Column #345 The Power versus The Man
Sunday, January 4, 2009
The Power versus The Man
The crowd has piled in, ordered the first of tonight’s 12,500 pints, begun to sing and chant, and most important of all – the massage girl is back in the press room giving Rod Harrington the first rub down of the evening. I really must get a job with the PDC.
Just one question remains: Will Phil Taylor power his way to a fourteenth world title or will Barney reduce him to rubble en route to his sixth? Over thirteen sets the answer shall unfold.
Thirty-three times they have met before and on all but nine of those occasions Taylor has come out on top. Although marginally, the handicap odds-makers are forecasting another Taylor win.
The drama… the tension… the speculation… the anticipation of the fiercest battle ever waged in the history of the sport of darts is simply palpable. The crowd is OUT OF THEIR MINDS. Krakatoa could explode at Victoria Station and it would fall of deaf ears.
The combatants are on stage following a Star Wars-like walk-on with smoke spewing, strobes pulsating, cameras flashing, music blaring – and all of it damn near drowned out by the frenetic crowd. Taylor’s dressed in black and red. Barney’s carrying the Dutch flag and holds it high over his head sending the crowd into a hyper frenzy.
Warm ups are over.
It’s GAME ON!
The first leg goes to Taylor against the throw in fourteen. Barney starts off the second leg with a maximum but Taylor cleans up 66 to break the Dutchman and go up 2-0. An 84 finish in the third leg earns Taylor a quick first set, 3-0. He’s averaging 109.
Barney starts the second set with a maximum and Taylor follows with 140. Both take the score down quickly and both struggle with doubles but Taylor finds double 8 to take the first leg. Each begins the next leg with 140 and power score their way to the double quickly. Barney has the first opportunity at the double but comes up shot and Taylor capitalizes to go ahead 2-0 in the set – and he has the throw. Taylor starts the third leg with a ton; Barney hits a weak 55. They match 140s, Taylor misses a shot at a 161 finish, leaving 32 – and nails it to zoom ahead to a 2-0 set lead – and after twenty minutes and six legs on the trot has increased his average to 111.
Barney begins the third set with 60 and Taylor starts with 135 and follows with 140 and a ton. Taylor fails to finish 126, Barney makes a weak attempt at 167 – but Taylor can’t close the deal and Barney finishes 110 to notch his first leg in seven. Taylor evens the set at one each. Despite a poor 55 start with the throw in the third leg Barney nips 48 to survive the leg and go ahead 2-1 in the set but Taylor takes out 126 in the fourth leg to even the set. With the throw Barney starts weak again but follows with a maximum on his second handful and then 130. Incredibly poor double shooting by both players leaves Barney an opening and he closes it to take the set and pull back to within one.
Tremendous power scoring sees the fourth set quickly at a leg each – each player recording maximums. But Taylor finds three triples again in the third leg and leaves Barney on 148 as he moves ahead 2-1. Barney starts the fourth leg with a perfect three darts, the eighth maximum of the match – and then finds another. But SO DOES Taylor! Taylor fails to finish 127 and Barney stabs the double 8 to tie up the set. In the decider – a leg Barney NEEDS to level the match, missed doubles again plague both players – but Taylor’s nerves remain the steadiest. Barney has his chances but double 8 eventually gives Taylor the leg, and set, and at the break he increases his lead in the match to 3-1, averaging 106.41 to Barney’s 98.26.
Barney just misses a 101 finish, survives a Taylor miss at 144, and pops double 8 to hold his throw and take the first leg of the fifth set. With Taylor on 121 Barney bangs a maximum to leave 86, gets a chance to face it and finishes it with a bull to pull ahead 2-0 in the set. Taylor finds the twelfth maximum of the match in the next leg and takes the leg to pull with in one. Taylor’s all over the triple 20 now but Barney is equally hot, hitting big darts to leave 24 while Taylor is looking at 32. It’s a hell of a lot but too late as Taylor closes to even the set. Three 140s in succession set up a Taylor 11-darter and he takes the leg, forging into a commanding 4-1 lead at the break. Taylor’s still averaging over 106 and Barney’s hovering at near 102.
Taylor begins the sixth set with a maximum and Barney finds one too but Taylor holds his throw to take the first leg. Both hit a slack patch in the second leg, Taylor even drops a dart – and Barney finishes 80 to hold his throw and even the set. Barney’s ninth maximum, the fifteenth of the match, has Barney in position in the next leg – but a wired double 6 and a Taylor ton finish cost him the leg. He starts strong in the next however with his tenth 108 but Taylor matches him. An 84 finish however earns Barney the leg bringing the set to 2-2. They match tons to start the decider, Taylor finds 140, Barney slips in a ton, Taylor hits another 140, Barney suffers a bounce out scoring just 40 – and the set is history. Taylor moves ahead 5-1.
Barney starts the seventh set just as he did the sixth, with a maximum – has a shot at double 18 to finish 156 but misses. Taylor however falls short at 104 and Barney gets a reprieve and takes the leg. Barney finds another 180 in the next leg but it’s not enough as Taylor finishes 44 to even the set. Taylor takes the third leg to move ahead 2-1 after both miss crucial doubles, Barney’s misses just outside the double 10 however being the far more crucial at this juncture in the match. Taylor scores the nineteenth maximum of the match and pips double three to zoom to a 6-1 set advantage. At the break he’s just three legs away from an historic fourteenth world title. Taylor’s average is at 109.12. Barney’s is 102.
The eighth set sees a determined but relaxed Taylor begin with 139 and weary Barney following with 85. Taylor finds double 16 to move within two legs of history. His average is at 109. Barney takes the second leg to level the set. Taylor finishes 57 to take the third leg, pull ahead 2-1 and draw with in just a few handfuls of victory. Barney scores the twentieth, and lifesaving, 180 of the match to stay in the hunt, then takes out the double to even the set. BUT THEN Taylor SMACKS a maximum in the fifth leg and although Barney hangs close Taylor FINISHES 81 to claim his fourteenth world title with a literally cosmic 110.94 average!
And that folks is the end of the story. Expected by some and unexpected by others, it was a phenomenal by any mortal measure.
With a 101.5 average that would have defeated anyone else on the planet, in the universe – an average almost seven points higher than that required to win last year’s title, Raymond van Barneveld was powerless to overcome the power of The Power who, with his final average topped the highest average ever in a world championship final (the previous record being 107.46 during his 2001 final against John Part final in Blackpool).
Congratulations to Phil Taylor, Raymond van Barneveld – and everyone at the Professional Darts Corporation for a spectacular show.
They are all champions in my book.
From the Field,
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