SUPERB CLAYTON DEFIES PLAISIER TO WIN PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP 14

Jonny Clayton returned to winning ways with an outstanding 8-5 victory against Wesley Plaisier in Wednesday’s Players Championship 14 final in Milton Keynes.
Clayton stormed to victory on a thrilling day of action at the Marshall Arena, denying an in-form Plaisier to clinch his first PDC ranking title since May 2023.
The Welshman – a runner-up in May’s Dutch Darts Championship – endured a difficult end to 2023, but he continued his revival to become the 14th different winner in as many Players Championship events in 2024.
Clayton – a quarter-finalist on Tuesday – kicked off his campaign with emphatic wins against Darren Beveridge, Andy Baetens and James Hurrell, before defying a 110.71 average from Dom Taylor in a sensational last 16 tie.
The 49-year-old then overcame Martin Schindler in the last eight, before running out a 7-3 winner against Cameron Menzies in the semi-finals, which ended the Scot’s hopes of World Matchplay qualification.
Clayton seized the early initiative in Wednesday’s showpiece, reeling off three consecutive legs to establish 4-1 and 5-2 leads, only for Plaisier to respond with a majestic 161 checkout in leg eight.
The former Premier League champion restored his three-leg buffer with a fabulous 11-darter, and he punished rare errors on the outer ring from his Dutch opponent to move to the brink of glory at 7-3.
Plaisier hit back with skin-saving 121 and 122 finishes on the bull as he looked to complete an astonishing turnaround, but Clayton kept his cool, pinning double 16 to triumph with a 106 average.
“Fair play to Wesley. How he hasn’t got a Tour Card I’ll never know, because he can seriously play darts,” reflected Clayton, who also landed seven 180s in the final.
“Confidence is low when you’re not picking up results, but I’ve got my mojo back. I’ve got a smile on my face, and winning always helps.
“I was way off at the start of the year, but something has clicked.
“I played well yesterday and I played well today, so my consistency is there, and fingers crossed I can keep it going.
“It’s a great time to get your form back with the World Matchplay coming up, and hopefully I can go one step further this year.”
Following his exploits on Tuesday, Plaisier reaffirmed his credentials by reaching back-to-back finals at the Marshall Arena, as he walked away from this week’s ProTour double-header with £20,000 in prize money.
The Dutchman dumped out world number four Gerwyn Price in the last 32, and later accounted for Mario Vandenbogaerde, Graham Usher and Ryan Joyce to maintain his superb run of form.
Joyce crashed in a 111.48 average in his quarter-final thumping of Josh Rock, having also won through a deciding-leg tussle against top seed Dave Chisnall in the last 16.
Joyce was joined in the last four by Scottish star Menzies, who dumped out England’s World Cup winning duo Michael Smith and Luke Humphries along with Damon Heta on his way to the semi-finals.
Heta won 17 consecutive legs during his run to the last eight, where he crashed out alongside Rock and Schindler, who defeated his World Cup partner Gabriel Clemens to end Clemens’ World Matchplay dreams.
Usher claimed a host of big scalps to reach his maiden ProTour quarter-final, following up deciding-leg wins over Gary Anderson and James Wade with a 6-4 success against World Matchplay champion Nathan Aspinall.
Elsewhere, Robert Owen produced the performance of the day in Milton Keynes, registering a staggering 115.85 average in his third round demolition of Ryan Searle, who was beaten 6-1 despite averaging 105.
Wednesday’s action marked the final event before the cut-off for Betfred World Matchplay qualification, with 2007 champion James Wade securing the final place in the 32-player field.
Following Kevin Doets’ first round defeat at the hands of Steve Beaton, Menzies threatened to overhaul Wade with his brilliant run to the last four, although he fell just short in his last-gasp Blackpool bid.
The PDC ProTour season will continue with Players Championships 15-17 in Milton Keynes from July 31-August 2, with live coverage streamed on PDCTV and through bookmakers’ websites worldwide.
2024 Players Championship 14
Wednesday July 3
Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
Last 16
Ryan Joyce 6-5 Dave Chisnall
Josh Rock 6-5 Jamie Hughes
Wesley Plaisier 6-4 Mario Vandenbogaerde
Graham Usher 6-4 Nathan Aspinall
Cameron Menzies 6-5 Luke Humphries
Damon Heta 6-0 Robert Owen
Jonny Clayton 6-2 Dom Taylor
Martin Schindler 6-3 Gabriel Clemens
Quarter-Finals
Ryan Joyce 6-1 Josh Rock
Wesley Plaisier 6-2 Graham Usher
Cameron Menzies 6-3 Damon Heta
Jonny Clayton 6-4 Martin Schindler
Semi-Finals
Wesley Plaisier 7-4 Ryan Joyce
Jonny Clayton 7-3 Cameron Menzies
Final
Jonny Clayton 8-5 Wesley Plaisier
Photo credit Jonas Hunold/PDC 

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