Team Red Dragon Triumph in UK Open
The 2012 Speedy Services UK Open proved a remarkable event in many ways, shocks aplenty and all the usual drama and unique atmosphere that Bolton’s “FA Cup of Darts” provides.
For Team Red Dragon it was even more special, Rob Thornton’s tremendous triumph demonstrating that the Red Dragon way of supporting young players and sticking with team members through good times and bad has again paid huge dividends. The recent triumph of James Hubbard in the World Youth Championship means that the last month has seen both traits hugely rewarded. In addition our attitude of supporting players in many stages of their careers and not just for their professional achievements also found great reinforcement this weekend.
Winner & UK Open Champion 2012
An astonishing and to many (although as a little look at the ones to watch article will show, not to all!) shocking victory and by possibly the toughest route ever to win a major. Mark Webster, Gary Anderson, Dennis Priestly, Wes Newton, Dave Chisnal and Phil Taylor. Despite being 4 legs behind against both Gary and Dennis, The Thorn seemed utterly convinced of his own form and ability and stood up to be counted on every occasion. After a couple of lean years caused by illness and injury this truly a comeback fairytale and takes Rob shooting back into the higher reaches of the PDC and should kick start the 3rd phase of Robs remarkable career. Hats off to you!
Although Rob carried the Red Dragon flag all the way to victory and was our last representative the last 8, many other notable performances and some “derby” matches were signs of the superb impression being created on top level darts by Team Red Dragon.
Dennis Priestly and Peter Wright
Dennis’s strong run was a joy to behold, after deciding to play a smaller part on the tour Dennis’s high qualification and huge experience proved a great combination. His emphatic 9-4 win over the in form Kevin Dowling showed that he has lost non of his skill or matchplay nouse. The following round saw a superb 9-8 win over a resurgent Andy Smith who had disposed of the highly threatening Scott Rand. It is only a shame that Dennis had to attempt to stifle Rob Thornton in the round of 16. Despite a 5-1 lead, the game slipped away as Rob turned on the after burner that would be seen time and again over the 3 matches! So despite the valiant effort a fairytale stage Qtr Final was not to be.
Peter continued his upward curve on TV and major events with another solid run to the last 16 stage, as in 2011. Here however he was defeated in dramatic and unfortunate style. A slight deflection caused him to bust 138 when in sight of a huge win over a Raymond Van Barneveld looking as good as he has for a long time. The look of shock on Peters face and the reactions of everyone told its own story and Peter run of defeating world champions, John Part & Richie Burnett included was over.
Dennis Smith, Richie Burnett & Mark Hylton.
Dennis certainly had the most unusual run of the team reaching the last 32 after not throwing a dart in Bolton. The unfortunate Mark Jones was not registered in time and could not compete. Despite excellent current form Dennis was not able to come from cold to stay with the fully warmed up and fluent Dave Chisnal.
Richie Burnett achieved his last 32 place via a defeat of Red Dragon colleague Ian White. Ian had been fancied by many to do well here and will doubtless come gain in Blackpool or later in 2012. In 4 meetings there has never been more than one leg between these two, Richie refers to Ian as last dart Whitey due to a couple of very tough games last year that Ian edged, again a deciding leg was needed and despite being on 97 after 9 darts Ian was pipped by a superb 121 finish and a 12 dart leg by Richie. In another Red Dragon “Derby” Peter Wright stopped the Burnett charge with a comfortable 9-4 win. Controversial game this though, due to complaints regarding the lighting which resulted in other games being moved.
Despite a tough start to the season Mark Hylton showed that “Mile High” has gone nowhere. His win over Stuart Kellet was hard fought and at times sensational. Stuart is a former Winmau Masters finalist a great big game player, however Mark has the second quality in spades. Huge scoring power and some moments of inspiration including an 11 dart leg under severe pressure (121, 135,180 & 66 in 2) after Stuart had taken advantage of very vocal local support to level at 6 legs each. His eventual loss to Qtr Finalist Jamie Caven was a tough game as both are fond of each other and Jabba is finding his real self again. It did however include the best single dart ever witnessed by the author. An unsighted bullseye to take out 92 and square the game at 7-7, truly sensational. In addition “Mile High” provided arguably the performance of the opening night with a 4-0 demolition of Antonio Alcinas live on Sky’s main stage, averaging 104 during the coverage!
James Hubbard & Sean Griffiths
Despite neither of our young guns taking the place by storm it is clear that high qualifications and good stage experience against some of the very best will benefit both these players enormously. Sean’s win over Moreno Michels to qualify for the later stages was a great result in an important game, he should take great positives from that rather than dwell on a very hard defeat to Wes Newton. James meanwhile did well to take 6 legs off Qtr finalist Terry Jenkins who is in great touch at the moment. Both will return to Bolton in the future better players.
Jamie Lewis, Alex Roy, John Henderson & Adam Smith Neale.
All three players had won good games to get through this far, with Hendo defeating Joey Palfreyman in a deciding leg, Adam pipping local rival Rob Hawker 4-3 and Jamie scoring a more comfortable 4-1 win over mark Stephenson. All three were also undone by players in fine form who went on to better things. Hendo bowing out to Ozzy, Adam to Dean Stewart and Jamie to Peter Hudson.
So great few days for all the Red Dragon men, 12 players aged from 17 – 62, and different points of professional careers, in the last 96 and 8 of the last 64. Imagine if they had avoided each other more often. Surely confirmation of the Red Dragon way.
Best of all of course the 2012 UK Open Champion Robert Thornton.