By Jethro Bremner-Allison
Luke Humphries admitted it was “the luckiest game I’ve ever played in my life” as he came from behind in dramatic style to take the European Darts Matchplay title in Trier. Luke took the match 8-7 as Dirk Van Duivenbode snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, missing 4 match darts on the way to a heartbreaking loss. Speaking on-stage afterward Dirk admitted “I’m not in my best form, I should have won this game easily. It’s not very positive as I choked again, my head was like a storm which I couldn’t calm down.” This did seem to be the case as the moniker of Cool Hand came to the fore as both players were nothing like their brilliant best for the final. Luke coming off the back of 106 & 109 averages in the quarter & semi finals limped in with a 93 average with DvD just 91 as the tungsten tension controlled them both throughout. After 4 final defeats this year Luke had every sympathy for the crestfallen Aubergenius, admitting “It’s hard for me to celebrate as I don’t want to rub it in Dirk’s face, he’ll go on to win 5,6,7 of these titles I’m sure”
Here’s how the final played out in real time: Luke leads out with a 180 and comfortably pins his double, after the Wade semi it’s hard to imagine what you’d have to do to deny him the title this weekend 1-0
Dirk messes about on the doubles but Luke lets him away with it. Fist pumping early from the emotional Dutchman. 1-1
Luke misses on the bull for a 129 out shot, Dirk shows him how it’s done with a sensational 127, which he’s loved this week. A great start for DVD and you feel he needs it, we have a break. 1-2
Dirk’s turn for a max. Will Luke react as he has done all weekend? His scoring isn’t there until he hits a max with Dirk on 48. Both pass up double chances, but Dirk doesn’t two chances; first blood. 1-3
Dirk is in again with a max, responded with a 171. Bounce out for Dirk and Luke is grateful for it, is he starting to look worried? Luke misses 3 at Tops, Dirk misses 3 at D8 for a double break. Luke takes a badly needed D10. 2-3
Crowd quieten as we get into the meat of this game, every eyeball is on this final. Luke misses one at tops for a break back and then another 3 at 10’s/5’s. Dirk can’t finish either, this is a mess. Luke gets there on D5. 3-3
Luke is playing poorly but is right in this, he must believe. No time for stats, this is for a title. Dirk pumps up with the crowd with a 180. Dirk then breaks on a 100 with his preference the sensational T16/D16 after a single 20. 3-4
Dirk a mile ahead in the scoring in this leg, but he messes about, missing 6 on double to allow Luke to mop up another break. Are nerves playing a major factor here? This isn’t pretty but absolutely absorbing. 4-4
Pace is so fast, would it suit one or other just to take an extra half second? Scrappy leg from both, trebles elusive. As I say that Luke gets a max and finishes cleanly. Luke leads for the first time since leg 1. 5-4
Finally a bit of regulation, back to parity as Dirk takes a D8 before Luke gets a pop at the double. 5-5
First to 3 now, will someone surge, will it stay close? The aubergine farmer pings a sensational 161 to break once more…in 12 darts too..feels like a massive turning point in this game. Dirk is sprinting for the line. 5-6
Luke still isn’t right, it may be fatigue from a long day, but the QF/SF form has evaporated. Dirk tries to pin 80 with a D20/D20 and makes a total hash of it. He’s amused and gets away with it, but unwise. One away now though. 5-7
Luke going for broke, a mile ahead in the scoring, 12 dart leg when he’s up against it is very impressive. 6-7
Dirk checks his breathing when he’s away from the oche, steps up and stings a max. Brilliant stuff! 112 for the match..misses D16 by a tiny margin. Humphries makes a mess of shanghai, drifting into the 5’s. Dirk bursts his score, his head spins as Luke tidies up and now looks favourite. Unbelievable. 7-7
Humphries as cool as a man chucking a few in his local boozer, Dirk looks like an octopus out of water, I don’t know if he has control of his limbs. Luke misses 3 at D10….sooo close. Dirk misses two at tops and remarkably Luke is the champ once more as he takes the D10 at the 4th opportunity! 8-7
Cullen v RvB
A potential flashpoint was avoided in the first quarter final of the European Darts Matchplay after Joe Cullen and Raymond Van Barneveld kissed and made up on the stage, after some obvious in-game needle. It went back to an incident in leg 4 when Cullen was on a double for the leg. He spun round on the oche to stare at his opponent after missing, clearly intimating he had heard something from Ray which had distracted him. Barney for his part, completely ignored him and stepped in to take the leg. The dark arts or a misunderstanding, we may never know? Cullen reacted like a champion, channelling his rage into some heavy treble scoring and an immediate break back. At 4-4 Barney had the throw and still felt he was in the ascendancy but after a scrappy leg for both, Cullen took it and throwing for the match, finally closed out a bard-fought 6-4 on madhouse. Refusing to comment after the match, Cullen said there had been an incident but had accepted Ray’s explanation on stage “Barney acknowledged the issue, so there’s nothing else to say”.
Smith v DvD
Dirk van Duijvenbode admitted to some nerves as he felled Michael Smith 6-4 in the second quarter final. Averaging over 100 for the majority of the game, it dropped to 95 over the last few legs as the tungsten tension kicked in. DvD said afterwards “I can’t deny I was nervous to beat him (Smith), if I don’t choke it’s a good average” World champion Michael Smith, who has been debuting his new Shot Darts and after his 111 average to beat Josh Rock earlier this afternoon, it seemed they were a match made in darting heaven. However, nothing in sport is as simple as that and Dirk van Duijvenbode notched his 3rd win in 4 meetings vs Bullyboy. Smith had flashes of brilliance, a sensational 164 checkout in Leg 6 was like shelling peas but it was intertwined with 2 occasions where he missed the big number in a checkout sequence. It’s a work in progress and I think he’ll believe there was early positive signs. After missing 2 match darts in leg 8, DvD didn’t make that mistake again in leg 10 much to the Dutchman’s relief.
Wade v Van Veen
Experience won the day in the battle of baby-faced assassin Gian Van Veen and warhorse James Wade in the third quarter final. Wade, speaking after the game, admitted “He’s been bashing people on the board, he’s been tremendous. I was fortunate it was one of his poor games” Surging into a 3-0 lead GVV looked to be continuing his recent form, but Wade has seen youngsters come and go down the years and never looked too concerned. He got a toehold in the game and when GVV missed 5 darts at double in Leg 6, Wade levelled to 3-3 and didn’t look back. Van Veen’s darts suddenly looked to be slipping from his fingers and his accuracy evaporated, what looked so easy before suddenly became a struggle. Wade has a sensor for these things and surged home to a 6-3 win to disappoint the GVV entourage in the VIP section. “He’s a happy & joyful young man” said Wade, praising the youngster “but I’m sure darts will drag him down”.
Aspinall v Humphries
Defending champion Humphries put on the afterburners to beat a shell shocked Nathan Aspinall 6-2 in the final quarter final declaring “. I feel like I’m the best player in the world on a Sunday in the European Tour”. Ticking along at 3-2 the game felt like it was nip & tuck. 21 darts later from Luke and it was 5-2, a devastating blitz from Humphries whilst the Asp stood back and admired his work. “Nathan said, too good for me, I knew I had to match my performance this afternoon, and I did thankfully”.
Semi Finals: DvD v Cullen
Dirk van Duijvenbode marched into the final after a thrilling 7-6 win versus the Rockstar, Joe Cullen. These two were inseparable across the 13 legs, proving their rankings that they are closely matched. After 12 darts in the last leg, DvD sat on 78 with Cullen on 90. DvD had the darts and if there was any thoughts the quarter final nerves were back, they were distinguished with a beautiful 2 dart kill T18/D12 sending him into ecstasy. Back in leg 6, a 127 check out to put him 4-2 ahead with Cullen sat on 20 looked to be the turning point but this was equalised after DvD double trouble in leg 9. Similar stats showed that the match got it deserved final leg and the Dutchman held his nerve.
Wade v Humphries
James Wade rattled in 10 maximums and averaged 110 only to LOSE 7-5 to Euro Tour specialist Luke Humphries in the second semi final. The crowd would have been suffering from repetitive strain injury after raising their Interwetten 180 signs above their head an incredible SEVENTEEN times combined as both players laid siege on the lipstick. Those who thought that Humphries scoring would be too strong for Wade in a race to 7 legs were sorely mistaken as James Wade reminded us that he remains one of the best players in the game. This was one of the great matches in the 10 years of the Euro Tour, 12 dart leg followed 13 dart leg, then back to 12, a barrage of scoring so accurate you had sympathy for the board which had taken an absolute pounding. A couple of missed darts on Wade’s favourite D10 was the catalyst for a break of throw in leg 12 gave a 7-5 win for Humphries who withstood the Wade barrage like he was wearing a suit of armour.