The quarter-finals of the UK Open produced one of the best sessions that the tournament has seen in its 15 year history. Three of the four matches went to final leg deciders, whilst the encounter between Raymond van Barneveld and Peter Wright was one of the finest the tournament has ever witnessed.
It was Wright who won the battle of the big guns and made sure that the evening session would see both a new UK Open champion and a first-time PDC major winner.
The early averages were truly ridiculous, with both men averaging above 110 as they began trading blows. It was raining big scores from both men and there was very little to choose between the duo, with Snakebite moving into a 6-4 lead before Barney levelled the encounter at 6-6.
It rained high scores, with 11 and 12 darts being hit for fun but it was doubles that were to cost Barney, as three missed darts to go 9-7 up seemed to prey on his mind. Wright took advantage and moved into a 9-8 lead. It could have been the fourth match to go to a last leg shootout but Barney missed the bull for a 167, allowing Wright to find double 16 an take his place in the semi-finals.
Wright will play Daryl Gurney in the semi-final, after he came through a last leg shootout with Simon Whitlock. The Northern Irishman scored well against the Wizard and moved into an early lead. He was pegged back though and Whitlock looked like he would stay true to his word and win the tournament, a clean combination finish of 97 seeing him move into a 7-4 lead.
But this seemed to bring the best out of Gurney, who hit straight back with an 11-dart leg, reeling off 5 straight legs to move himself to within one of victory. In fact, he almost won the encounter in style but missed the bull for a 170, allowing Whitlock to send the match into a final leg shootout.
In truth, Whitlock was never really in the shootout and Gurney seized total control of the final leg with a crucial 180 before finding double 16 to seal a 10-9 victory.
Elsewhere, Alan Norris, who won Players Championship One last weekend, despatched Kim Huybrechts in yet another final leg decider.
Norris made the first real move of the match, smashing in a 160 checkout to go 3-2 up after Huybrechts had missed double 14 for a 121 finish of his own. The match then became a lesson in how to hold your throw and Huybrechts was soon level at 5-5.
Finishes of 130 for Huybrechts and 90 for Norris saw the duo exchange breaks before three consecutive legs from Kim Huybrechts saw him move within one leg of the semi-finals. The Belgian missed double 16 for the match at 9-8 and was forced into a final leg shootout.
Norris started the decider with six perfect darts and looked set to claim the victory but a sloppy visit saw him not get a shot at 86 and allowed Huybrechts another match dart. The Belgian missed the bull though and Norris cleaned up 60 for the match.
Norris will play Gerwyn Price in the semi-finals after he defeated Ian White, whose 20 year wait for an appearance in the semi-finals of a PDC major goes on.
The game started slowly but Price soon established himself a lead, taking three consecutive legs to take a 4-2 advantage. The Welshman kept two legs in front of his opponent and went into the second break 6-4 up before White started to make his experience count.
A 121 finish from White was followed by a break of the Price throw and tied them level at 7-7. The Englishman took two of the next three legs and soon found himself within one leg of his first ever PDC major semi-final.
But the occasion started to tell and despite dominating the eighteenth leg, he didn’t get a finish, allowing Price to square the match with a clutch dart at double 10. His plight continued into the deciding leg, where a 180 seemingly left him in control. But his effort at double 10 plundered into the double 15 bed, busting his scoring and allowing Price to take remarkably take out 160, under huge pressure, to win the match.
With Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen absent and the likes of Gary Anderson, Adrian Lewis and James Wade all suffering early defeats in the tournament, the open draw appeared to inspire the field and this evening the PDC will see its first maiden major winner since van Gerwen in 2012.
Detailed match reports of this afternoon’s action can be found here: