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Christopher Kempf’s Match of the Week: Partisan crowd aids Peter Wright in last-leg victory

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Peter Wright’s dramatic 11-10 win over Phil Taylor in the Ladbrokes World Series of Darts Finals was Christopher Kempf’s Match of the Week CREDIT: STEVE WELSH/PDC

By Christopher Kempf
11 NOVEMBER 2016 • 3:53PM

The PDC promotes a competitive atmosphere at its stage events in which spectators are allowed to take part in matches, should they choose to do so.

Apart from the occasional mild approach of “thank you, best of order, please” from the referee, fans can effectively whistle, cheer, jeer and call out to the players – even when they are throwing – with the intent of distracting a disliked player or spurring a favoured player on to win.

The extent to which players and commentators view this behaviour acceptable depends on their opinion of what a fan’s obligation is.

Some think that the punters, by means of paying to watch the match in person, are entitled to do as they please.

Others decry the lack of respect to the players that inevitably results from that sense of entitlement.

And some profess both opinions as the situation dictates.

The extent to which a boisterous crowd can influence the outcome of a match is incredibly difficult to analyse in a statistical way.

But there is no doubt that Phil Taylor, in his semi-final loss to Peter Wright this past weekend in Glasgow, reacted and performed directly in response to provocations from the partisan Scottish crowd.

That Taylor missed seven match darts over the final three legs is simply a fact.

But it is to Wright’s credit that he produced a sensational performance, averaging 105, in spite of The Power’s relentless scoring and ruthless finishing.

Between his results in the European Championship and the World Series of Darts Finals, Taylor has made a case for himself as the most consistent performer – and most difficult opponent – in darts.

In his past six games, consisting of 78 legs, Taylor failed to reach a finish only twice.

He had darts at double in 55 of those legs, won 45 of them, and checked out in 15 darts or less in 40.

Sunday’s performance at the Braehead Arena against Wright continued in that same vein of excellence and surpassed the highlights of his other recent matches.

After the 18th leg of the match, which saw him win his seventh leg out of the previous nine, Taylor was averaging over 109 and reaching a finish, on average, after 9.2 darts.

Taylor responded to pressure from Wright in the 15th leg with a magnificent 149 checkout, and to the suddenly crestfallen crowd with pantomime yawns.

Wright, who fell 10-8 behind after a spectacular 6-3 start, finished the final three legs to win one of the most suspenseful finishes of 2016.

A Wright dart at double 16 to steal the 19th leg made a visible dent in the wire as it bounced out.

But as Taylor attempted three match darts, the Scottish fans laid it on thick. The bravado with which Taylor had reacted to the crowd noise evaporated as he repeatedly failed to close out the match.

Wright goaded on the fans with a nine darter attempt which did not result, alas, in the perfect leg, but gave him a break of throw and the advantage in the deciding leg.

After surviving a dart at the bull from Taylor, Wright finished the match with 16 darts to a roar of approval from the crowd.

It was the second TV semi-final of the year in which Taylor missed seven match darts and lost the 21st leg.

That he did it once with the crowd cheering him on, and once under duress, perhaps indicates more about Taylor than it does about the punters.

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