Report by Jethro Bremner-Allison.
DIMITRI Van den Bergh has reached at least the semi final of the past three Matchplay’s and his GRAN is tipping him for another run in 2023 after a feisty 10-8 win over Ross Smith.
Being in the same quarter as MvG had looked a problem for Dimi but with Dolan’s sensational win last night he admitted his gran was tipping him for the title “She said last night, with that green guy out of the tournament, how about you go and win it now?”
As early as the first leg, you could hear Dimi geeing himself up with every 2 treble visit to the board. This in turn had Ross reacting and across the first 5 legs you felt unsure if there was needle on the stage.
Smith took the first stanza 3-2 and was gyrating around the stage like a man who’d taken the tie, his heart clearly beating out of his chest. Albeit the D16 he pinned for the leg deserved some credit as it looked as though he’d completely blocked the bed.
Dimi followed suit with the histrionics after the second session levelling to 5-5, still fist pumping as he exited stage right.
All the way to 8-8 these two were inseparable, for Dimi’s smooth 117 outshot in leg 8, we had Smith striking a stunning 134 on tops/tops in leg 12. You couldn’t see how they could be separated outwith a sudden death leg or a coin toss.
However, drawing on the confidence from being a previous Matchplay winner when it mattered, Van Den Bergh elevated his game as Smith dipped ever so slightly. Holding his throw in 12 darts in leg 17, he piled the pressure onto Smudger, who came up dry with his first 2 visits in leg 18. When the going got tough, Dimi went 180/180. Smith couldn’t reply and Dimi closed out the game in another 12 darts.
Any needle you thought may have been there dissipated in a lengthy hug between the pair on stage, reminiscent of a pair of respectful boxers at the end of a bloody bout.
Granny Van Den Bergh would have approved.
EMOTIONAL CLAYTON PROGRESSES
Jonny Clayton fought back the tears after a scrappy 10-8 win over Gabriel Clemens. A visibly emotional Clayton appears to have some issues off the board which made his win all the more impressive.
“There’s a few things going on with me” The Ferret admitted “I done my job and that was it.”
Clayton managed to build a lead with Clemens profligate on his doubles, despite averaging a full 10 points below his opponent for the majority of the game. It felt as though Clemens was still very much in the game, even as he went into the second break 7-3 behind.
The world semi-finalist staged the expected comeback which looked to have Clayton in all sorts of trouble but just as he took the match to 9-8 and looking very likely to take us into extra legs, the Welshman managed to produce the best leg of the match when he needed it most.
“It was an amazing 11 darter, I’ll take it.” Jonny admitted “I’m delighted to get my second win on this stage. There’s a few nerves. There’s a few things going on.
HEAVY METAL MASTERCLASS
Ryan Searle surprised himself in his convincing win over Raymond Van Barneveld who was making his long-awaited return to the Blackpool stage. Barney must have felt like he’d shown up to a MegaDeth concert with a Phil Collins LP as he was bombarded by a heavy metal masterclass.
Speaking after the game, Ryan said “After the first session I didn’t think I was playing well and I looked up at the screen to see I was averaging 102. I feel alright, my finishing was decent and I’d not won a game here before, so there was a little bit of pressure on me”
At the first break at 3-2 both players were looking confident, but on the return Ryan surged into an unassailable lead in a blizzard of heavy scoring and deadly finishing. Barney continued to take each leg as it came but 3-2 became 9-3 and Searle was on the cusp of victory in the most complete TV display of his career.
A slight twitch on leg 13 as Searle passed up 4 match darts was swiftly resolved in the very next leg as he deservedly took the 10-4 and put himself in contention for a great run this week in Blackpool.
Searle spoke in glowing terms of his celebrated opponent “He’s a legend, I grew up watching Barney, so it’s weird to be playing him. He is the crowd favourite, so I had to try and feed off that energy”.
BLACKPOOL ROCK-ING FOR REJUVENATED SNAKEBITE
We went from Heavy Metal to soft rock in match 3 as Peter Wright, dressed as a 6ft stick of multicoloured Blackpool rock, swatted aside UK Open champion Andrew Gilding 10-4 with a dominant display which included a spell of 8 legs in a row after going 2-0 down.
When asked what he enjoyed about his performance though, Snakebite claimed “None of it. I like my outfit though!”
“It’s nice to be back on this stage and Andrew Gilding is a fantastic player, he used to come round my house and beat me all the time, so I know what he can do”
Truth was Gilding didn’t show any of the form which propelled him to a major champion, and just 1 180 across the match gave the crowd just one opportunity to see the hallowed thumb celebration. Bungay’s finest meekly surrendered with an 88 average.
Peter’s performance was a marked improvement on the recent PL and World Cup displays as it seemed the recent break had done him a favour. Three ton plus finishes and a comfortable 96 average is a definite step in the right direction.
He wasn’t too upbeat on his prospects however, when asked to compare this Peter Wright to the 2021 version which won this title “Nowhere near. I switched back to my old darts after the first set because I expected it to be warmer and I couldn’t get them to drop, so I went back to my old set which got me through.”
Pictures by Taylor Lanning.