The temperatures soar. Even the Seagulls in the promenade airspace are sweating, despite lacking the physical ability to do so. About Two miles away, at the Blackpool Winter Gardens, the air was hot, but with anticipation for the Tungsten Battle about to unfold, between Dunvegan Dynamo and World No.6 Gary Anderson, and Superchin, Daryl Gurney. This fixture signalled the beginning Gary’s 14th Matchplay Campaign, and his quest to capture a second title in the great City of Blackpool.
Daryl had the throw in the first leg, and it was a first leg that saw both players trying to find their rhythm on the stage, with Gary producing a number of visits wielding no trebles, including his first 3 darts of the match which scored just 60. Gurney cleaned up an unremarkable first leg between the two with his third dart at tops. 0-1.
The second leg saw a much more settled Gary, and was the leg in which he thundered home his first 180. He nailed tops with his first attempt, and seemed to settle any nerves from the cagey first leg. 1-1
The third leg gave us the first break of the tie, with Gary keeping his composure, and keeping his perfect record on the outer ring, to nail Double 10. The set up was as good as the finish, as with 131 left, he hit the Treble 17 to leave a tops-tops combo, going just too high with the first dart, and subsbequently finding the Treble 20 to leave the aforementioned 20 for Gary to clean up. 2-1
Unfortunately, Gary couldn’t back up that break with a hold. He had his chances, Four in fact, coming inside on both Double 18 and Double 9, before returning to put two darts at Double 4 wide, allowing Superchin to break straight back, and throw for the lead going into the first break. 2-2
And, although Leg Five saw another Gary maximum, Daryl Gurney, with last dart in hand, found Double 2 to lead the after the opening handful of legs. 2-3
Break 1: Gary Anderson 2-3 Daryl Gurney
Leg 6 saw a less than stellar opening by Gary, which was rectified with a maximum with the next visit to the board. However, Gurney came out from the break the more eager of the two players, breaking Gary in 14 darts, and opening up the first two leg margin of the day. 2-4
The Seventh leg was an instant break back for The Flying Scotsman, which, by right, he shouldn’t have had a chance in. Daryl through 6 perfect darts, but his doubling deserted him leaving the door open for Anderson, and a Single 20 followed by the Treble left him the Bullseye, which Gary took beautifully to return the match to a status of being back on throw. 3-4
But, as was the pattern that was emerging in the session, Gurney broke straight back. Double 4, which was one of his biggest foes in the previous leg, became a friend once more to the Northern Irishman as he nailed it in two darts to re-open the two leg margin. 3-5
However…You can probably guess by this point that Gurney didn’t hold. A piece of genius by Gary, taking out the 134 via a sumptuous T18-D20-D20 combination, a more successful version of the similarly attempted 131 earlier. The finger point elicited was a reminder that, for all of the stray darts and trebleless visits, the class of Gary Anderson was still there and wasn’t going anywhere. The 134 going into the final leg of the session, Gary knew that the maiden hold of said session would draw him level going into the break. 4-5
And…He held! Another 180 to add to the counter, and a perfect dart at tops meant we had a level match after 10 legs on the Winter Gardens stage. 5-5
Break 2: Gary Anderson 5-5 Daryl Gurney
The Eleventh leg is one Gary will wonder as to what could have been – as when at 105, he decided to start on the bull, but was unsuccessful and ended up only scoring twenty, failing to put optimum pressure on Daryl. Gurney had four darts at tops, and took the last one to hold the first leg after the final break. 5-6
Gurney then broke the Gary throw in the following leg. Gary again not quite consistently finding his best, and with 56 left, Daryl chose to go the his old friend Double 18, and he managed to consolidate the break with his first dart at the double. 5-7
Superchin held for the second consecutive leg with the darts in hand in the thirteenth. Having developed a taste for Double 18, he returned to it, and using the previous dart as a marker, he clattered it in to open up the first three leg gap of the afternoon. 5-8
Gurney had darts to go within one, but missed chances at tops in the leg. Gary stepped up, and doing what he does, nailed tops to hold his throw and reduce the arrears to a single break and a single hold. 6-8
Coming into the fifteenth, Gary knew he had to break, and break he did. Taking out the 116 by scoring on the 19s, the Treble followed by the Single, and a dart at the ever reliable tops to get Gary back within a hold of throw. Daryl had the darts in the match, but to be level after the way the final session had started would have been an achievement in itself. 7-8
However, Gary couldn’t hold in the following leg, as Daryl nailed tops to close any room for error Gary had, as he had to break and he had to hold to draw level. One more slip and the game was up.
Unfortunately, the next leg spelt the end of Gary’s time in Blackpool for the year. He was given a window of opportunity with Gurney missing two darts at Double 8, which he left himself after an unforced shot at the bull. Gary stepped up with 42 left, and to the surprise of many, decided against two at tops, instead going for 10 for Double 16, before coming inside in the first dart and subsequently missing the Double 8. Gurney had no such problem, finding the red bit on the outer ring to knock out the 2018 Champion, extending his winning record over the Flying Scotsman at the Matchplay.
Result: Gary Anderson 7-10 Daryl Gurney
Gary actually threw more 180s, threw a higher average and had a more successful rate on the doubles. It was a good performance but not as consistent as his opponent, who didn’t hit peaks as high as Gary, but was arguably more consistent throughout. Gary will unfortunately see his world ranking affected by the result, as his defence of his ranking money from reaching the final in 2020 was cut short.
He was playing with his World Champion Phase 3 Darts today, that he picked up his back to back World Championships with in 2015 and 2016.
It’s now time to look ahead to the next set of Players Championships at the beginning of August, taking place at the Barnsley Metrodome.
A good effort by Gary on a day of hot conditions and even hotter darts.
Words: Ryan Segal
Photos: PDC/Taylor Lanning