By Nick Friend
On Sunday night, the ‘Flying Scotsman’ Gary Anderson claimed a first World Championship title, defeating 16-time World Champion Phil Taylor in a thrilling final at Alexandra Palace. The immense quality on show fittingly brought down the curtain on a record-breaking year at darts’ unlikely home.
An underdog with the bookies because of his relative novice status compared to that of his goliathan opponent, Anderson took the first set with a stunning 121 checkout. He continued to dominate, breaking Taylor in the first leg of the second set. However, The Power responded, claiming three crucial legs on the spin to level the match.
The standard was electric as both players averaged well over 100 at times – Taylor peaking at 115 in the 11th set. Anderson then took control, winning consecutive sets to go 3-1 ahead of the favourite.
Taylor, though, is made of sterner stuff. He won the 2013 final against Michael van Gerwen having come from 4-2 down. True to form, The Power responded with three consecutive sets – giving himself the lead for the first time in the match.
The eighth set will go down as the most crucial. Taylor, inexplicably, with three darts at double 12 for the set, snatched at them. A 5-3 lead gone in the blink of an eye. Anderson left with double 8 to level the final once again. Chance taken. Drama. 4-4. Terrific tungsten. Unbearable tension.
The tide, having just turned, seemed to turn again – turning straight towards Taylor like a gigantic wave. Anderson, with two darts nestling in the treble 20, knocked them both out with his third dart – all three left helpless on the floor like a beached whale – seemingly dead and without hope. Taylor, double 16 for the most unfathomable break of throw. Sealed. Taylor leads again. Anderson’s head had gone. Taylor pounced again. Accusatory finger pointing to the crowd doing nothing to calm the Flying Scotsman. 2-0 Taylor in this most decisive of sets. But then, just as his compatriot David Moyes was defying the odds with his Real Sociedad side – overcoming Barcelona – Anderson, whose ship seemed to have sailed, found a second wind. The gust blew him on. 2-1. 2-2. Surely not? A set when everything had gone wrong; he couldn’t, could he? Double eight for the set…
5-4 Anderson. The most stunning set of darts you could wish to see. An early break in the tenth set and the Scot took advantage. 6-4. Nearly there – or was he?
Has there been a greater sportsman on planet earth than Philip Taylor? Needing three sets on the bounce to extend his own unprecedented record of 16 world titles, he responded in the style that only sporting royalty could consider within the realms of possibility. 180, 180. Surely not a nine-darter now? Treble 20, treble 19, Ally Pally about to erupt. Double 12…on the wire. Ironic boos ring around the booze-filled arena. The anticipated cacophony of cheers put on hold as Taylor needs a tenth dart to claim the leg. Two quick legs follow and The Power is at 6-5. The match is on throw again.
2-2 in the twelfth set. Anderson needs 170 – the daddy checkout – for World Championship glory. Can’t take it. Taylor, double eight. Boom. 6-6. Incredible stuff. Otherworldly darts.
Anderson holds his throw. 1-0 in the thirteenth, the decider. Taylor, three darts at double sixteen to level at 1-1. It has been pesky all night. This time, though, a miss could be terminal.
It is. Three darts missed. Anderson is nearly there. He has the darts and is 2-0 up in the decider.
What a start! 180 from Anderson. Taylor’s left in his wake. Nowhere to be seen. No pressure on the Scot. One for double twelve.
“Leg, set and the match”, rumbles Russ Bray.
He becomes just the fourth man to defeat Taylor in a World Final – adding his name to a list including Raymond van Barneveld, Adrian Lewis and John Part. A remarkable triumph in the most fantastic of matches.