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Thornton’s thrilling final win fitting end to a World Grand Prix full of shocks

Aptly described by darting pundits as a “tortoise and the hare” finale, Robert Thornton’s World Grand Prix coup was a fantastic advert for just what PDC darts competitions are all about.

The Thorn fought back fantastically to win 5-4 following a blistering start by world number one Michael van Gerwen, who initially came out all-guns-blazing to notch a terrific two 180s in the opening leg. Amazingly, Mighty Mike went on to clock-up an incredible 18 maximums, breaking a World Grand Prix record for most in a match, though it was not enough to retain the title.

Usually, the deadly Dutchman’s early decisive and dazzling finishing would be enough to knock greener peers off path, but experienced Thornton stood fiercely up to the challenge.

It was a classic case of a wily old darts master reminding a plucky pupil of his place, with Mighty Mike the epitome of a modern arrowsmith, and The Thorn a refreshing throwback to yesteryear.

The Ayrshire-born Scot has long been an also-ran on the Oche and, at the age of 48, his only two major title triumphs prior to usurping Van Gerwen from the World Grand Prix throne were a BDO World Masters in 2007 and a 2012 UK Open win.

“It’s one of my traits, I’ve got the heart of a lion. I never give in, I’ll keep fighting until the end,” said a visibly emotional Thornton in the aftermath of his Irish encounter.

He certainly did that, as a pattern eventually emerged in this enthralling contest. Van Gerwen several times would storm ahead, yet his composure and finishing uncharacteristically deserted him at the final hurdle in Dublin. As the Dutch prodigy missed doubles and the chance to clinch crucial legs, The Thorn was patiently waiting to pounce on his eager rival’s errors to take the lead.

Mighty Mike did eventually force a deciding leg, but Thornton’s fantastic composure shone through, and the Scotsman, magnificent as the night wore on, was able to match whatever MvG brought to the table, turning the crowd in the process.

“I’m just a little old bloke who used to play darts down the pub,” continued modest Thornton, who managed only half the number of Mighty Mike’s maximums, his less flash but consistent finishing the key, with a higher checkout percentage of 45.17 per cent to his opposite number’s 32.26.

The Thorn’s snatching of a crown from Van Gerwen may not have fit the Dutchman’s script, but it certainly felt natural in the Grand Prix narrative as a whole, as the competition clearly became a brilliant stage for the underdog.

None of the top six PDC seeds or big-names truly showed their worth, with Phil Taylor, Gary Anderson, Adrian Lewis, Dave Chisnall, James Wade, Stephen Bunting and Raymond van Barneveld all disappointing with shock early bows.

Though, perhaps that gives those darting superstars too much credit and their giant-killers too little applause for making the Dublin Oche so enchanting.

Outsiders such as Jelle Klaasen, Mensur Suljovic, Mark Webster plus youngsters Jamie Lewis and Keegan Brown, have shown they could have the quality to upset the established order again in future, a thrilling proposition for upcoming competitions. While older arrowmen such as Thornton and Ian White have also excitingly illustrated they have a lot left in the tank.

The PDC World Championship awaits at the end of the year, and Mighty Mike is 13/8 favourite with Coral to recover for victory there, but who would now count out an underdog to snatch triumph on that stage also? Punters can back Thornton at a tempting 40/1.

See what the Thorn had to say about his shock victory below: