PHIL TAYLOR claimed the inaugural coral.co.uk Players Championship title with a 16-9 win over Robert Thornton.

The 14-time World Champion celebrated darts’ return to the famous Circus Tavern in Purfleet by claiming the £50,000 first prize and yet another major title.

Taylor has now won every PDC televised tournament since last June, and extended his current winning run to 23 matches across four tournaments.

Taylor struggled in the early stages of the match as Thornton, playing in his first major PDC final, held his own as the game was evenly balanced at 5-5.

But the world number one put together a mid-game burst to take six of the next seven legs to take control of the game and go on to claim the title.

Thornton hit a maximum in the opening leg and had an opportunity to hit a 170 checkout against the throw, only for his bullseye attempt to agonisingly land on the wrong side of the wire.

Taylor took out double four to lead and then broke throw in the next, before missing a dart at double top to go 3-0 up.

Thornton returned to the oche to hit double 10 with his last dart to get off the mark and then punish six further misses from Taylor to level.

Taylor regained the lead in the fifth leg but missed five more darts to break throw in the next, and Thornton squared the game by hitting double 10 for the second time.

Taylor regained the lead with a 13-dart finish but the Scotsman hit back in 15 to win the tenth leg and level at five-all.

The next three legs were held with throw to leave Taylor 7-6 up, but he crucially won the 14th against the darts with a 14-dart finish.

Taylor, who had dropped only eight legs in the tournament before the final, then won the next leg by converting a two-dart 57 finish to increase the gap and went 10-6 up after Thornton missed a dart at double top for a 160 finish.

A fifth successive leg put Taylor in command at 11-6, but the Scotsman battled hard to win the next two and reduce the deficit to three legs, capitalising on errors from his opponent on double top in both legs.

The next saw Taylor take out double top for a 14-darter, and a 13-dart finish restored the five-leg lead that he had created earlier in the match.

Thornton hit a 180 and a 124 finish, ending on the bullseye for a 12-darter, only for Taylor to move into a 14-9 lead with a two-dart 61 finish.

A 12-darter put him a leg away from victory, despite two maximums from Thornton, and he secured the title in superb fashion with an 11-darter.

“I’m absolutely delighted to have won,” said Taylor. “Coming back to the Circus Tavern and taking the win is special to me, and it means a lot to be the first name on the trophy.

“Robert played really well and he’s impressed me. When I arrived in Essex on Thursday he was already at the hotel practising, and it didn’t surprise me that he reached the final.

“He’s dedicated and he’s a gutsy battler who will go a long way.”

Thornton, who moves up to 22nd in the PDC Order of Merit said: “I’m not too disappointed.

“It was close for the first half of the match. I gave him a bit of a start and you can’t do that against Phil, you cannot afford slack darts against him.

“But that’s for me and the other players to work on and Phil to keep going!

“I jump up the rankings a few places and I’m happy with that, and I’ve had a good January.”

About The Author