Dartoids World


Monday, July 24, 2023
Column HR417 

The first day of World Matchplay quarter final matches had more “big checks” than the lotto.  In both matches big leads were the order of the day.  Daryl Gurney took it on the chin from Joe Cullen.  Gurney, who had only missed 12 doubles the entire tournament, missed 6 to fall behind 5-nil.  In fairness, it was Gurney’s inability to find the big red 20 that cost him.  He clawed back to 7-4, getting the 4th keg when it was Cullen who missed 5 doubles.

Gurney showed some signs of life to arrive at 8-5 thanks to a T32 (25, t19, 50).  Keen.

Cullen answered in 12 darts with T42 (t19, t19, d14).  Back atta ya.  Now 9-5.

Gurney would get close at 8-10.  Cullen grabbed 2 as Gurney got 2 for 12-10.  A pair of Cullen 13-darters moved the score to 14-10.  Cullen took 2 of the next 3 for the “W” (16-11) as Gurney had one dart at 32 to extend.

Nathan Aspinall constructed a T28 check (t18, t18, d10) to level with Chris Dobey at 2.  Dobey would command 4 of the next 5 with two 12 dart legs and finishes of T20 (20, d20, d20) and T40 (t20, t20, d10) to build a 6-3 lead.  But the Asp struck back hard, taking 13 of the next 19 legs for the 16-12 win.  Dobey missed 6 darts to win 3 legs – one of those was “pressure induced”.  He wanted d20 but hit a triple 5.  Whoops.

Day 2 of the quarters produced the same score lines, but the roads traveled were different.  Jonny Clayton defeated Ryan Searle 16-12 and Luke Humphries eliminated Damon Heta 16-13.  Clayton and Searle were level at 8 with both achieving one break.  Humphries and Heta were tied at 6 and 7 with no hold.  After 19 legs there were only 3 holds.

Clayton took over after a T24 (Bull) to level at 8, then surged into a 14-10 lead.  In that run he had closes of T22 (Bull), T21 (Bull), T18 and T15.  Clayton closed at a 61.5%.  Searle was just a “tad” off from the 16th leg on.  He did collect his own T21 bull finish.

From 6-all Luke Humphries took over as he led Damon Heta 9-6, 10-7, then 11-8 to 14-8 including a couple of 12-darters and a T21 close.  At 15-9, one leg from winning, Humphries felt the pressure as his scoring disappeared.  When Heta took out T23 to narrow the gap to 15-3 Humphries answered the wakeup call to take the 16th leg and the match after Heta missed 2 to extend.

As the format changed (more legs) from the quarters to the semis a pattern emerged.  Matches were even through 10 or 15 legs when then the old “hold, break, hold” came into play and someone moved into the homestretch.

In the first semi (race to 17) Nathan Aspinall and Joe Cullen were tied 4-4 when Aspinall had a mini sprint to 7-4.  After Cullen grabbed one back, we saw another hold, break, hold and Aspinall moved into to a 10-5 lead (which should have been 11-5 but with 46 left he Asp went 11, 3, miss.

The Asp’s poison had the “The Ferret” Cullen on life support.  Cullen had 11 darts to get to 11-6, then 8 to deny Aspinall a 12th leg.  The Ferret was a beaten animal.  At 15-9 Aspinall had a smooth 11-darter finishing with 96 for 16-9.  Aspinall stared at the board, looking at Cullen with the “I finally won” only to realize it was race to 17.  Oops.  Then in 14 Aspinall put Cullen out of his misery.

Luke Humphries against Jonny Clayton was the best played match from the Quarters on.  The pair, playing well, would be tied at 3 and 4 when Humphries would extend to 8-5 (then missing 2 from 24 for 9-5).  At 10-7 (down) Clayton got a pair back in 12 and 13 darts for 10-9.  Clayton got back within one leg on 13 darts for 10-11.

Following holds, Humphries missed as Clayton broke for 12-all.  Level at 13 both players held serve to be tied at 15.  In 14 and 15 darts Clayton claimed a spot in the finals with the 17-15 win.

As Frank Sinatra sang, “And now the end is near” as the final two players standing faced “the final curtain.”  Both Nathan Aspinall and Jonny Clayton deserved to be there.  It was to be a battle to see what was more lethal: “the Asp” or “the Ferret” in a battle to the death that included £200,000 to the winner and the Phil Taylor Trophy.  Taylor won the Matchplay 16 times in two decades.

The final through 10 legs was exciting and level at 5.  Both players scored and hit big outs – Aspinall a pair of T08s and Clayton T01 and T41…

The format called for a break after 5 legs in the race to 18.  Back from the second break Aspinall had the darts.  Oh, baby did he…

He broke the 5-5 tie with an 11-darter that sent Aspinall on a run of 10 legs on the trot.  It buried Clayton who had as much chance of stopping the runway as a “burned out match does the Super Chief”.

From 5-5 to 16-5 Clayton would miss only 4 doubles in 3 legs.  Aspinall owned the T20 but strangely had only 2 triple digit finishes – a T15 at the end of a 12-darter and a T70 when a Clayton T80 left 38.  Aspinall had 22 T40+ trips to 13 for Clayton.  Aspinall led 7-5 in T80s while checking at 45%.

Nathan Aspinall was splendorous.

The results are in.  The Asp was more deadly than the Ferret on this day.

Stay thirsty my friends.


  • Howie Reed

    Astute, often controversial, and always humorous, the Old Dart Coach, Howie Reed (a former rodeo cowboy and advertising executive), is heralded as the Dean of Darts Chroniclers - the most prolific and widely followed writer ever about our sport. He goes back decades with the legends and knows where the skeletons are buried (just ask any of the ADO and WDF old-timers!). Here are four well-known facts about the Old Dart Coach: 1) he is a Republican, 2) he loves the ladies, 3) he can drink most anybody under the table, and 4) he throws darts as bad as Dartoid.