Peter Wright produced a stunning late blitz to beat Michael Smith 7-5 in the PDC World Darts Championship final at the Alexandra Palace.
Snakebite was up against it when Bully Boy, who was seeking to end his major drought with the biggest of the lot, led 5-4 in sets and was 2-0 up in the 10th but he showed his champion spirit to reel off nine of the next 10 legs to get his hands on the Sid Waddell Trophy for the second time in a career that continues to go from strength to strength.
Two years after fulfilling his promise to win the world title before his 50th birthday, this latest success completed another bullish prediction that he made back in July when telling his fans: “I am going to win the Worlds and the World Matchplay this year, so get the double on. Put a pound on it, or 50p.”
That double was about 80/1 at the time so anyone who followed his tip will be celebrating a big windfall tonight – albeit not as much as the £500,000 he’s pocketed for landing the richest prize in darts.
The 51-year-old, who thrashed Dimitri Van den Bergh in the World Matchplay final during the summer, has now won seven major titles since breaking his duck at the 2017 UK Open and this is his third of season having also landed November’s Players Championship Finals.
“I’m over the moon to lift this amazing trophy for a second time,” said Wright, who is now just £15,250 away from Gerwyn Price’s world number one spot on the PDC Order of Merit.
“It was a difficult start to the year from me away from darts but I’ve had a great year on the oche and this tops it off. Michael and I didn’t perform how we can for a lot of the game, but it was still an entertaining final because it was so close.”
It’s been an incredible couple of years for a player who nearly quit the sport prior to reaching a maiden World Championship final back in 2014 and although he suffered the heartache of 19 televised final defeats since then, the floodgates have well and truly opened in the way that many hope they do for Smith in years to come.
The 31-year-old from St Helens may well be licking his wounds at a sixth major final defeat out of six, having also been runner-up in the 2018 Premier League, 2018 World Series of Darts Finals, 2019 World Darts Championship, 2019 World Matchplay and 2020 Masters but he has become a totally different player to the one that missed three match darts against Wright in the last of those.
Wright, who averaged 98.34 compared to Smith’s 99.22, said: “Michael is the future of darts, I feel for him tonight because I’ve been in his position. But, I’ve got to take the chances I get and thankfully I was able to do that tonight.
“I can’t explain what went wrong with my game tonight, I kept swapping darts trying to find something that worked and thankfully I had a good run at the end. Thank you to the crowd for turning out to support us all tournament, they were amazing.”
Smith’s used his new-found mental strength to defeat both player of the season Jonny Clayton and defending champion Gerwyn Price in thrilling final-set deciders that he perhaps would have lost in previous campaigns before brushing aside James Wade to reach his second Ally Pally final.
Against Wright he fired in 24 of the 41 180s to equal the World Championship match record that Snakebite set against Gary Anderson 24 hours earlier while his tournament tally of 83 smashed the Flying Scotsman’s other existing maximum record of 71.
The Scotsman ended up with 72 himself but ultimately the difference on the night was his superior finishing as he pinned 27 of his 69 attempts (39.1%) while Smith, who came into the match with a stunning tournament checkout percentage of 48%, could only convert 23 of his 65 (35.4%). That said most of the damage to those checkout stats was down in a farcical second leg when they combined to miss 21 darts at a double before Smith eventually completed a 28-darter in the madhouse. It was officially the worst leg of the tournament between the best two players.
“I got five sets in this time instead of three but losing these finals is doing my head in now,” said Smith. “Tonight will be difficult but I’ll be back on the practice board soon, getting ready for the next one.
“The bullseye shots for big finishes wouldn’t go in, that’s darts I guess.”
Wright, who fired in four 100+ checkouts compared to Smith’s solitary effort from 167, didn’t take long to get his act together as he raced into a 2-0 lead only for Bully Boy to turn the match on its head by winning four of the next five.
Smith’s barrage of maximums allowed him to keep Wright at arm’s reach as he pinched the ninth set for a 5-4 lead before opening up that 2-0 lead in the 10th – in which he had the advantage of throw – that moved him to the brink of what would have been a well-deserved crowning moment.
However, Snakebite produced the kind of comeback that saw him stun Smith in the 2021 Grand Slam of Darts semi-final, when he rattled off eight legs in a row to win 16-12, and when he’s in this kind of mood, nobody has the answers.
Source: Chris Hammer