Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld were the high profile survivors on Judgement Night, after Peter Wright and Kim Huybrechts were eliminated. Lewis defeated Wright 7-4 in an attritional contest; whilst van Barneveld secured the point he needed against World Champion Gary Anderson, to condemn Snakebite to the drop.
The first match of the evening that had repercussions for the elimination shake-up was contested between Stephen Bunting and Huybrechts. Bunting was essentially safe; he only needed two legs to mathematically secure survival, whereas Huybrechts needed to win to retain any hopes of beating the drop. Bunting looked particularly anxious in the opening stages, squandering chances at doubles to allow Huybrechts to establish an early 3-0 lead with a double break. However, the Bullet’s scoring began to improve and he reduced the arrears to 5-3.
The Belgian has been somewhat unfortunate in this Premier League; he has performed excellently but he has just lacked a cutting edge in decisive moments, and this was in evidence in the closing stages. Kim missed 3 clear darts at D18, for a 6-3 lead and a double break, and the game subsequently went to a deciding 12th leg. Bunting hit 6 perfect darts, but Huybrechts also scored well, and was rewarded as the Bullet missed 3 darts for a point. Nevertheless, frailties on the doubles again proved Huybrecht’s undoing, he missed just inside the D14 wire, before then missing D7. Bunting secured a point with his 6th dart, and Kim’s fate was confirmed. The deflation was etched over his face; he had thrown the match away. Irrespective of this, he has acquitted himself well in his debut Premier League campaign, and this will be a valuable learning curve.
Adrian Lewis vs Peter Wright was a huge match. Lewis needed to win to secure safety, whilst Wright knew a point would be sufficient. Wright looked the more assured in the opening stages of the match, but some stunning finishing from Jackpot kept him ahead; with Snakebite threatening an early break, Lewis hit a brilliant 100 finish, sealed with 2 D20s. With both players realising the potential consequences of defeat, their scoring became rather erratic; but it was the two-time World Champion who held his nerve, hitting a superb 88 finish on D7 to move 5-3 up, before hitting D20 for 6-3.
Lewis had an excellent 10th leg, to set up D20 for a seemingly routine 7-3 victory, but out of nowhere, Wright hit an astonishing 170 C/O to stun Jackpot and prolong the contest. However, the 30-year-old wasn’t fazed, and after Wright narrowly missed one dart at D16 to take the match into a deciding leg, Lewis pinned D20 to secure victory and survival. It was a professional performance from Adrian; his scoring wasn’t at his electrifying best, but after his double woes against Chisnall last week, he claimed he had spent 6hrs a day practising his finishing. It certainly paid dividends, as he hit the D20 with unerring regularity. This result left Wright anxiously awaiting the outcome of Anderson vs van Barneveld and hoping that his compatriot would do him a favour.
You could barely have hoped to write a better script. Judgement Night came down to the final match, between World Champion Gary Anderson, and reigning Premier League Champion, Raymond van Barneveld; what a match we witnessed! There were 12 180’s, 18 140’s and some phenomenal finishes, but Barney defied a 109 average from the World Champion to gain a point. Barney had a chance to win the match 7-5, but missed D9, allowing the Flying Scotsman a share of the spoils. However,this should not overshadow what was a brilliant performance from van Barneveld. Anderson was at the top of his game, and hit brilliant 85 and 81 finishes for 12-dart legs with RvB poised to break; but the Dutchman remained composed and was dominant on throw.
After Ando uncharacteristically missed three darts for a 4-3 lead, Barney took out a stunning 122 checkout (T18, T18, D7) to break, before pinning D9 for 5-3. Anderson refused to relent, continuing with his barrage of power scoring so van Barneveld was always under pressure. However,he took out 91 with consummate ease for 6-4, which ensured his survival. Both men threatened 9 dart legs in the latter stages of the contest; Anderson hitting 6 perfect darts, van Barneveld 5, but eventually the match finished all-square, which I must say, was a fair result.
Van Barneveld deserves immense credit for pulling off the great escape; he has amassed 3pts from the World’s Top 3; Taylor, van Gerwen and Anderson. All were playing at the top of their game; Taylor averaged 115.80, van Gerwen 108.71, and Anderson 108.80, but the 47-year-old from Den Haag exemplified why he is 5-times World Champion, by performing superbly in adversity. He would have been a major loss to the Premier League, in regards to his profile, and undeniable quality. Wright will be bitterly disappointed that he couldn’t transfer his fine UK Open form to the Premier League stage, but with the lowest tournament average of 94, Snakebite’s elimination was arguably deserved.
“Van Barneveld deserves immense credit for pulling off the great escape; he has amassed 3pts from the World’s Top 3, Taylor, van Gerwen and Anderson. All were playing at the top of their game.”
Elsewhere on Judgement Night, the opening two matches were focused on the top-end of the table, as Michael van Gerwen faced James Wade, whilst Phil Taylor faced Dave Chisnall in a crucial top 4 battle. Van Gerwen maintained his incredible streak, beating Wade 7-4. MvG was not at his imperious best, averaging just a 100; meagre by his standards, but the way he is churning out victories with minimum fuss against the world’s elite is increasingly ominous. Wade’s lacklustre start cost him dearly; but a fantastic 132 finish sparked the Machine into life, but unfortunately for Wade, van Gerwen produced when it mattered to extend his lead at the top of the table.
Dave Chisnall cemented his place in the top 4 with an unlikely 7-4 win over Taylor. It was bizarre game; Chizzy trailed 3-0 and was averaging 75, but an unconventional 112 finish on the bull for Chizzy galvanised him and he followed this up with a 96 two dart finish to break throw. Taylor looked particularly vulnerable on the doubles and Chizzy grew in confidence; he improved his scoring, but the Power had no answer. He hit just 4/19 doubles and recorded a 93 average. Chizzy finished on a respectable 96 average.
While Taylor was well-below par, I thought the pundits were rather dismissive of Chizzy. Although it was far from a vintage performance, this victory was testament to his resolve and belief; he was enduring a nightmare start, but wasn’t fazed and fought back superbly. If that had been van Gerwen, they would be self-combusting at the character shown. Although the St Helen’s star has ridden his luck, he sits in 2nd place, 4pts above James Wade and in with a fantastic chance of securing a coveted play-off spot.
So, whilst flirting once again with relegation, Adrian Lewis survives, whilst van Barneveld’s defence of his title is still intact. Van Barneveld, who sits in 8th spot, is just 3pts outside a play-off place, while Lewis’s win over Wright leaves him just 2pts off 4th placed Wade. The other competitors will be looking over their shoulders now; both Adrian and Raymond are more than capable of stringing runs together and launching a play-off assault. Lewis is becoming more accustomed to his new-set up and looks in bullish mood, whilst van Barneveld has now averaged over 100+ for three successive weeks and seems in good spirits.
It’s set to be an intriguing 6 weeks in the lead up to finals night at the O2 Arena. The fixtures for the remaining weeks are set to be released on Monday, so stay tuned for that announcement! Who will make it to London? Lewis and van Barneveld will be rank outsiders, but with their quality and experience of winning major titles, you would be foolish to write them off.