By Jethro Bremner-Allison
ROB CROSS fought back from 5-2 down to take a thrilling final 8-7 vs Nathan Aspinall, becoming the 2023 New Zealand Darts Masters champion.
Cross showed only glimpses of his potential in his run to the semi final, however a sharp punishing 7-3 win over Gerwyn Price showed he was growing into the tournament. However, fresh from his sensational Matchplay win a few weeks ago and a semi final win over world champion Michael Smith, Nathan Aspinall still arrived as heavy favourite.
An obdurate Cross was in no mood to roll over though, digging in deep and refusing to let Aspinall dominate him, as he did against Clayton in the Matchplay final. The deliberate and gritty style of Cross kept the Asp out of rhythm and his doubling was clutch when needed. The 5-2 deficit didn’t phase him and he looked to be taking the legs one at a time rather than fretting about the big scoreboard.
After dropping the 13th leg to give Aspinall a 7-6 advantage on his throw, it looked as though Voltage’s race had been run, but he showed immense fortitude to steal in 14 darts in leg 14 to take us into a decider, thrilling the rowdy Hamilton crowd.
Both sportsmen smiled and touched knuckles as it all came down to a decider. Cross came out strongly leaving just 88 after 9 whilst Aspinall sat back on 150. It’s a great sign for Cross fans as he clinically pinned 20/T18/D7 to celebrate another title in quick succession after his recent European Grand Prix win. Is it a matter of time before the 2018 world champion lands another big one?
Cross admitted: “To win this title is absolutely amazing.
“At the moment, every chance you give Nathan he normally takes, but he let me off a little bit later in the game, after I missed some opportunities early on.
“The standard is so high, so when you can win [a title] when you’ve not been at your best, it speaks volumes about where my game is.
“It’s all memories. When I pack up eventually, I will look back and see what I’ve won and remember the great moments and people along the way.”