sport

Seventh heaven for van Gerwen

Michael van Gerwen won his seventh ProTour event of 2012 in stunning fashion with a 6-5 victory over Phil Taylor.

Van Gerwen won Sunday's final Players Championship of the year at the Barnsley Metrodome.

Dutch star van Gerwen's amazing run of success this autumn culminated with what he admitted was his most special of seven victories in the PDC's non-televised ProTour events.

The triumph was his first over Taylor in a final and also follows last week's victory over the world number one in the William Hill Grand Slam of Darts, with the Stoke star playing his part in a brilliant final in Barnsley.

Van Gerwen showed great form throughout the day, with his early 6-4 wins over Gareth Pass and Shaun Griffiths followed by him averaging over 105 in successive defeats of Wayne Jones, Mervyn King and Connie Finnan as he reached the semi-finals.

There, he overcame World Champion Adrian Lewis 6-2 before edging out Taylor in the decider.

Van Gerwen won the final's opening leg with a 76 finish before Taylor hit scores of 174 and 180 in an 11-darter to level the contest before the 23-year-old won the next three in style.

He hit a 13-darter before breaking throw for the first time in 12 darts, scoring 177, 140 and 168 before landing double eight, and then finishing 91 on the bull - with Taylor waiting on 40 - to lead 4-1.

Taylor responded in fine style to level, hitting a 14-darter of his own and a 92 finish to break in 12 darts before taking out a 121 checkout in leg eight to square the game with another 12-darter after both players opened with a 180.

Taylor's surge continued as he finished 90 on the bull to break again and lead 5-4, only for van Gerwen to take out 164 with two treble 19s and the bullseye to force a deciding leg.

Taylor scored 140 and 177 as he was first to a finish, but he missed the bull to take out 88 and van Gerwen stepped in with a 124 checkout on double 11 to claim the title.

Van Gerwen ended the final with a 109.90 average to Taylor's 108.82, and the 6,000 prize money sees him move up to a career-high seventh in the PDC Order of Merit and into the opposite half of the draw to Taylor for next month's Ladbrokes World Championship.

"It was a fantastic game and we both played well," said Van Gerwen. "Phil did some great finishing but at the end I hit two amazing big finishes and I'm very happy with that.

"It's the first time for me where I've won a ProTour and beaten Phil in the tournament, so it gives me so much confidence. To beat Phil in the final and the World Champion [Adrian Lewis] in the semi-final means a lot to me - it's the most special win of the year.

"I've played very well today and most of my games were above a 100 average, so I'm still playing my best and we'll see what happens next week in the Players Championship Finals."

Van Gerwen added: "It's a big achievement to be number seven in the world now. That was my target for this weekend and I did it, so I'm very happy with that.

"Everybody's playing so well and there are so many good dart players, so if you're part of the top eight it feels amazing."

The result meant that Taylor finished both of the weekend's events as runner-up, following Saturday's defeat in the final to Dave Chisnall, although he still took home 6,000 in prize money from the weekend.

Taylor's run to the decider included a second successive semi-final win over Robert Thornton, as a 14-darter in the deciding leg saw him defeat the Scot 6-5 after trailing 4-2 at one stage.

Taylor also overcame long-standing rival Dennis Priestley 6-2 in the quarter-finals and defeated Andy Hamilton, Mareno Michels, Mark Jones and Nigel Heydon on the day.

UK Open champion Thornton continued his brilliant run of form by reaching the semis, whitewashing Nick Fullwell early on, hitting a 113 average against Darren Webster and then defeating both Mark Webster and John Part 6-1.

World Champion Lewis was the other semi-finalist in his best run on the circuit since he won September's German Darts Masters event, with the world number two overcoming a first round scare - when he hit back from 4-0 down to defeat Jim Walker - to go on to see off Alan Tabern, Michael Smith, Scott Rand and Peter Wright.

Priestley, the 62-year-old two-time World Champion, reached his second quarter-final of the weekend as he secured qualification for next month's World Championship through the ProTour Order of Merit, and he was joined in the last eight by Part, Wright and Ireland's Connie Finnan.

Finnan also hit a brilliant nine-dart finish on the day, scooping a 4,800 bonus for the achievement during his fourth round win over Wes Newton, with Steve Brown having missed double 12 for a perfect leg of his own earlier in the event.