There’s no doubting that the PDC World Matchplay is a truly special event. Below a short summary about five very special World Matchplay matches!
Since its inaugural showing in 1994, the PDC World Matchplay has provided non-stop drama. The venue, Blackpool’s illustrious Winter Gardens, adds lustre to an event players and fans point to as one of the year’s big highlights. Arguably, it’s also the biggest PDC title behind the World Championship.
There have been myriad magical moments through its 25-year history; here are five of the best.
Harrington magic edges thrilling final
There have only been seven Matchplay winners. Only one of them has needed to win more than 18 legs to take the triumph. Incredibly, it’s the same person. Rod Harrington was taken all the way in 1998, and again in 1999. It was the former triumph, against Ronnie Baxter, that sticks in the memory.
Baxter was a surprise finalist; still a BDO player at the time, the Blackpool-born thrower had seen off John Lloyd in the first round and stunned Phil Taylor in the quarter-finals. Yet the local lad took the initiative and led for most of the match, even holding a 17-14 lead. That was converted into just one missed match darts at tops. The Prince of Style, suitably waistcoated, bounced back. He even survived the drama of a pivotal dart at double nine dropping out of the board.
At 17-17, with Baxter on tops for a hold, Harrington produced a special moment. He began an attempt at 125 with treble 15, before striking tops. After taking a moment to compose himself, the third dart joined the second. The brilliant checkout proved decisive; double ten in the next leg secured the title for the Essex man.
Jaws rips up record books
Back in January, Rob Cross checked out 140 to secure the highest finish ever to seal the World Championship title. But it doesn’t come close to the highest major-winning checkout ever seen. No player will ever be able to outdo Colin Lloyd, who reeled in the big fish at the Winter Gardens.
Lloyd, then the world number one, battled past Adrian Lewis and 1998 finalist Baxter to reach the final. There he met John Part, who had seen off second and third seeds Phil Taylor and Peter Manley. Jaws opened up a 3-0 lead early on, and never surrendered that lead. At 17-12 up, a maiden Matchplay title was inevitable. But Lloyd still managed to take the trophy in style, piling in the two treble 20s and bullseye for a 170 checkout.
‘Rod Harrington’s wet himself!’
Celebrity cameos in the darts commentary box can work in many different ways. In one example, Stephen Fry’s pithy observations was paired brilliantly with Sid Waddell’s energy. Then on the other end of the scale, there was Andrew Flintoff in 2012, screaming down the house in Blackpool.
The cricket cult hero was a well-known fan of the arrows, and ramped the Lancashire vibe up a notch by joining John Gwynne in the gantry. They settled down to watch Michael van Gerwen’s first round tie with Steve Beaton. What happened next was a moment of sheer joy. Van Gerwen notched back-to-back 180s. Flintoff begged the Dutchman to convert the nine-darter, and he didn’t disappoint.
Click here to witness that moment in all its glory. If you’re in public, check the volume levels…
Machine shuts down the Power
In 15 finals between 2000 and 2014, 13 featured Phil Taylor. He won them all. In 2015 the Power returned to Blackpool looking to make it a frankly ridiculous eight wins on the spin. John Henderson couldn’t stop the 16-time world champion. Neither could Andy Hamilton or Dave Chisnall. In the semi-finals, he met one of the two players who had disturbed his almighty winning streak, James Wade.
Wade kept his cool to become the first player since Terry Jenkins, who beat Taylor in the 2007 semi-finals only to lose to the Machine, to turn off the Power. The left-hander burst clear after close opening exchanges, but contrived to miss a full eight match darts and allow Taylor a route back into the match. It proved not to be a fatal blip, however, and Wade kept his cool to hit tops and reach the final. He ended up losing to Michael van Gerwen in the final, but the famous victory meant Taylor would only end up having two more attempts to taste Blackpool glory.
But Taylor can never be written off…
Taylor’s special farewell
Last year’s event was dominated by Taylor talk, with his retirement confirmed. Could he roll back the years and claim a magical 16th World Matchplay title?
Of course he could. Gerwyn Price and Raymond van Barneveld provided little resistance. Then came a magical 16-6 win over Michael van Gerwen, and a semi-final defeat of Adrian Lewis put him one win from a last hurrah. Peter Wright bowed down to Taylor’s ruthless brilliance, and title number 16 was confirmed.
Now Taylor will adjudicate from the commentary box, as the field of 32 look to make more history at the Winter Gardens.
Author: Ed McCosh