Taylor fends off Bennett challenge in historic Tower tussle

Jamie Shaw in Off The Oche 20 Mar 2019
Relief for Taylor as he averts a scalp (credit:Taylor Lanning)

Phil Taylor held off a fantastic fightback from 13-year-old Leighton Bennett to clinch a 10-7 victory in their historic challenge match at The Tower of London on Tuesday.

Sixteen-time World Champion Taylor, 58, was facing teenage sensation Bennett for the first time in a one-off show-down and needed to dig deep to spare his blushes.

The Stoke legend led 4-1 before BDO World Youth Champion Bennett reeled off four consecutive legs to take the lead.

Taylor, however, wrestled back the advantage and secured three of the last four legs to deny the youngster a remarkable scalp.

Taylor, who averaged 96.7 to Bennett's 93, admitted: "That's the first time I've ever sweated on a darts stage!"

"He just doesn't give in. Even when I left him 146, I was expecting him to turn around and roar but thank god he missed the double.

"My mother was massively into the Tudor times so for me to come down and play at the Tower of London, I honestly thought it was a wind-up.

"I thought someone was going to lock me in the Tower and have my head chopped off!

"It's a dream come true and out of all the venues I've played in, this is the most special."

Taylor, who retired from professional darts in January 2018, set his stall out in style with a maximum and a 121 checkout to take the opening leg.

He then finished 70 to double his lead before Bennett got off the mark with a 64 finish to halve the deficit.

Taylor then landed double 16 in successive legs to extend his lead to 4-1, but back came Bennett with a 101 checkout and a 124 outshot on the bullseye to close the gap.

The teenage prodigy, who is being mentored by his Nevada stablemate Rob Cross, picked out double 12 to draw level, and went on to hit double ten to lead for the first time.

A crucial 87 finish on the bull saw 'The Power' stop the rot before following up with a 122 checkout after the restart and a 60 finish to make it 7-5.

Bennett bounced back with a nerveless 105 checkout in leg 13 and double six to get back on level terms, but only for Taylor to pin double four for an 8-7 advantage.

Taylor then found double 16 to move to the brink of victory, and after Bennett had missed that same double for a 146 checkout in the next leg, 'The Power' cleaned up 106 to get over the line.

"I've absolutely loved it," said Bennett. "It's not every day you get to play Phil Taylor and here in the Tower of London, it's a dream come true.

"When I went 5-4 up, I thought, I've got a good chance now, but I was happy to get one leg, never mind seven!"

The 'Power at The Tower' evening was organised by SAP in association with Nevada Sports Management and was streamed exclusively live online.





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Taylor fends off Bennett challenge in historic Tower tussle

Phil Taylor held off a fantastic fightback from 13-year-old Leighton Bennett to clinch a 10-7 victory in their historic challenge match at The Tower of London on Tuesday.

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