In the first of a series of articles where I reflect on some of the best darts matches over the years, I look back on Phil Taylor’s quarter-final clash with Canada’s John Part in the 2005 World Matchplay at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool.
‘Phil Taylor’ and ‘dominance’ are often bedfellows in a sentence, but as the best of the PDC descended on Blackpool for the 2005 World Matchplay, The Power was enjoying a quite remarkable stretch even by his standards. Five-times defending champion, and only two tournaments away from completing the unprecedented achievement of holding all six television titles at the same time, Taylor was an overpowering favourite to collect an eighth World Matchplay crown.
Beginning his campaign with a comfortable 10-4 victory over Jamie Harvey, Taylor then overcame long-time rival Dennis Priestley as their last 16 bout went into extra time. But next, came an either tougher proposition, John Part.
Part, then a two-time world champion had proven one of Taylor’s toughest opponents at the time. After suffering a brutal 7-0 defeat in the 2001 world final, the Canadian bounced back to stun his nemesis two years later, with his dramatic 7-6 triumph at the Circus Tavern ending Taylor’s eight-year reign.
Part, known as Darth Maple, continued from his historic win to record further TV wins at the 2003 Desert Classic, and then another at the 2004 UK Open in Bolton, in a fruitful period which also briefly saw him become world number one.
However, Taylor got revenge at the next UK Open, hauling in 7-1, 9-5, and 10-6 advantages for Part, to snatch an 11-10 win and avenge the trio of losses. It ensured their Blackpool contest at the Matchplay less than two months later would be mouth-watering.
Taylor eased into control of the best-of-31 legs match early on, breaking twice to assume a 4-1 lead at the first interval. An undeterred Part signalled his intent immediately upon the resumption, pinning a 130 checkout with Taylor sat on 40 to snare a break back.
Missed doubles from The Power allowed the Canadian to draw level, and a stunning 161 finish in leg nine, saw Part run off four consecutive legs to move ahead, before Taylor arrested the slide to send the match into the second break at five-apiece.
A missed arrow at double tops saw Part break once again in the 12th leg, but a 121 checkout culminating on double five from Taylor in the next, stunted his progress as the two continued to trade lusty blows. With the Englishman primed to break on 52 with the score at 8-8, a nerveless 118 finish from Part proved vital in keeping the match on throw. Neither showed any signs of wilting, and they left the stage for a fourth time with the score locked at 10-10.
Each started with 13-dart legs after the break but it was from then on that Part began to turn the screw. Taylor’s four missed darts at double in the 24th leg proved pivotal as Part nailed his final spear at tops. A crippling 108 outshot with Taylor lurking on 42 added further pain as Darth Maple moved three clear.
Another break of throw from Part on double 11 took Part one away from the match cueing roars from an electric Blackpool crowd. But when he missed three darts for the match in leg 27, memories of the recent UK Open collapse would have whirred as Taylor was an afforded an opportunity. However, The Power was unable to capitalise, missing a dart at the bull and two at double eight allowing Part to return and hit double one, to secure a memorable win.
Part went on to defeat Peter Manley 18-16 in the semi-final before finally coming unstuck against Colin Lloyd in the final whose barrage of 180s saw him claim the title 18-13, completing the win on a maximum 170 checkout.
A dejected Taylor quickly arrested the loss, winning the next three TV tournaments – the World Grand Prix, the World Championship, and the Premier League – before coming unstuck against Raymond van Barneveld at the 2006 UK Open, who had made the switch to the PDC earlier that year.
The Part-Taylor saga resumed at the same venue 12 months later in the last 16 but it was more of a procession than a contest, as Taylor stormed to a 13-2 victory, setting the trend for what was to follow in their rivalry. Taylor has won every match they have played on TV since.