By Jethro Bremner-Allison.
CLAYTON & SEARLE IN HEAVYWEIGHT BATTLE
“I’ve got my eye on that trophy, this is for you dad” Johnny Clayton said as he completed a 16-12 win over Ryan Searle in their World Matchplay quarter final despite his biggest fan, his dad, being poorly at home.
What do 124, 122, 121, 118, 115 & 100 have in common? In a race to 16, these are the SIX ton-plus finishes Johnny Clayton had, tallying 62% on his doubles. This was the reason why The Ferret will be on the semi-final stage on Saturday whilst Ryan Searle will be watching at home with a cup of Ovaltine.
“He’s one of the nicest guys on tour and a brilliant dart player” Clayton enthused about his opponent “I feel so good. I wish my 32’s were as easy as the ton pluses though, I had to get them to win”
Make no mistake, Ryan is now ready for this, he’s desperate for the elite and you can sense how close it now is for Heavy Metal. He was drinking in the atmosphere at the breaks, feeling like he belongs.
For the first 17 legs there was no separating the 2 players. One break each across this period and not only that, the pace, the heavy scoring, the finishing, it was pure tungsten joy. It looked for all the world like a 16-16 tie break match was looming.
Clayton pinned 76 after Searle missed one at his darling tops for a break. And held for the first 2 leg advantage in the game. Searle wasn’t too concerned at this point, but for just one session across the whole match, his performance markedly dropped. He was averaging in the 80’s for 5 legs whilst Clayton carried on his merry way. 11-9, 12-9, 13-9….all of a sudden Clayton had surged clear.
When Searle took out D3 for 13-10, it felt desperate, the free flowing early legs had been replaced with struggles, he couldn’t hold back the tide, he couldn’t reimpose his darts on Johnny who was far too busy landing jumbo finishes and pointing at the camera.
When it came to the chance, Clayton didn’t need two. He passed the finishing line with a clean comfortable double, complete with a smile of a man who’s run the course in majors before, if not Blackpool. Yet. Searle has homework to ensure next time he’s ready at this level too, it’s really near.
HUMPHRIES BREAKS HEART AND THROW
Luke Humphries ridiculed the bookmakers odds stating “I’m the underdog, not the favourite!” Speaking after a remarkable 16-13 win over comedy villain Damon Heta, he said “The 3 other semi finalists have won a big one; I haven’t.”
It was a topsy turvy quarter final that neither player could say they brought anywhere near their A game, but Humphries found something at 7-6 to surge to 14-8 and ultimately that gap was enough to get him over the line.
“I felt flat and tired, I need to play 10x better versus Johnny. It’s there, I do like a little pressure on my shoulders so maybe it’ll come then”
A peak behind the writers curtain will tell you I mark with a highlighter a leg when the throw is broken, to refer back to when writing a report. I have TWENTY highlighted legs out of the total 29 legs, it was a bonkers game where Humphries kept breaking Damon, only to find he couldn’t consolidate the break.
History repeated over and over until finally at 8-6 Luke held and pushed on to forge a lead. The Heat couldn’t score heavy enough to trouble Luke, falling further behind. It looked fatal to his chances at 15-9.
But the Auzzie has been out to annoy as many Englishmen and women as he can this week with his wonderful cricket themed walk ons (tonight’s iteration involved Heta donning some wicket keeping gloves as he entered the arena). And with a seemingly insurmountable deficit to overcome, he began to annoy Luke.
15-9 became 15-12 and he was even learning how to hold his own throw after being broken in leg 1,5,7,9,11,13,15,17 & 19. RIP my highlighter.
The danger looked to have been snuffed out with Luke sat on a match winning double as Heta eyed up 152. A T20, T20, D16 later, Heta buried his head inside his shirt, swivelled to the crowd and revealed his grinning face stating “I’m still here!”. Astonishingly he was and at 15-13, Luke was in major trouble.
However, just as Heta could see the top of that mountain, he slipped. Missing 2 at tops for 15-14, it meant Cool Hand could clear up a wonderful 92 with 2xD18 to seal the match and breathe a huge sigh of relief.
Images by Taylor Lanning.