JONNY CLAYTON secured his maiden PDC European Tour title with an 8-5 defeat of Gerwyn Price in Sunday's Austrian Darts Open final in Graz.

The Welshman had picked up his first PDC tournament win in October 2017, and had to wait just six months to taste glory once more as he scooped the £25,000 title.

The tournament's first visit to the Steiermarkhalle in Graz had looked set to see a home victory as Austria's Mensur Suljovic soared into the semi-finals.

Clayton, though, denied the Champions League of Darts winner with a gutsy 7-6 triumph in their last four meeting, before overcoming Price in an all-Welsh final.

Legs of 13 and 14 darts from Price gave him an early 2-1 lead, only for Clayton to respond in kind as he regained the advantage.

The pair continued to trade the lead as Price moved 5-4 up, but a 120 checkout from Clayton in leg ten was followed by a key hold in the next as he punished his rival's two misses at tops to lead 6-5.

Clayton then fired in two 180s in an 11-darter to move to the brink of victory, and sealed the title in style by ending a 14-darter on double ten.

Jonny Clayton (Michael Braunschädel, PDC Europe)

Clayton - the runner-up in the 2017 Players Championship Finals - follows last weekend's German Darts Open winner Max Hopp in joining the PDC European Tour roll of honour, in a success which could be significant for his career.

He is now set to partner Price in the Betway World Cup of Darts, and is also in line to qualify for the BetVictor World Matchplay, Unibet World Grand Prix and Unibet European Championship.

"It's my first [European Tour] title and I'm chuffed to bits," said Clayton. "It's been a great weekend for me.

"It's been a brilliant crowd - I had to play against them all against Mensur but I got through it.

"It's nice to see Welsh darts back on stage. There are some brilliant players and we're all there to do a job."

With the £25,000 moving Clayton further ahead of Jamie Lewis in the race to partner Price in the World Cup, the Pontyberem ace added: "It's something I would really like to do so this is a big step towards that."

Jonny Clayton & Gerwyn Price (Michael Braunschädel, PDC Europe)

Price's run to the final continued his resurgence since his elimination from the Unibet Premier League recently, as he enjoyed his best-ever finish on the European Tour.

Overcame Wayne Jones in Sunday afternoon's third round before hitting six doubles from seven attempts in a superb 6-3 quarter-final defeat of World Champion Rob Cross.

Price then edged out Joe Cullen 7-6 in a tight semi-final, but was unable to complete his bid for a third ranking title.

"I'm thrilled for Jonny, it's brilliant for him," said Price. "Winning's always good but I just wanted to perform well.

"I think this weekend I performed well in patches, not all the way through, but I'll take a lot of positives out of this weekend. I'm looking forward to what the up and coming weeks are going to bring."

Cullen defeated former European Tour event winners Mervyn King and Michael Smith on Sunday as he won through to his first semi-final of the year.

Suljovic, meanwhile, was unable to give the 2,000-strong sell-out crowd in Graz their dream of a home winner, seeing off Cristo Reyes and Daryl Gurney in style before missing out to Clayton.

Premier League stars Smith, Cross and Gurney were joined in the last eight by White, who went down 6-4 to Clayton as the Welshman charged to his second ranking title.

The PDC European Tour continues from May 4-6 with the European Darts Grand Prix at the Glaspalast in Sindelfingen, Germany, with coverage to be broadcast at PDCTV-HD and through a series of bookmakers' websites worldwide.

Pictures courtesy Michael Braunschädel, PDC Europe

2018 Austrian Darts Open
Sunday April 22
Afternoon Session

Third Round
Michael Smith 6-2 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Joe Cullen 6-3 Mervyn King
Gerwyn Price 6-3 Wayne Jones
Rob Cross 6-5 Steve Beaton
Daryl Gurney 6-3 Darren Webster
Mensur Suljovic 6-3 Cristo Reyes
Ian White 6-3 Simon Whitlock
Jonny Clayton 6-3 James Wade 
Best of 11 legs

Evening Session
Joe Cullen 6-2 Michael Smith
Gerwyn Price 6-3 Rob Cross
Mensur Suljovic 6-1 Daryl Gurney
Jonny Clayton 6-4 Ian White
Best of 11 legs

Gerwyn Price 7-6 Joe Cullen
Jonny Clayton 7-6 Mensur Suljovic
Best of 13 legs

Jonny Clayton 8-5 Gerwyn Price
Best of 15 legs

Third Round Round-Up

Premier League high-flyer Michael Smith began the session with a comfortable 6-2 win over Dimitri Van den Bergh.

The Englishman averaged almost 100 on his way to the victory and will face Joe Cullen in the last eight.

Cullen's route to the quarter-finals was sealed with a 6-3 win over a Mervyn King.

In a scrappy encounter, Cullen's slightly better finishing proved to be the key as he got over the line with an 89 average.

Gerwyn Price will return to action on Sunday evening as he looks to recover some form after beating Wayne Jones 6-3.

The Welshman will come up against World Champion Rob Cross, who once again needed a deciding leg to advance in Austria.

Cross had survived match-darts earlier in the weekend against Steve West but this time the Champion of the World was able to seal the win without the danger of a dart to beat him.

Daryl Gurney recovered from 3-1 down to beat Darren Webster in the fifth game of the afternoon.

Despite averaging two points less than his opponent finishes of 121 and 105 helped the World Grand Prix champion to a 6-3 win.

The Northern Irishman will face home favourite Mensur Suljovic in the quarter-finals after the Austrian also came back from 3-1 to beat Cristo Reyes 6-3.

At 3-1 Suljovic took out 109 before checking out 106 in the very next leg to level. Further impressive finishes followed as the Champions League winner took his place in the last eight.

The final quarter-final clash of the evening will see Ian White take on Jonny Clayton as the pair wrapped up 6-3 wins over Simon Whitlock and James Wade respectively.

Wade had overcome top seed Peter Wright on Saturday, but was unable to stop a stunning Clayton charge as the Welshman came from 3-2 down to claim four straight legs, averaging 105 in an impressive display.

Quarter-Finals Round-Up
Joe Cullen reached his first semi-final for seven months with a 6-2 defeat of Michael Smith as the Bradford ace continues his challenge to win a maiden European Tour title.

Smith wiped out Cullen's early 2-0 lead with the aid of a 120 finish to level in leg four, but the Bradford ace finished 74 and 100 to regain his cushion and landed a 13-darter on his way to victory.

Cullen now plays Gerwyn Price in the semi-finals, after the Welsh ace continued his return to form since exiting the Unibet Premier League recently.

Price was a comprehensive 6-1 winner over World Champion Rob Cross in their quarter-final tie, finishing 6/7 doubles in a superb display as he averaged 101 in reaching his first European Tour semi-final for over a year.

Mensur Suljovic's bid to win the Austrian Darts Open on home soil continued with a sensational 104 average in his 6-1 defeat of World Grand Prix champion Daryl Gurney.

Suljovic opened with back-to-back 12-darters and led 3-0 before Gurney hit back with a 13-darter, but the home favourite proved too strong in storming to victory.

Jonny Clayton won through to his first European Tour semi-final by defeating Ian White 6-4 in a tight contest to round off the last eight.

There was little to separate the pair throughout a tight contest, with a 121 bull finish from Clayton in leg seven for a 12-darter being a highlight before he pulled clear from four-all for the win.

Semi-Finals Round-Up
Gerwyn Price won through to his first European Tour final, overcoming Joe Cullen 7-6 in a tight contest as the pair continued their challenges in Graz.

Price took out 121 and 130 on his way to an early 3-1 lead, and after Cullen levelled the Welshman also moved 5-3 and 6-4 ahead.

Cullen took leg 11 and punished four missed match darts to force a deciding leg, but Price was first to a finish and recovered from a further three misses to finally secure the win.

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