Another chapter in Gerwyn Price’s fascinating redemption story reached a fittingly triumphant conclusion as he defeated both Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright to defend his Grand Slam of Darts title in typical blockbusting fashion.
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At the scene of where his sporting villain tag was firmly imprinted 12 months ago during ‘that’ final against Gary Anderson, the Iceman cemented his status as one of the sport’s biggest stars by lifting the Eric Bristow Trophy for the second successive year - although this time amidst a chorus of cheers after a pair of truly sparkling displays.
The Welshman’s unrelenting determination and belief that he’d finally get the better of van Gerwen paid off at the 20th attempt thanks to a nerveless performance during Sunday afternoon’s semis before brutally inflicting a 12th major televised final defeat on Peter Wright.
The 16-6 result was long-awaited revenge for the 2017 UK Open final when an underdog Price was still climbing his way up the rankings but now he's very much punching at the very top.
It may be still premature to say his journey from public enemy number one to crowd favourite is complete after just one year but he’s certainly won plenty of fans over thanks to another memorable week in Wolverhampton without the controversy.
He cruised through his group stage with a 100% record before thrashing Darren Webster 10-1 and Gary Anderson 16-9 without hardly breaking sweat but as it turned out, he was merely saving his very best for the final day at the Aldersley Leisure Village.
His average of 100.73 to beat MVG 16-12 was made to look ordinary by his incredible final mark of 107.86 which was enhanced by 11 180s and three 100+ checkouts while he pinned 16 of his 31 attempts at doubles.
There were even two legs where he threatened nine-darters after two perfect visits in each - although ironically he lost both of those, with the second missed chance allowing Wright to cut the deficit to 7-5.
At that point Snakebite would have hoped Price's levels may have dropped but the former rugby player responded with eight legs in succession, including a pair of 12-darts and one in 11, to knock the stuffing out of his opponent.
The 34-year-old would have even broken Phil Taylor's record average for a Grand Slam of Darts final - 109.04 in his 16-4 triumph over Gary Anderson in 2011 - had he not missed three match darts for a 16-5 victory.
Two of Price's three 12-darters in the match were sealed by 100+ checkouts, with a fine 111 putting him 4-2 up during a devastating early spell which started with a finish from 100 in the opening leg, while a brilliant 130 made it 10-5.
After lifting the trophy and receiving a cheque of £125,000, he told www.pdc.tv: "I'm chuffed to bits.
"I knew in the middle of the game that I was playing really well. I was hitting trebles for fun and putting Peter under pressure and he wasn't playing his best.
"I knew that I was at the top of my game and I felt comfortable all the way through that game. I'm happy to play the way I did - Peter's a world-class player and for me to win 16-6 is outstanding.
"This week the crowd has been fantastic for me. To come through that game and have the cheers at the end of it is a much better feeling than last year.
"I'm not used to this but they truly have got behind me and I appreciate it."
Price's success is his second major trophy in his fourth final having also been runner-up in this year's European Championship while it's his ninth title overall having added four other Pro Tours to his tally in a fantastic 2019 that sets him up for a genuine tilt at glory next month at the World Championship.
The Players Championship Finals comes before that next week and on this evidence the new world number three could well head to the Ally Pally on the back of another TV major.
He said: "I'm playing well, I'm up to number three and I probably deserve to be three, maybe two. I've had a good year, 18 months, but it doesn't happen all the time. I've been playing well and it breeds confidence, and I've been confident in every tournament for the last six months. I'm just thankful to win this again.
"I'm full of confidence and hopefully I can carry that on to next week, it's the Players Championship and hopefully I can have a good run in that."
As for Wright, he'll need to lick his wounds after suffering defeat for the 12th time in his 13 major finals, with his only victory being the aforementioned UK Open.
He's lost to van Gerwen on nine of those occasions as well as Gary Anderson and Phil Taylor in the others so tonight can be chalked off as just another time when he faces formidable opposition with a title on the line.
Wright: "I had no answer. Beating Michael and then the way he played there, I thought he was trying for the record [average in a final].
"I was chasing him all the way through, and when he missed I was lucky if I was on 100-and-something! He played fantastic all the way through."
Wright had switched darts ahead of the event to a style similar to that used by Phil Taylor towards the end of the Stoke legend's career, and was happy with his performances in reaching the final.
"I switched to these darts and I said to myself that I think I can get to the final with them, and I got to the final," he added. "It's a stepping stone."
If at first you don't succeed, try another 19 times
Gerwyn Price finally ended his 19-game winless run against Michael van Gerwen with a thrilling 16-12 victory as he set up a Grand Slam of Darts final with Peter Wright in Wolverhampton on Sunday night.
The defending champion, who has lost 18 times and drawn one against his nemesis, produced a fantastic performance to end the world number one's hopes of reclaiming the title for the fourth time and he'll now be marginal 4/5 favourite to lift the Eric Bristow Trophy for the second year in succession.
Nobody can say this landmark moment hasn't been coming given all five of their 2019 meetings had gone all the way to deciding legs, with MVG winning them all, including the 14th of a 7-7 Premier League draw in which he survived two match darts.
The two latest agonising defeats came in the past month at the Champions League and World Series of Darts Finals, prompting MVG to remind Sky Sports' viewers last night that "every time when he's had a chance, he's bottled it".
But on this 20th attempt, the Iceman kept his cool despite missing two match darts in the 27th leg and a third in the next before returning to the oche to pin tops and claim what was a popular victory with the crowd.
This time 12 months ago he was public enemy number one after 'that' final with Gary Anderson but a sympathetic tide has started to turn in Price's favour this week - apart from a smattering of pantomime boos - and this latest display will win him even more supporters.
The Welshman averaged 100.68 compared to MVG's 101.61 and repelled his opponent's barrage of 12 180s - six more than he managed - with ruthless finishing as he took out almost 52% of his doubles and managed two ton+ checkouts of 130 and 104.
Price had set the tone for his fearless performance as early as the third leg when he went 20, double 18, double 20 for an exhibition style 96 finish to complete a 12-darter while he went on to build a 4-1 lead.
Two 11-darters in the next four legs from MVG reduced the deficit to 5-4 before Price raised the bar even further with a pair of 11-darters of his own in successive legs.
The world champion nailed a brilliant 124 checkout in the next as the standard started to go through the roof and leave the crowd clueless as to who would book that final spot.
Price showed signs of jitters when his two missed darts at double eight for a 9-5 lead were punished by MVG in madhouse while he also took the next with an 82 checkout completing a fine 12-darter.
The former rugby player, who has won four titles on the PDC circuit this season albeit none on TV, responded with a fantastic finish from 130 when MVG waited on 42 although the Dutchman would then take out 104 to trail 8-9 before finally restoring parity for the first time since 1-1.
Given their recent history, Price may have folded at this point but he dug deep to take the next two legs thanks to a 104 checkout in the 20th and he'd never lose the lead again as he finished the contest much the stronger.
Van Gerwen's scoring was consistently high throughout but his weakness was missing 22 darts at doubles and a failure to put real pressure on his opponent to force another nerve-shredding finish.
Afterwards Price said: "Michael is one of the best professionals in the world. I was nervous towards the end, the 130 was crucial. He's been lucky the last three times and I thought he was going to get lucky again but thankfully I got over the line and got the demon off my back."
MVG said: "Gerwyn deserved to win. I made too many mistakes and gave him too many chances. He took advantage and credit to him for that.
"It hurts not to take the trophy home, but tomorrow I start to prepare for the next tournament, where I will put it right."
Final destination for Snakebite
Peter Wright reached his 13th major final after a 16-11 victory over Glen Durrant.
In their first TV meeting since the 2017 quarter-finals, when Snakebite went on to finish runner-up to Michael van Gerwen, the Scotsman found an extra gear at 9-8 ahead to win seven of the next 10 legs as he moved one win away from his second major title of his career and certainly his biggest.
Wright, who was tipped up at 12/1 in our pre-tournament preview, has lost 11 of his previous 12 major finals, with eight of those coming against MVG, while his only success came in the 2017 UK Open when he defeated Gerwyn Price.
The 49-year-old was van Gerwen's victim again as recently as October's Champions League of Darts final and he'll probably be a little relieved Price has done him a favour.
Wright could also be feeling comparatively fresher than his opponent thanks to getting his job done earlier in the afternoon and he'll be grateful it wasn't as mentally draining as it could have.
It wasn't his best performance of the tournament so far with an average of 97.34 and four 180s while he also missed 25 darts at a double, including five in the 17th leg that allowed Durrant to reduce his lead to 9-8.
That said his burst to the finish line including two ton plus checkouts - a 101 to complete a fine 12-darter for a 13-8 advantage before a stunning 155 finish made it 14-9.
Durrant averaged 94.28, hit eight 180s and two 100+ checkouts including a brilliant 143, was left to rue missing 30 attempts at doubles but he'll still head home proud of his efforts this week following a third televised PDC semi-final of 2019 from five events.
Since switching from the BDO at the start of the year, the three-time Lakeside champion's dream debut season on the circuit has also seen him reach the last four of the World Matchplay and the World Grand Prix while he's also won two floor titles. The wait for a maiden TV final - and trophy - might not be too much longer.
Price v Wright: Final preview stats (Match starts at 1900 GMT)
- Overall: 4-13 (1 draw)
- Televised meetings: 4-3 (1 draw)
Price 8-10 Wright (Champions League)
Price 8-3 Wright (Premier League '19)
Price 7-5 Wright (Premier League '19)
Price 7-8 Wright (World Series Finals L16 '18)
Price 6-6 Wright (Premier League '18)
Price 6-11 Wright (UK Open F '17)
Price 0-3 Wright (World Championship Last 64 '14)
Most of Peter Wright's domination came in the era when he was riding high in the world rankings - where he still is now obviously - while Price was climbing up through the ranks not long after switching from rugby. In recent times, the Welshman has been stronger by winning three of their last four meetings which have all been televised.
ROUTES TO THE FINAL
- Group Stage: Top of Group C with three wins
- Second round: 10-1 v Darren Webster (Av: 98.75)
- Quarter-finals: 16-9 v Gary Anderson (Av: 95.69)
- Semi-finals: 16-12 v Michael van Gerwen (Av: 100.73)
Gerwyn Price enjoyed a pretty easy run to the semi-finals without having to be at his best - even against Gary Anderson in a rather damp squib rematch that didn't live up to the hype - but he averaged a shade above 100 to finally beat MVG for the first time at the 20th attempt.
- Group Stage: Top of Group F with three wins
- Second round: 10-3 v Rob Cross (Av: 98.59)
- Quarter-finals: 16-12 v Dave Chisnall (Av: 101.25)
- Semi-finals: 16-11 v Glen Durrant (Av: 97.34)
Snakebite breezed through his group with a perfect record before thrashing Rob Cross 10-3 and repelling Dave Chisnall's barrage of 180s to win their quarter-final while he needed a late burst of quality to end Glen Durrant's hopes of a maiden PDC televised final.
(Price numbers are left)
- PDC Titles this season: 4-4
- Majors Titles this season: 0-0
- All TV Titles this season: 0-1
- Career PDC Titles: 8-27
- Major PDC Titles: 1-1 (Price: 2018 Grand Slam, Wright: 2017 UK Open)
- All Televised PDC titles: 1-5
Sunday results & schedule
Afternoon Session (1pm)
TV Coverage: Sky Sports
Semi-finals (Best of 31 legs)
- Peter Wright 16-11 Glen Durrant
- Michael van Gerwen 12-16 Gerwyn Price
Evening Session (7pm)
TV Coverage: Sky Sports
Final (Best of 31 legs)
- Gerwyn Price v Peter Wright