Classy Clayton hails 'brilliant champion' Aspinall

Aspinall & Clayton (Taylor Lanning/PDC)

Jonny Clayton insisted he was a proud man after losing out to an inspired Nathan Aspinall in Sunday’s Betfred World Matchplay final at Blackpool’s Winter Gardens.

Aspinall delivered a darting masterclass to lift the coveted Phil Taylor Trophy for the first time in his career, producing a sensational mid-game burst on his way to a comprehensive 18-6 victory.

The pair were locked at five apiece following a high-quality start to proceedings, before Aspinall reeled off 11 straight legs to storm clear; landing five ton-plus checkouts to cap off a stunning display.

Clayton - who also converted 141 and 101 checkouts in the opening exchanges - was typically classy in defeat, and hailed Aspinall’s exploits on a memorable night at the Empress Ballroom.

“I came out of the blocks well but then Nathan just turned up,” reflected Clayton, who was the third Welshman to feature in a World Matchplay final.

“Fair play to Nathan, he outscored me, he out-finished me. He deserved to win that game, and all I can do is congratulate him.

“He’s a brilliant guy, he’s a brilliant dart player. I’m really pleased for him and his family. What a champion.”

Clayton performed admirably throughout the week in Blackpool, defeating Gabriel Clemens, Dimitri Van den Bergh, Ryan Searle and Luke Humphries to progress to Sunday’s showpiece.

The 48-year-old wasn’t at his best against Clemens, but he averaged 102 to dump out 2020 champion Van den Bergh, before landing six ton-plus finishes in his incredible quarter-final win over Searle.

Clayton then continued his fabulous finishing to win through an epic semi-final encounter against Humphries, where he converted 60% of his attempts at double to complete an 18-16 victory.

The Welshman’s exploits throughout the last seven days were even more remarkable given the turmoil he was experiencing away from the board, due to the ill health of his father.

Clayton admitted that his dad was providing the inspiration for his title challenge, and despite falling short against Aspinall, the two-time World Cup winner walked away from the Winter Gardens with his head held high.

“I’m a proud man - I gave it my all, I was just beaten by the better man,” added the 48-year-old, who had only won a solitary game at the Winter Gardens in four previous appearances.

“Hopefully it will be a brilliant platform and the start of things to come. From watching it on TV to being involved in the final is a massive plus.

“I’d like to thank my family and this phenomenal crowd. I will definitely be coming back. One day I will get back on this stage in a final, and hopefully that will be my night.”