Phil Taylor is not usually prone to on-stage behaviour similar to the “face pulling and fist pumping”, as he described it, of the world number one Michael van Gerwen.
Apart from a few confident smiles towards the Cardiff crowd, Taylor’s demeanour remained relatively placid as his lead over van Gerwen grew larger and larger in their Saturday evening match.
However, after closing out the 13th leg with seven consecutive perfect darts and a sumptuous 138 checkout, Taylor’s dominant bravado burst forth as he turned toward the cameras with fists pumping.
The idea that Taylor could win this match was never out of the question, but a 10-4 demolition of Mighty Mike seemed last week to be a fanciful proposition.
In one respect, Taylor’s dismantling of van Gerwen’s game was a methodical display of the skill needed to win a duel with the Dutch superstar.
A rare thing it is indeed when van Gerwen plays a 14 leg match and has his throw broken by his opponent all seven times.
Van Gerwen, a player equally capable of throwing nine perfect darts as of throwing nine darts without a treble, suffered from the inconsistent scoring that has plagued his matches with Taylor this year.
MVG was, on average, 0.79 darts slower to reach a finish in this match, leaving him the impossible task of catching up to Taylor as they raced towards a finish.
That would require checking out from 170 or the like in four darts in every leg, since Taylor did so in 5.34 – his best such average of their 10 meetings so far this year.
Van Gerwen was right to identify this double trouble conundrum as a primary culprit in his loss.
Having secured three darts at double 20 in the 11th leg and two darts at double 18 in the 12th, all five missed their mark.
Van Gerwen’s look of disgust with himself intensified. Taylor, feeling disinclined to witness more of van Gerwen’s eye-rolling histrionics, cleaned up both legs with two darts and extended his lead to 8-4.
‘During the match van Gerwen had his throw broken all seven times’
Had van Gerwen seized those two opportunities, levelling the match instead at 6-6, he may have been able to fight all the way to a last leg decider.
Before those pivotal legs, however, van Gerwen was hitting 67 per cent of his doubles and averaging a score of 104 with each three darts.
Van Gerwen’s loss truly had less to do with his own failures than with the extreme pressure piled onto him by the Power.
Taylor averaged an incredible 117 on van Gerwen’s throw, hitting four 12 darters – and a 167 checkout – in doing so.
This match also had a personal aspect unlike any other seen on television this year.
Taylor, irritated with van Gerwen’s behaviour and aware of the incredible length of his winning streak, identified an opportunity in this match to exact brutal revenge for his defeats to the Dutchman in earlier tournaments this year, and inflicted upon MVG an unexpectedly severe defeat before a huge BBC audience.
This man continues to amaze us thirty years into his darts career. What more can the master teach his pupils?