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30 Years Of The World Matchplay - Part One

30 Years Of The World Matchplay - Part One

Alex Moss |

The World Matchplay's 30 most memorable matches (Part One - #30-21)

The World Matchplay is one of the most prestigious tournaments on the darts calendar. First held in 1994, the world’s top players face off every summer over nine days at the iconic Winter Gardens, in Blackpool, for the Phil Taylor Trophy.

This July will mark the 30th staging of the World Matchplay, and over the years darts fans have been treated to hundreds of incredible moments. But what have been the most memorable matches at the World Matchplay over the last 30 years?

Here at Darts Corner, we have delved through the archive and put together our own top 30 list. In part one, we take you through #30 to #21 in our countdown of the most unforgettable matches in World Matchplay history.

Check out our very own World Matchplay collection of darts, featuring James Wade, John Lowe and Keith Deller.

Our top 30 list of the World Matchplay's most memorable matches (Part One - #30-21)

30. Phil Taylor 18-16 John Part (2002 final)

We start our countdown with the 2002 final between Phil Taylor and John Part. History was on the line in this one as Taylor looked to become the first player to win the World Matchplay three years in a row.

After edging past a resurgent John Lowe 17-15 in the semi-finals, ‘The Power’ went up against Canada’s Part in the final. He boasted an impressive record against ‘Darth Maple’ having whitewashed him in the previous two World Championships, as well as dishing out a 16-4 thumping in Blackpool the year before.

But this time round it was a much closer affair with Taylor narrowly prevailing 18-16. Deep into the final, the two world champions exchanged big finishes as Taylor took out a 161 to break for 14-13, only for Part to finish with a 160 in the next leg to break straight back.

A tight contest saw Part edge in front twice again at 15-14 and 16-15, before Taylor reeled off three straight legs to avoid extra time and etch his name on the trophy for a fifth time.

Check out our collection of John Part darts, flights and shirts.

29. James Wade 19-17 Roland Scholten (2006 semi-final)

The 2006 edition of the World Matchplay saw the emergence of James Wade as he stormed to the final on his Winter Gardens debut.

Then just 23-years-old at the time, Wade became the youngest player to reach a World Matchplay final – a record that still stands to this day.

During his breakthrough week in Blackpool, ‘The Machine’ got the better of Denis Ovens (10-1), Kevin Painter (13-9) and Chris Mason (16-4), before being pushed into extra legs by Roland Scholten in the semi-finals.

Scholten built up early leads of 5-1 and 11-8, but the debutant Wade battled back and after the match went into overtime at 17-17, he broke the throw and then held with a brilliant 10-darter to prevail.

Take a look at our range of James Wade darts.

28. Raymond van Barneveld 14-16 Adrian Lewis (2007 quarter-final)

Raymond van Barneveld and Adrian Lewis have served up plenty of thrillers in the past and their clash in the quarter-finals of the 2007 World Matchplay was one of the first.

‘Barney’ was in red-hot form heading into his Winter Gardens debut in 2007, having already won the World Championship, UK Open and Las Vegas Desert Classic that year.

An entertaining clash saw the lead change hands several times, with Lewis taking the incentive at 14-12 before van Barneveld responded to level at 14-14.

With the finish line in sight, ‘Jackpot’ punished missed doubles from his opponent in the next two legs to edge through.

27. Phil Taylor 17-15 John Lowe (2002 semi-final)

Phil Taylor had cruised to the semi-finals of the 2002 World Matchplay in style, posting 100, 104 and 112 averages in the first three rounds of the tournament.

‘The Power’ went into a semi-final clash with the legendary John Lowe as a big favourite, with Lowe, then at the age of 57, in the midst of what would be his last deep run in a major on TV.

Lowe, who had won his three World Championships in three different decades, in the 70s, 80s and 90s, rolled back the years and pushed the number one seed all the way.

‘Old Stoneface’ took a 13-11 lead, but Taylor hit back and won the next four legs to go 15-13 up and held throw twice to end Lowe’s hopes of a famous victory.

Have a look at our selection of John Lowe darts and flights at Darts Corner.

26. Jim Watkins 18-16 Keith Deller (1994 last 16)

One of the staples of the World Matchplay during most of its first 20 years was that all matches had to be won by two clear legs.

The inaugural staging at the Winter Gardens led with a shorter race to eight legs in the opening two rounds. But Jim Watkins and Keith Deller had other ideas!

The pair met in the second round and were locked at 7-7 when the match went into extra time and would go on to play an incredible 20 more legs, before Watkins eventually moved two clear at 18-16.

The last 16 tie would end up being the longest match of the whole event and was an early example of how the two clear legs rule would make the World Matchplay stand out.

Check out our range of Keith Deller darts, flights and shirts.

25. Peter Manley 17-14 Phil Taylor (1999 semi-final)

After losing hold of the World Matchplay trophy in 1998, Phil Taylor returned to Blackpool the following year determined to regain his crown.

‘The Power had started 1999 by winning a seventh World Championship title, where he beat Peter Manley 6-2 in the final.

But it was Manley who got his revenge for that defeat when the two faced off in the semi-finals at the Winter Gardens.

In a clash between the second and third seeds, Manley raced into an 8-2 lead, before Taylor battled back to level at 14-14. An absorbing contest then saw ‘One Dart’ win the next three legs to complete a memorable win.

24. Colin Lloyd 18-12 John Part (2005 final)

30 Years Of The World Matchplay Darts - Most Memorable World Matchplay Matches

Arguably the most memorable finish to a World Matchplay came in 2005 when Colin Lloyd and John Part met in the final.

‘Jaws’ went into the tournament as the world number one and had opened his major account by winning the World Grand Prix the previous year.

In the final he went up against an in-form Part, who had knocked out the defending champion Phil Taylor in the quarter-finals.

But Lloyd had too much for ‘Darth Maple’ in the final, firing in 15 180s before sealing an 18-12 win with the biggest possible finish – a 170!

23. Gary Anderson 18-16 Michael Smith (2020 semi-final)

30 Years Of The World Matchplay Darts - Most Memorable World Matchplay Matches

The Winter Gardens has played host to all but one World Matchplay, with the 2020 edition being the exception as it was held behind closed doors in Milton Keynes.

It was the first televised tournament to take place during the pandemic and made for a surreal setting, with matches played in front of no fans and for the World Matchplay itself, away from its home in Blackpool.

Despite the absence of a crowd, the players still served up plenty of entertainment on stage and, in particular, the semi-final between Gary Anderson and Michael Smith was one to remember.

Anderson twice went five legs clear, at 8-3 and 14-9, only for Smith to rally both times and level at 9-9 and 14-14. Smith then edged in front in the next leg before ‘The Flying Scotsman’ won it in extra time.

Browse through our range of Gary Anderson darts and Michael Smith darts.

22. Rod Harrington 19-17 Peter Manley (1999 final)

The first five years of the World Matchplay had provided five different winners, but in 1999 the defending champion Rod Harrington was on the brink of back-to-back titles.

‘The Prince of Style’ went into the week as the top seed, like he had done the previous year, and would meet the number two seed Peter Manley in the final.

This thrilling decider is often remembered for Manley coming agonisingly close to throwing the first ever live televised nine-dart leg. At 16-13 behind, Manley threw a 180, followed by a 177 and, after hitting treble 18 and tops, narrowly missed the bullseye for the 144 finish.

Despite falling just short of making history, Manley regroups and takes the final into extra legs with the score at 17-17, but Harrington wins the next two, finishing with a 136 checkout, to become the first player to successfully defend the title.

21. Peter Wright 13-16 Daryl Gurney (2019 quarter-final)

30 Years Of The World Matchplay Darts - Most Memorable World Matchplay Matches

Peter Wright went into the quarter-finals of the 2019 World Matchplay boasting a 20-match winning streak in PDC competition.

‘Snakebite’ was chasing his second major title and was in fine form, producing 102 and 103 averages in the first two rounds.

Wright improved his average to 104 in the quarter-finals, but it was not enough to get the better of Northern Ireland’s Daryl Gurney.

In a high-quality clash, there was never a gap bigger than one leg between the two players before the score reached 13-13. Gurney then found a late surge and won the next three legs to end Wright’s winning run.

Which match will be #1?

The countdown has begun for our most memorable World Matchplay matches, but which one will be top of our list?

Click on the images below to see parts two and three of our 30 Years Of The World Matchplay countdown!

Check out our World Matchplay collection featuring Michael Smith, Gary Anderson, John Part and many more players.

Pictures credit: PDC

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