By Jamie Sim
This Sunday, a strong Welsh pair of Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton defeated top seeds England to win their first World Cup of Darts title. Wales, who were second seed going into the final and were the bookies’ favourites, had competed in previous finals in 2010 and 2017, losing to the Netherlands on both occasions.
Having scraped through the quarter-finals against the Austrian pairing of Rodriguez and Suljovic, who had four match darts, the English pair took on a strong Belgian outfit. Michael Smith beat former finalist Kim Huybrechts 4-3, leaving his teammate, Dimitri Van den Bergh, to level the tie. The 23-year-old was on fire with the highest tournament average going into the semi-final, although he lost 4-3 to Rob Cross after missing five darts to win the tie, including a dart bouncing out of double 12.
The English went into the final with the hope of winning their fifth World Cup of Darts title, following in the footsteps of the brilliant four-time winners Adrian Lewis and Phil Taylor.
Wales however had been proving a force to reckon with all weekend. Gerwyn Price, playing arguably the best darts in the world right now, having recently won the Grand Prix, was consistently powerful throughout the tournament performing when it mattered. A surprise for some however were the spectacular performances from self-proclaimed “Casual player” Jonny Clayton. Clayton, now qualified for the Grand Slam, played a vital role in the duo and was quick to credit Price for ‘Raising his game’.
On their road to the final, the Welsh defeated previous finalists Australia in the quarter-final 2-1 and a strong Germany team 2-0, both Price and Clayton winning their individual matches 4-2 against Clemens and Hopp respectively.
The final would start with Price facing off against “Bully Boy” Michael Smith. Price punished Smith with a 4-1 thrashing after Smith missed 9 of his 10 darts at a double. Rob Cross would therefore face pressure in order to take England into the doubles game on a draw.
Although Cross was welcomed by a fantastic Clayton. Averaging 105 and 66 per cent conversion on the doubles, Clayton beat Cross 4-2. The former world champion, Rob Cross, had darts to send the match to a deciding leg, but failed to check on double seven and Clayton took the chance for wales to go into the doubles match leading 2-0.
In the new format of the final, the doubles match is sandwiched between two sets of individual matches in a first to three competition. It’s a style which doesn’t support the gauntlet finals seen in 2012 between England and Australia. If you’ve not seen this final, watch it.
The doubles leg saw Wales take a quick 1-0 lead courtesy of Jonny Clayton and despite England making it 1-1 with a fantastic average, wales held their throw and Price took out tops for wales to lead 2-1. Two legs away from the title.
England once more returned to take a leg, but on Wales throw couldn’t get close, allowing them to get one leg away at 3-2 after taking out 128.
Although England return with a 12-dart leg as Cross took out 142, taking the tie to a deciding leg.
Despite England’s best effort, the “Iceman” Price, stayed true to his name and was cool under the pressure to check 64 and seal Wales first World cup title, becoming the fourth nation to lift the trophy.
Wales were exceptional throughout the tournament and were the bookies favourites. Jonny Clayton is a charming player, with an excellent record playing along Price who, third in the world right now, is looking to win his third consecutive Grand Slam this weekend.
An exciting period for Welsh Darts and a disappointing final for what otherwise had been an excellent English pair. This was an underwhelming tournament also for the Netherlands, who went out in the quarter-finals to Germany, along with a lower back injury to Captain and world number one Michael van Gerwen.
Image: Sven Mandel via Creative Commons.