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On-song Chizzy topping the table
9:15am Thursday 26th September 2013 in Sport
ANDY HAMILTON edged out Michael van Gerwen 6-5 to win a dramatic Championship League Darts Group Two final on Wednesday evening.
The Stoke ace joined World Champion Phil Taylor in progressing to next month's big-money Winners Group in dramatic fashion as he claimed triumph on the second day of the internet-streamed, £200,000 tournament.
Hamilton had won his opening three matches in Tuesday's Group One before fading away to miss out on the Play-Offs, but won five of his seven round-robin games this time around to finish in second place behind Dave Chisnall on Leg Difference.
He then won his all-Stoke semi-final with Adrian Lewis 6-2, avenging a defeat by the same scoreline in their league meeting, as he won through to the decider, which proved to be a see-saw affair.
Hamilton took out 121, 98 and double six to win the game's opening three legs, and also missed two darts for the fourth as van Gerwen got off the mark on double six.
The Dutchman then won the next and traded 180s with Hamilton in leg six before pinning a 121 finish on double 14 to level.
Van Gerwen claimed a fourth successive leg on double four, after hitting another 180, as he moved 4-3 up, and after Hamilton levelled on double 16, he posted double ten for a 13-darter to move a leg away from victory.
Hamilton, though, finished the stronger and posted double four to force a decider in which he was first to a double before hitting the bullseye to take out 90 for the win.
"It's great to be through to the Winners Group," said Hamilton. "I probably learned a lesson from Group One.
"Yesterday I was happy with getting to six points because I've struggled here in years gone by, and today I was more focused.
"You can't give Michael a chance and he proved how good he is coming back at me, but I had to dig in and stay strong. I was hoping that I'd get another chance, and I did.
"The last leg showed what the game's all about; big finishes against big players. There have been some great players here for the past two days but two are through and I'm one of them."
Hamilton had reached the UK Open final in June before suffering a form dip over the past month, but he heads into a first round clash with Kim Huybrechts at next month's partypoker.com World Grand Prix full of confidence.
"I've come back into form again," he said. "Going to Australia was a great experience but I struggled getting used to the time difference; I think it took a toll on me with being diabetic and I think I've just got over it now and it's showing in my form.
"I can't wait for the World Grand Prix now. If I can take this form into the World Grand Prix then I'll be a force; I'm a great double-starter and hopefully I can be a great double-finisher, and you need both of them to win it.
"I need a major to fulfil my career, so I'll be trying to do that this year. I'll have two days' rest after this but then I'll be back on the practice board preparing for Dublin."
World number two van Gerwen had finished fourth on the final league table after ending the league phase with an outstanding 112 average in a win over Robert Thornton which sealed his semi-final spot.
He then averaged 105 in a 6-3 victory over Chisnall in a high-quality last four game, but fell just short in the decider.
Lewis, the Group One runner-up, will also have to return on Thursday for a third consecutive day, having won five of his league games only to lose out in his all-Stoke semi-final.
Chisnall will also compete in a third successive day, having topped the Group Two league table with five victories but been out-scored by van Gerwen in their last four contest.
Kevin Painter matched van Gerwen in winning four of his league games, but missed out on the Play-Offs on Leg Difference, while Wes Newton's three victories were enough for him to survive for a second successive day.
Robert Thornton and Justin Pipe, though, were eliminated as the Scot paid the price for three 6-5 losses on the day, while Taunton ace Pipe endured a nightmare with seven successive defeats.
Former Championship League Darts finalist Mervyn King, 2011 World Grand Prix runner-up Brendan Dolan and debutant Kim Huybrechts enter the event for Group Three.
They are joined by Group Two runner-up van Gerwen, Lewis, Chisnall, Painter and Newton as the first week of the tournament concludes at Crondon Park GC in Essex.
Championship League Darts is screened exclusively live online, with coverage through www.LIVEPDC.TV and a series of bookmakers' websites worldwide which are listed at www.pdc.tv.
Prize money is paid at £50 per leg won in the league phase as the eight players meet each other once, before prize money rises to £100 per leg in the Play-Offs.