Pipe’s pace blows Newton off course

There’s a fine line in sport between playing to your strengths and gamesmanship, and there were suggestions that Justin Pipe tiptoed along that tightrope during his win against Wes Newton.

The former cage fighter from Somerset has usurped the two Dennises, Priestley and Smith, as the slowest player in the game – of those who appear regularly on TV, anyway – and his pace unsettled Newton badly when they battled it out for a place in round three of the PDC World Championship.

Both men have enjoyed an excellent 2011 on the circuit, Newton pushing himself up into the elite band of players at the top of the sport and Pipe establishing himself as the hottest performer in the bread-and-butter ‘floor events’ that comprise a large part of the tour.

Newton, with his greater experience in TV events, was a hot favourite to reach the last 16 and looked well on course when he raced into a 2-0 lead.

But the man from the Lancashire fishing port of Fleetwood – who eschewed potential fishy nicknames such as ‘The Codfather’ in favour of ‘The Warrior’ – then lost the plot big time.

Nobody would ever nominate Newton as the most charismatic or demonstrative player on the oche, but Pipe’s impersonation of a tortoise on valium managed to bring out that side of him.

The No 7 seed became increasingly agitated at the amount of time his opponent was taking to throw his darts and began making gestures that indicated he was on the point of nodding off.

Words were then exchanged between the pair, which the Sky commentators hinted were less than friendly as they referred to a “tasty atmosphere” and “not being on each other’s Christmas card list”.

Newton was accused of “throwing his toys out of the pram” as he began to implode but, to be fair to him, he regrouped and after losing three consecutive sets to trail 3-2, he forced a decider.

By then, though, Pipe had gained the psychological edge and it was he who gained a landmark victory that will have boosted his confidence in front of the cameras.

Sky could not interview the players quickly enough afterwards, clearly expecting a war of words to ensue. But Newton refused to fan the flames and diplomatically insisted the only dialogue between the duo had been over whether a draught on stage was affecting the flight of the darts.

Pipe, it must be said, did nothing overtly wrong. There is no time limit in operation and it’s not his fault if his opponent loses concentration.
Equally, however, it is pushing the boundaries of sportsmanship if he then takes even longer over each throw in the knowledge that it’s proving detrimental to the other player’s performance.

I’m not saying that’s what he did, just that it can potentially become a grey area such as when the player waiting to throw stands too close to the man at the oche, clinks his darts together – accidentally or otherwise – or, dare I say it, passes wind.

Anyway, whatever his tactics, there is no doubt Justin Pipe is a player everyone will want to avoid as the 2012 PDC World Championship progresses.

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