AWESOME ASPINALL STORMS TO BETFRED WORLD MATCHPLAY TITLE
Nathan Aspinall produced an inspired display to claim his maiden Betfred World Matchplay title on a remarkable night at Blackpool's Winter Gardens.
Aspinall delivered a darting masterclass to dispatch Jonny Clayton 18-6 in Sunday's showpiece, reeling off 11 consecutive legs midway through the match on his way to claiming his second televised ranking title.
The former UK Open champion averaged 96, crashed in seven maximums and converted five ton-plus checkouts to triumph in the biggest match of his career, which lifts him to a career-high of world number five.
"It's an amazing feeling. I'm so happy for me and my family and so proud of myself," claimed Aspinall, who becomes the 12th player to lift the coveted Phil Taylor Trophy.
"I did so well to keep it at 5-5. I was doing Jonny Clayton things! I was taking out those three-dart combinations and that kept me in the game.
"I think that third session was the key. I don't know what it was, but then I suddenly found my scoring, and I finished brilliantly all game.
"I think for those ten legs, my scoring was up there with the best I've ever scored and that was the telling factor tonight."
There was nothing to separate the pair after a high-quality opening ten legs, which remarkably featured five ton-plus checkouts.
Aspinall drew first blood with a 110 combination, and also produced a brace of 108 checkouts to keep Clayton at bay, despite the Welshman boasting an eight-point lead in the averages.
Clayton - who had taken out nine ton-plus finishes in his run to the final - conjured up a majestic 141 checkout in leg seven, before firing in a 101 kill to restore parity at five apiece.
Nevertheless, Aspinall then produced one of the most astounding spells of dominance in World Matchplay history to storm to the title, winning 13 of the last 14 legs to scoop the 200,000 pound top prize.
The Stockport star reeled off four consecutive legs in 11, 14, 13 and 12 darts to stretch his lead to 9-5, and Clayton was left shell-shocked as Aspinall's blistering barrage showed no sign of relenting.
The 32-year-old produced a mesmerising 170 checkout to make it six legs without reply, and a 115 combination in leg 18 continued the procession, as his lead stretched to 13-5.
Aspinall's astonishing winning run totalled 11 legs before Clayton finally stopped the rot to reduce the arrears to 6-16, but it simply delayed the inevitable.
Normal service was resumed for Aspinall in leg 23, as he landed a 16-dart hold on tops to move a leg away from glory, and despite some late double trouble, he eventually landed double five to cap off the greatest win of his career.
"These things don't happen very often, so I want to enjoy this moment!" continued Aspinall, who also paid tribute to Clayton, who showed incredible character throughout the week in Blackpool.
"To share that final with Jonny was very special. He is such a lovely guy. He's the best person on the tour.
"I wish him and his family all the best. He's a gentlemen of the game, he's a credit to our sport, but I'm just happy I beat him!"
Clayton - also featuring in his maiden World Matchplay final - performed magnificently in his run to the final, which was fuelled by his desire to triumph for his ill father.
The Welshman had only claimed a solitary win at the Winter Gardens prior to this year's tournament, and he was full of praise for a brilliant Aspinall.
"I came out of the blocks well but then Nathan just turned up," conceded the 48-year-old, who pockets the 100,000 pound runner-up prize.
"I cannot argue with the result. I was beaten by the better player, and what a fantastic guy he is.
"To make the World Matchplay final is an amazing achievement. I'm a very proud man.
"I'd like to thank my family and this phenomenal crowd. One day I will get back on this stage in a final, and hopefully that will be my night."
Statistics - Final