By Gareth James
Jonny Clayton claimed a first Players Championship title in over two years in Leicester on Sunday, defeating Josh Rock 8-5 in the final of Players Championship 12.
Welshman Clayton produced a trio of ton-plus averages en route to his second ProTour title of the year, providing himself the perfect tonic ahead of his bid for a second Cazoo Premier League crown on Thursday at The O2.
The five-time TV title winner defeated Dave Chisnall and Damon Heta in the quarter and semi-finals respectively, before seeing off the challenge of Rock to rack up a fifth Players Championship title of his career.
“Josh is a class act with a massive future so I’m going to enjoy any win against him, especially in a final,” said Clayton, who defeated Rock to win the Austrian Darts Open (ET5) final in April.
“I came here this weekend to get valuable match practice.
“I’m playing Gerwyn Price, arguably the best player in the world, on Thursday night (in the Cazoo Premier League play-offs) so I need the practice.
“I’ll admit I’m the laziest practicer at home, so I needed this and it keeps me sharp for next week.
“I’m playing okay again and I’ve got a smile on my face. Hopefully it gives me that confidence to pick up the trophy for a second time.”
Premier League table topper Price, Clayton’s Play-Off semi-final opponent, fell at the last 16 stage to Joe Cullen.
Clayton began the day in style, averaging 109.98 in a 6-0 whitewash of Karel Sedlacek, before coming through a last-leg decider with Jurjen van der Velde.
A 6-1 win over Kim Huybrechts was followed by a 107.40 average in a 6-4 victory over Pascal Rupprecht to reach the last eight at the Morningside Arena.
Having taken out top seed Chisnall, Clayton averaged 103.45 to edge out Heta 6-5 before defying a near-100 average from Rock in the final.
Rising star Rock took the scalps of Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson in the last 16 and last 32 respectively on his way to a second Players Championship title of the year, averaging 105.85 in a 6-5 win over Anderson.
Elsewhere, UK Open champion Andrew Gilding enjoyed a run to the semi-finals, while Croatia’s World Cup representative Boris Krcmar reached his first ranking quarter-final of the year.
The next Players Championship action will see Players Championships 13 and 14 take place in Hildesheim, Germany on June 12-13, with live coverage on PDCTV.