Bad Blood in Belfast!

van Gerwen Lewis
van Gerwen and Lewis shared the spoils in Belfast.

Michael van Gerwen and Adrian Lewis were involved in a heated war of words following their 6-6 stalemate in Week 4 of the Premier League in Belfast. Van Gerwen, who trailed 5-2 and 6-4 at one stage, launched an attack on Lewis, claiming that he was deliberately trying to slow down proceedings.

The Dutchman also maintained that he was disappointed not to secure victory, claiming he was the better player throughout. Admittedly, the ‘Green Machine’ was far more explosive in the scoring department, but Lewis was clinical; taking out 70 in successive legs, as well as an 82 checkout to establish an early 4-2 lead.

Unfortunately for Jackpot, his scoring deteriorated in the latter stages of the contest and he was unable to close out victory. Despite this, van Gerwen’s obvious disappointment was rather surprising, given that he had salvaged a point from an improbable scenario, but perhaps this uncompromising attitude is why he has made such a successful start to 2015.

Van Gerwen said: “There was one better player in that game – me. I was far better. I’m a bit disappointed with a point; I shouldn’t have missed doubles for 3-2 and I need to play better in moments like that.”

“He was slowing me down, he was slowing himself down and I don’t know why. It made the game worse. He’s a fantastic player and he did things at the right moment, but I think I was the most focused player in this game,” van Gerwen added.

Lewis rebuffed the World Number one’s comments and cast doubts about whether his rival had the capability to adapt his pace to different scenarios.

The Stoke thrower claimed: “I can throw slow or fast, it makes no difference to me, whereas Michael obviously hasn’t got that calibre has he?”

Lewis admitted that he has adopted a more methodical approach when going for doubles, which has certainly paid dividends for him on the floor so far this year.

“What I’ve been trying to do is slow down my finishing. But obviously that affected my scoring tonight; I’ve got to try and find a balance, so I can still score fluently,” Lewis added.

You can see both men’s full-post match comments here: http://www1.skysports.com/watch/video/sports/9733648/mvg-frustrated-with-lewis-pace

I was certainly surprised by van Gerwen’s post-match comments. Both men obviously felt they had a point to prove, so in the immediate aftermath, emotions may have been running high. Although I do believe Lewis was throwing slightly more methodically, he was still throwing quicker than the average professional. Furthermore, he didn’t delay when retrieving his darts, so in my view, van Gerwen’s complaints were rather churlish.

Van Gerwen has encountered many players who throw at a more sedate pace; Justin Pipe, Andy Hamilton, Andy Smith and Phil Taylor to name a few. It comes with the territory; people have contrasting styles, which makes darts so watchable and enthralling. Perhaps because MvG was expecting a rip-roaring pace, he was caught unaware, but his comments were rather naïve. Van Gerwen’s rivals will now inevitably be keen to employ that strategy to frustrate him.

At the risk of quoting Rod Harrington, it’s important to have needle within the game, as long as a level of respect is maintained. Lewis and van Gerwen have always shared a rivalry, but I was under the impression that it was healthy and rather good-natured, but there was certainly an edge between the two in Belfast. I personally wonder whether Lewis’s pre-match comments irritated the Dutchman. Lewis acknowledged van Gerwen’s blistering start to the year, but claimed that Phil Taylor still held the edge over the 25-year-old.

When asked who the better player is when both men are performing at their best, Lewis said: “Without a shadow of a doubt, it’s Taylor. It’s leg on leg pressure. With van Gerwen, he’ll have a good couple of legs and then he’ll have some off legs, but with Phil every leg is consistently good.” Were Lewis’s comments the catalyst for the tension between the two?

However, casting the post-match drama to one side, it was a valuable point for van Gerwen, which maintains his place at the summit of the Premier League and preserves his unbeaten start. Lewis stays in 6th position, but after playing van Barneveld, Taylor and van Gerwen in the opening four weeks, Jackpot is well placed to launch a winning run and contend for a play-off spot.

Chizzy marches on

Elsewhere, Dave Chisnall continued his fine start to his 2015 campaign after recording a sensational 7-4 win over Kim Huybrechts. Both men recorded identical 107.1 averages which is extremely unusual, in a match that had virtually everything. Huybrechts missed D12 for a phenomenal 9 darter, whilst Chisnall threatened the magical nine on several occasions, hitting seven perfect darts in the second leg. Huybrechts’ performances in the opening three weeks had been underwhelming, but he could consider himself particularly unfortunate to lose to an inspired St Helen’s star last night.

Gary Anderson bounced back from defeat to Michael van Gerwen in Liverpool by beating James Wade 7-4. The reigning World Champion was shaky on the doubles in the early stages; his double percentage was just 10% at one stage, allowing Wade to establish a 3-1 advantage.

However, Anderson regained his composure and rectified the missed doubles; his superior scoring also paid dividends, enabling the Scot to reel off 6 of the last 7 legs to secure a valuable two points. Wade will be disappointed, he was clinical early on, but he seemingly lacks the consistent scoring power to overcome the top four players at present.

Barney gets off the mark

van Barneveld wins
van Barneveld will have been relieved to close out victory.

Raymond van Barneveld recorded the first win of his Premier League defence, heaping more misery on Stephen Bunting. The Bullet endured a torrid opening few legs, missing 12 darts at double within two legs, allowing van Barneveld to establish a commanding 4-0 advantage. Barney’s scoring was very consistent, but he was forced to survive a late scare.

Barney led Peter Wright 5-1 last week but could only claim a point, and as Bunting reduced the arrears to 5-4, the legendary Dutchman looked perturbed. However, he managed to hold his nerve, pegging D10 with his last dart to guarantee himself a point, before clinically finishing 96 in two darts to secure a 7-4 victory. Bunting can take encouragement from his late rally, nevertheless he must start producing the goods if he to avoid the threat of relegation.

Taylor left frustrated by Wright tenacity

In the final match of the evening, Peter Wright earned a share of the spoils against Phil Taylor; maintaining Wright’s unbeaten record against Taylor in the Premier League format (W1 D2). Taylor appeared slightly off-colour yet still averaged 103, which just emphasises his quality, however four missed doubles to go 5-3 up ultimately proved costly for the 16 times World Champion. Wright was tenacious and produced a solid 98 average to move outside of the relegation places for the first-time this season.

Week 3 in Liverpool was by all-accounts slightly underwhelming, but Belfast certainly delivered the goods. Brilliant scoring, clinical finishing, tight encounters, missed doubles and needle between Lewis and van Gerwen. The only element missing was a 9-darter, but Kim Huybrechts came agonisingly close to rectifying that. Well, actually, he didn’t, as his dart at D12 landed firmly in the single 9 bed, but it was an admirable attempt nonetheless!  The Premier League roadshow heads to Exeter next week, in what promises to be another enthralling night of action.

What were your thoughts about last night’s darts? Did van Gerwen have a justifiable point or was he simply being churlish? Which player impressed you the most, and who needs to drastically improve? Please leave your thoughts and comments below. Thanks for reading!

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