Reigning Premier League Champion Raymond van Barneveld kept alive hopes of retaining his coveted title, as he prevailed in the all-Dutch clash against Michael van Gerwen in Aberdeen. Van Barneveld was clinical and punished missed doubles from van Gerwen, to inflict the 25-year-old’s first defeat of his Premier League campaign.
The game began in rather sluggish fashion, with both men struggling to produce their usual heavy-scoring, but Barney held comfortably in 16 darts, before breaking MvG’s throw after the World Number 1 squandered five chances at doubles. However, the momentum shifted quite dramatically in the next few legs, as van Gerwen broke the throw with a clinical 87 finish in 12 darts, before holding throw in emphatic fashion to make it 2-2.
Against a player of MvG’s ability, it is absolutely imperative that you take your chances whenever they’re presented to you. This is exactly what RvB did throughout the contest; his ruthlessness was demonstrated as he regained the lead with a silky smooth 92 checkout on his favourite D18. Both men were beginning to establish themselves on the contest; MvG taking out a classy 121 for a 12-darter, before van Barneveld returned the favour, producing a fantastic 11-darter for a 4-3 advantage.
The defining moment of the contest came in the eighth leg. Both men had enjoyed a profitable scoring leg, but van Gerwen failed to convert three chances at D20, giving van Barneveld a chance to finish the same checkout. The 47-year-old from Den Haag made no mistake; hitting D10 with his second dart, to give him a crucial break.
Van Barneveld’s confidence soared from this point onwards, as he demonstrated just why he’s five-times World Champion. He took out a vital 78 finish for a guaranteed point, pegging D20 with his final dart, with MvG lurking close behind. Barney then closed out victory in the tenth leg with some phenomenal scoring, hitting a 140 followed by a 180, to leave himself on 58 after 9 darts. He duly converted the opportunity, for an 11-darter and a brilliant 7-3 victory.
It was a massive victory for van Barneveld, whose average was just shy of 100. He started off rather tentatively, but grew into the game; hitting three 180’s and boasting an impressive 58% checkout rate. Van Gerwen threw well, averaging a very respectable 99.3, but his missed doubles proved costly; the Green Machine converted 3 doubles from just 14 attempts. Van Gerwen had received unwanted attention about his private life in the national newspapers prior to Thursday’s clash, but this shouldn’t detract from RvB’s magnificent win.
“It has been a remarkable turnaround and it’s testament to Barney’s quality and belief. He relishes the big challenges and performs when the pressure intensifies; which underlines why he has been so successful and enjoyed such longevity at the top level.”
Just two weeks ago, van Barneveld was on the verge of elimination. He had to secure at least a draw from his match against Gary Anderson to secure survival, and he did so, despite the World Champion averaging 109. The legendary Dutchman’s last five matches have been against Taylor, van Gerwen, Anderson, Taylor and van Gerwen. It doesn’t get any tougher, yet Raymond has secured 7 points from a possible 10, to put himself firmly in the play-off picture.
It has been a remarkable turnaround and it’s testament to Barney’s quality and belief. He relishes the big challenges and performs when the pressure intensifies; which underlines why he has been so successful and enjoyed such longevity at the top level. He still faces a tough ask to qualify, but he is certainly in with a fighting chance and has his two toughest opponents (Taylor, van Gerwen) out of the way. It would arguably be the greatest fightback in Premier League history if he was to qualify; one thing’s for certain, Betway’s odds of 66/1 for Barney to retain his crown is now looking like an increasingly good bet.
Taylor Finds His Power
Elsewhere in the Granite City, Phil Taylor recovered from a ‘rocky’ few weeks to revive his play-off hopes, picking up 3pts from a possible 4 in his double-header. He faced in-form Dave Chisnall in the opening match of the night and performed superbly. Chisnall came from 3-0 to stun Taylor 7-4 in Manchester a fortnight ago, but The Power gained revenge with a proficient display.
Chizzy did little wrong, averaging 102.96, but he endured a horrific third-leg on throw and was punished and Taylor was always dominant on his own throw. The St Helen’s ace posted brilliant 128 and 140 finishes and played well, but his consistency was lacking on occasion. However, he won’t be perturbed and his play-off place is virtually unassailable.
Taylor should have enjoyed a perfect night in the Scottish Isles, but could only claim a point against Stephen Bunting, despite missing EIGHT match darts! Taylor missed a flurry of darts at D16 in the opening leg, but the Bullet failed to convert three darts at D20 allowing Taylor to break.
The 54-year-old established a commanding 5-2 lead and seemed certain to secure another victory, but Bunting broke back with a cool 70 finish, before restoring parity with a stunning 132 finish on the bull. The Premier League debutant missed one dart at D16 for a guaranteed point, allowing Taylor to clean up 64 for 6-5 and another break.
It seemed inevitable that the Power would then close out the contest, but fragility on the doubles proved costly. Taylor missed seven match darts, while Bunting was also extremely edgy, but he eventually closed out D1 for a share of the spoils. Both players saw the humorous side of the situation, but it may be no laughing matter for Taylor if he fails to qualify. He will be incredibly frustrated with his miserly 21% on the doubles, but his performances were a vast improvement on last week’s abject showing in a 7-2 mauling at the hands of van Barneveld.
Bunting suffered a disappointing 7-2 defeat to Adrian Lewis in his earlier match on Thursday night. He scored reasonably well and had several chances, but his finishing was extremely poor, as he hit just 2/12 on the doubles. He looked hesitant and vulnerable at the business-end of legs, which has been a frequent issue for the Bullet, but he deserves great credit for his fightback against Taylor, where his chances seemed extremely improbable at one stage. He has been cut adrift at the bottom of the table and qualification looks a very difficult ask, but he will certainly continue to battle on regardless.
Anderson delights home-crowd with rousing fightback
Arguably the match of the night was contested between James Wade and home-hero Gary Anderson. After Wade admitted he was struggling mentally with the hectic PDC schedule after his defeats in Sheffield last week, I was concerned that he would struggle to live with Anderson and the partisan Scottish crowd, but he was superb. Wadey was unflappable and punished Anderson for every mistake in the early stages. To play in such a hostile atmosphere against the World Champion is an uncompromising scenario, but the Machine was certainly up to the task.
Wade took out a phenomenal 170 checkout in the eighth leg, for a 6-2 lead and a guaranteed point. However, the Flying Scotsman launched an astonishing fightback to the delight of his Scottish fans. Anderson’s scoring is so destructive and when he goes through the gears he is virtually unplayable. This was in evidence as Anderson unleashed a blistering assault on the T20, before holding his nerve with brilliant 81 and 78 finishes to force a 6-6 draw.
Wade will inevitably have been disappointed, after holding a commanding advantage and having missed a 120 finish for the match, but he showed incredible character against Ando and is still in with a shout of reaching the play-offs. Wade averaged 101.7 and hit 54% on the doubles, therefore it was his best performance for weeks. This will give him fresh impetus having suffered three successive league defeats prior to his clash with the Scot.
So, what a dramatic night in Aberdeen! Taylor is back on track; Lewis continues his fine recent form, but the night belonged to Raymond van Barneveld, who inflicted van Gerwen’s first defeat on television since his 6-3 World Championship semi-final loss to Gary Anderson. The race for the top 4 is absolutely fascinating, with up to four players fighting desperately for one precious spot! Here’s what’s in store next week in Cardiff.
Week 12 fixtures;
Stephen Bunting v Gary Anderson
James Wade v Michael van Gerwen
Raymond van Barneveld v Dave Chisnall
Phil Taylor v Adrian Lewis
Gary Anderson v Michael van Gerwen