What a night of Darts in Cardiff! Where to start? Battling Bunting, Magnificent Michael, Whitewashed Wade, Bullseye Barney, Courageous Chisnall, Tenacious Taylor, Lethal Lewis and Amazing Anderson! It was a hugely significant night for several players in the race for top 4, with so many twists and turns throughout the night.
The Bullet Fires in Cardiff
The proceedings got underway with a match between Stephen Bunting and Gary Anderson. With Anderson facing van Gerwen later in the evening, this was a potentially defining night in the Scot’s Premier League season, but it began in disastrous fashion. Both players missed a host of doubles in the opening leg, but Bunting closed it out and appeared to grow in confidence from this point onwards.
Some excellent finishing, including a 104 checkout, gave Bunting a comprehensive 5-0 advantage. The World Champion managed to get a leg on the board, but was unable to sustain any fluency or rhythm, allowing Bunting to close out an emphatic 7-1 victory. Neither player performed brilliantly; Bunting averaged a modest 90.53, although Anderson recorded a miserly 82.98 average, with just 14% on the doubles, putting his play-off hopes in potential jeopardy. First leg aside, it was a great performance from Bunting, who is now off the bottom of the Premier League table.
Record-Breaking MvG Whitewashes Wade
James Wade and Michael van Gerwen faced off in the second match of the evening, with MvG smarting from defeat against van Barneveld last week. What we witnessed was approximately 11 minutes of brutal and exceptional scoring from van Gerwen. Wade was not at his best, but even if he was, the outcome wouldn’t have been very different.
MvG was averaging 122 as he stormed into a 4-0 lead. His scoring power deteriorated slightly in the last few legs, but with Wade poised to pounce, the Dutchman hit fantastic finishes of 154, followed by a 130, to record a whitewash 7-0 victory over the Machine; only the fifth whitewash in Premier League history. Van Gerwen’s final average was a remarkable 116.93; his highest EVER televised average. That’s the way to respond after a disappointing result!
Brilliant Barney Battles Back From The Brink
Raymond van Barneveld was aiming to continue his excellent run of form as he faced Dave Chisnall in the third match of the night. Chisnall knew a victory would mathematically seal his play-off spot and he began in purposeful fashion, breaking throw in the opening leg with a 14-darter, before holding throw for 2-0. Chizzy narrowly missed 161 on the bull for a 3-0 lead, but van Barneveld showed great composure, pinning a classy 96 finish with two darts. Chisnall continued to look dominant on throw, but finishes of 90 and 76 for the Dutchman reduced the arrears to 4-3.
The Dutchman punished a mediocre leg on throw from the St Helen’s ace to restore parity in the contest, but three missed darts at D13 allowed Chisnall to restore his advantage and break straight back. Raymond’s back was firmly against the wall, but he produced scintillating darts in adversity. With Chizzy sat on D18 to secure a point, van Barneveld hit a sensational 132 checkout, culminating with the bull, to break once again and bring the score back to 5-5.
He then produced a fantastic scoring leg, cleaning up 85 for a brilliant 11-darter and a guaranteed point. The pressure was all on Chisnall at this stage, but he seemed certain of a point, leaving 81 after just 9 darts. However, a methodical 180 from van Barneveld left him on 90, forcing Chisnall to squander two darts at D12 for a share of the spoils. The legendary Dutchman, who had finished superbly throughout the contest, then took out 90, hitting the bullseye to condemn Chisnall to another unfortunate defeat and sparking jubilant celebrations from the reigning Premier League Champion.
He wasn’t at his vintage best, but his finishing was incredible; he hit finishes of 76, 85, 90 x2, 96 and 132; three of those combinations culminating with the bullseye. Just weeks after looking like a certainty to be eliminated, he is now firmly in contention for a play-off spot after picking up 7pts from games against Anderson, Taylor, van Gerwen and Chisnall. This is testament to his quality and character, but he has a decisive double-header against Anderson and Lewis next Thursday, which may ultimately determine his fate.
Stokies Share The Spoils
Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis are also both contending for a coveted play-off spot and they contested a high-quality match in Cardiff. The game began in rather tentative fashion, with both men failing to capitalise on break opportunities, but the game sparked to life after Lewis hit a stunning 147 checkout for 3-3. A pivotal moment in the contest came when Taylor missed D20 for a 107 finish for a 5-4 lead, with Lewis looming on 72. Adrian’s first dart was poor, but he recovered fantastically, hitting T14 before converting D11 for a precious break. Jackpot then held comfortably and appeared on the verge of a mammoth victory over his former mentor.
However, Taylor held his throw routinely to take the game into a deciding leg, where Lewis’s scoring ultimately faltered. Taylor placed himself on D20 and with Jackpot failing to take out 148; The Power converted to grab a valuable point. It didn’t appear to be vintage Taylor, but he averaged 105, which is an illustration of his quality. Both players will still be confident of securing a play-off spot.
Enigmatic Anderson Stuns MvG
The evening culminated in a contest between the World No 1 MvG and the current World Champion Gary Anderson. There was an astonishing 34 points between the pair based on their averages in the first games, so surely there could only be one winner? Step forward the darting enigma that is Gary Anderson. The Flying Scotsman lived up to his nickname, producing some outstanding darts when it mattered most.
He came close to a 9-darter, but failed to hit an eighth perfect dart. However, after four legs, his average exceeded the 120 mark, with van Gerwen having to produce fantastic darts to stay in touch. When Anderson hit the bull for a break and a 5-3 lead, he appeared on the verge of victory, but his scoring power evaporated for a few legs, which MvG ruthlessly punished to bring the scores level at 5-5.
Fantastic scoring from the Dutchman left him on D16 for a huge break opportunity, but Anderson demonstrated why he’s the current World Champion, taking out 130 majestically with the bullseye, to claim a valuable point. The encounter appeared destined for a draw, which would certainly have been fair on reflection. However, MvG attempted to showboat, deciding to go for the bull on 170, with Anderson adrift on 220. Nevertheless, a timely maximum from the Scot left him on D20 and van Gerwen squandered two darts at D8 for a point. The Scot pulled his darts at D20 and D10, but held his nerve brilliantly, hitting D5 for a fantastic victory over his rival, his first since beating him at the World Championships.
This moves Anderson even closer to a guaranteed spot at the O2 Arena; he just needs one more victory from his remaining three fixtures to cement qualification. Van Gerwen will be extremely frustrated with another defeat, but his performances throughout the night were majestic and he’ll be looking to inflict a real blow to Phil Taylor’s qualification hopes when he faces him in Birmingham next week.