DEFENDING CHAMPION James Wade will meet Phil Taylor in the final of the 2008 Stan James World Matchplay on Saturday night following thrilling semi-final victories at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens.

Wade remains on course to claim a fourth major title and retain the World Matchplay trophy following a clinical 17-5 dismissal of Wayne Mardle.

Mardle had knocked out world number two Raymond van Barneveld in the quarter-finals, but never stood a chance against Wade, with the 25-year-old racing into a 7-0 lead and hitting 12 180s in storming to victory.

“I’m pleased with that performance and how I played,” said Wade. “I started well again and managed to keep up that level of performance, although I missed a few doubles towards the back end.”

Taylor, an eight-time World Matchplay champion, was in similarly imperious form to ensure a return to the Winter Gardens final with a 17-8 defeat of veteran Dennis Priestley.

Taylor also hit 12 180s and set up three potential nine-darters, with checkouts of 155 and 134 not enough for Priestley to take out his long-term rival.

“Dennis was brilliant and I had to play that well to beat him,” said Taylor. “I hit him hard early on but he doesn’t give in and he kept coming back at me.”

The final is a repeat of the 2006 decider, which Taylor claimed 18-11 in Wade’s first appearance in a major final.

“I’m a much more experienced player than two years ago,” admitted Wade. “I wasn’t good enough to beat Phil then but if I can find another gear on top of my performance against Wayne I’ll have a chance.

“I’m excited by the challenge and there won’t be any nerves. I’ve not beaten Phil in a final yet and that is the next big goal for me.”

Stan James World Matchplay
Semi-Finals
Phil Taylor 17-8 Dennis Priestley
James Wade 17-5 Wayne Mardle

Final (7pm Saturday)
Phil Taylor v James Wade
Best of 35 legs

PHIL TAYLOR 17-8 DENNIS PRIESTLEY

PHIL TAYLOR bulldozed his way into the final of the Stan James World Matchplay with a scintillating 17-8 win over Dennis Priestley.

Taylor produced one of the most heavy-scoring games in the history of the tournament, hitting 12 180s and setting up three potential nine-darters – missing double 12 on one occasion to see a £10,000 bonus elude him.

However, he remains on course to claim the £60,000 first prize after ending Priestley’s plucky challenge, with the 58-year-old coming from 10-2 down to trail just 13-8 at one stage.

Taylor made an imperious start, breaking Priestley’s throw in the opening leg, landing legs of 12 and 13 darts to move clear and taking out double 16 to go 4-0 up.

Priestley hit back on double 16 following a rare Taylor missed double, but the eight-time champion took the next two to go 6-1 up.

Priestley landed a 155 finish to get a second leg – only for Taylor to respond with back-to-back 180s in the next, missing double 12 for a nine-darter before taking out double six to finish the leg in ten darts.

Further legs of 13, ten and 15 darts put him 10-2 up, before Priestley won five of the next six to reduce the arrears – including an 11-darter after taking had seven perfect darts once again and left himself 16 after nine darts.

A 126 finish on double six saw Taylor halt the comeback at 12-7, and he added a further 12-darter and a 104 checkout gave him a 15-8 advantage.

Priestley took a 134 finish out, with Taylor on a double, to remain in the hunt, but his long-time rival was swift in completing a superb win, with two double two finishes wrapping up the victory.

“Dennis was brilliant and I had to play that well to beat him,” said Taylor. “I hit him hard early on but he doesn’t give in and he kept coming back at me.”

Priestley admitted: “Phil was simply too consistent for me. I was too up and down and didn’t play as well as I’d have liked, but I know where I lost it.

“He did something remarkable and I didn’t produce good enough darts to beat him, especially in the legs where I started and didn’t win them in 15 darts, which is what you have to do.”

JAMES WADE 17-5 WAYNE MARDLE

DEFENDING CHAMPION James Wade will meet Phil Taylor in the final of the 2008 Stan James World Matchplay on Saturday night following a thrilling semi-final defeat of Wayne Mardle.

Wade remains on course to claim a fourth major title and retain the World Matchplay trophy following a clinical dismissal of Wayne Mardle.

Mardle had knocked out world number two Raymond van Barneveld in the quarter-finals, but never stood a chance against Wade, with the 25-year-old racing into a 7-0 lead and hitting 12 180s in storming to victory.

He kicked off the match with back-to-back double top finishes, including a 101 finish to break Mardle’s throw, and landed scores of 180 or 177 in four successive legs to go 5-0 up, including a 136 finish.

Wade also took out 117 in extending the lead to 7-0 before a 135 finish got Mardle off the mark.

Wade landed maximums in five straight legs to push further clear at 12-1, including a ten-darter in lifting his average to over 110 before Mardle took three successive legs – including a 145 finish as the defending champion finally lost his range on double top.

Wade moved 14-4 up before Mardle took out double five to win a fifth leg – a double which simply fired up the youngster further.

Wade responded with finishes of 153 and 100 for back-to-back 12-darters to move to the brink of victory, and a missed bullseye from Mardle allowed him a chance to seal the win on double top.

“I’m over the moon to beat such a good player as Wayne by that margin,” said Wade. “I’m pleased with that performance and how I played.

“I started well again and managed to keep up that level of performance, although I missed a few doubles towards the back end.

“I love the venue, the fans and the stage here and it’s brilliant to be in a third successive final.”

Wade lost 18-11 to Taylor in his first major final at the 2006 World Matchplay, as well as being the runner-up in the Premier League and Las Vegas Desert Classic deciders this year.

“I’m a more experienced player now than two years ago,” added Wade. “The last two times I’ve played Phil in a final we’ve played a semi-final and a final on the same day and it wasn’t my best performance.

“I’m not saying the result will be any different – I averaged 102 tonight and will have to find another gear to beat Phil. I can do that and hopefully I will in the final.

“My main goal at the moment is to beat Phil in a final. I’ve won three major titles but haven’t beaten him in a final and that’s the next thing on my list.

“He gives me inspiration and we all look up to him. I can’t wait to play him – I’m really excited and I want to get it on.”

Mardle said: “He kicked off the first three of four legs brilliantly. I never got much better than I started off, and he did.

“At one point he was unplayable and when someone plays like that against you all you can do is hold your hand up and say sometimes you’re not good enough.”

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