
That time came quicker than ref George Noble could appreciate as when the Asp made it 16-9 he thought the game was over, heading off to celebrate. With a red face he collected his darts and tapped Joe an apology as he had to recompose. “I felt like a right muppet” Asp quipped afterwards as he was reminded the final tomorrow is first to 18.
It was only a brief wait however, 17-9 on double 3 was completed with Asp safe in the knowledge he had one of the biggest wins of his life without breaking sweat.
Images by Taylor Lanning.