DARTS THROWBACK: Epic Van Barneveld comeback sees off Lloyd in Circus Tavern classic

Raymondvan Barneveld v Phil Taylor in the final of the 2007 World Championship, it is still known as arguably the greatest darts match of all time. Making your debut at the PDC World Championship and immediately doing what you switched for: measuring yourself against Phil Taylor and being on the top of the world. Yet Van Barneveld would not have been there at all. For Darts Throwback we go back to Friday night, December 22, 2006.

On that Friday evening in 2006, just before Christmas, Van Barneveld, 32, faced Colin Lloyd in the second round, who at that time was number 1 in the world rankings. A round earlier, Van Barneveld dealt with 16-year-old Mitchell Clegg, while Colin Lloyd also knocked off German Tomas Seyler 3-0. A dream match in the last 32 was born. In an interview beforehand with the late Eric Bristow, Van Barneveld said confidently, "In my opinion, i think Colin has never beaten me."

Lloyd dominates

Van Barneveld's self-assurance was not evident in the first set. Lloyd won the first set without exerting himself too much. The then 33-year-old Englishman won the first two legs in 16 and 17 darts, while Van Barneveld barely got going in terms of scoring. In the third leg Lloyd finished it off in 15 darts with a 116 finish.

Although Van Barneveld came out of his shell a little more in the second set, Lloyd continued to set the pace. The number 1 of the world broke Van Barneveld immediately in 15 darts to advance to 2-0 in the set. Still Van Barneveld came back to 2-2 in the set, including a strong 13-darter. In the deciding leg of the set both men finished strongly. Van Barneveld did not stay cool on 81, allowing Lloyd to advance to 2-0 in sets in 11 darts via a 51 finish.

In the third set Lloyd and Van Barneveld were equal. The level was not as high as in the second set. All legs went with the darts, the set thus went 3-2 to Lloyd. Not a single leg went out in less than 16 darts. Van Barneveld could not deliver, leaving him facing a monster 3-0 deficit. Lloyd needed just one more set and elimination was close.

Barney wakes up

In the fourth set, Van Barneveld's level suddenly shot up. Playing freely when trailing by a large margin may well ease the mind. Lloyd, on the other hand, remained hooked at the same level of the mediocre third set. Van Barneveld raced through the set with two 13-darts and a 15-darter. By comparison, Van Barneveld threw nearly 110 average in the fourth set, Lloyd at just 72 average. With the 3-1 in sets, was a comeback now imminent?

The fifth set allowed Lloyd to start. Van Barneveld immediately put him under pressure, but was unable to break him. In 17 darts Lloyd took the first leg. Despite a strong leg from Lloyd, Van Barneveld was sharp and kept his own leg in 15 darts with a 126 final. Both men knew the third leg could be crucial. The scores were dramatic in this leg: Lloyd finally came out on top in 24 darts. Van Barneveld then threw a 12-darter to keep his leg. Up and down the level went. In the fifth leg, after 12 darts both men had a finish. Lloyd had 80 for the match, but missed his first match dart on bullseye. Van Barneveld was immediately out on 40. 3-2 in sets.

In this third set Lloyd and Van Barneveld did not give each other an inch. Highlight in this set was a beautiful 12-darter by Van Barneveld to lead 1-2 in the set. Lloyd then kept his own leg, leading to another fifth and deciding leg. Would we get a seventh set, or would Lloyd advance to the third round? Van Barneveld was allowed to start the leg. After 12 darts both men were on a finish, but Lloyd got his second matchdart on 121. So it was 3-3 in sets. The comeback was complete, now over for Van Barneveld.

Decisive set

In the deciding set, the pattern was basically the same. The men did not give each other an inch and rarely broke each other. Lloyd had the advantage of starting the set, but when everything goes with the darts, the level was high again. Both men had to hit a 12-darter in each other's leg, otherwise breaking was impossible. And breaking was impossible. Until the tiebreak Van Barneveld took his legs in 13 and 14 darts, Lloyd both in 14 darts. Although Lloyd always had the leg advantage, he only got his third matchdart at 4-3 in legs. On 145 he missed tops for the match, and of course Van Barneveld was ready to keep his leg in 15 darts.

At 5-4 in legs it was a matter of bend or bust? The tension was on both men. After 15 darts Lloyd had another matchdart on 104: tops did not go in. Van Barneveld immediately took the win again. So it was 5-5, and after a long trip there was a sudden death. Van Barneveld won the bull, and then threw all the tension away. Within 12darts he was on 56 and then finished. Van Barneveld was delirious on stage, then hugged his manager intimately. A comeback was wonderfully completed.

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