Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright choked at the biggest point of his career last night, in front of a packed house at the O2 in London. Wright had overcome the sixteen time champion of the world Phil Taylor 10-9 in a tense semi-final, before taking on the world number one and current world champion Michael van Gerwen in the final. Van Gerwen himself, had beaten off world number two Gary Anderson 10-7 in the first semi-final of the night. Wright won the UK Open back in March, but even in his own words is wasn’t as sweet because Michael van Gerwen was ruled out of the tournament with a back problem. So this was Wright’s golden chance to beat MvG in a major final, and claim the seconds biggest prize in darts.
Wright started the final like a man on a mission and with a point to prove, that his UK Open win wasn’t just because van Gerwen wasn’t there. Wright won the first four legs of the final, as he left the world number one firmly in the starting blocks. Van Gerwen then got a leg on the board but Wright was still 5-1 up, the pair then shared legs but Wright was now 7-2 up, and only fours legs from eternal glory. The next 20 minutes were uncomfortable for Wright as the demon inside van Gerwen awoke, the great Dutchman unleashed a tungsten barrage on Wright. Snakebite’s five leg lead had evaporated, under the intense strain van Gerwen had placed on the world number three. They pair were all square at 8-8, and the Premier League had become a five leg shootout.
Wright seemed to have regained some control in the match, that at one point appeared to have slipped from through his fingers. Wright would hold his own throw to once again lead, only for van Gerwen to do the same. The next 10 minutes will long be remembered in the darting world, as Wright would lead 10-9 needing just one more to be crowned Premier League champion. For the first time since the early stages of the match, the van Gerwen throw was under extreme pressure. A combination of brilliance from Wright, and some less than ordinary scoring from van Gerwen combinated with Wright manufacturing darts to win the title on the van Gerwen throw. In total Wright would see six match darts come and go, as van Gerwen wouldn’t need a second invite to take the final into a one leg shoot out. As van Gerwen walked back to the oche, the image of Wright with his head in his knees, not believing what he’d just done by letting the world number one off the hook. The final would now be won over the final leg, and in truth, Wright never regained any composer. Wright would throw first but never troubled the treble twenty, right on cue van Gerwen would punish his opponent like he has over the past four years. With Wright looking at the floor at the back of the oche, he would have been made to feel even worse as George Noble’s unmistakable voice would get the crowd on their feet, with yet another van Gerwen 180. The Dutchman wouldn’t repay the kindness Wright showed him, as van Gerwen would wrap up the title at the first time of asking.
When interviewed van Gerwen said.
“It felt fantastic. Normally it doesn’t happen that someone misses six match darts against me, it’s the first time in my life I’ve won a game like this.
“I’m over the moon of course because things like that don’t happen very often. When he gets three darts for the match you think you’re done.
“I didn’t play well in the beginning of the game but after the break I came back really strong. I thought it was won but then he stepped up again, playing well and then he missed six darts. I had a chance and took it.”
“He probably doesn’t know how it feels to have that pressure against him,” added Van Gerwen. “He’s never beaten me in a really important game and I think this was one of those moments where I used that mental advantage.
“He’s a fantastic player, more steady and he’s one of the big boys now – but still I kept him off the big trophies!”
“Well done to the champion, fair play to Michael, It’s been a good season, the top two players finished one and two.
“By the end of tonight that’s gone, and Michael will know I’ve let him off.
“I can’t believe I missed so many darts at a double. You can’t have five darts at a double to beat the number one in the world and double World Champion, and it’s something I’ve got to learn.
“I’ll go back to the practice board and then get him next time. At the moment I think I should have won, but that’s gone and I’ll start to think about the next tournament.
“You’ve got to learn to lose before you win, and I’m not going to lose anymore – the wins are coming.”