Michael van Gerwen and Dave Chisnall played out a pulsating draw in the final match of the Premier League phase in Brighton, meaning van Gerwen has now finished top in the last three years of the Premier League. The 25-year old will now meet his compatriot Raymond van Barneveld in a repeat of last year’s final, which van Barneveld won 10-6.
The 5-time World Champion ended his league campaign in fine style, beating Stephen Bunting 7-4 with an 102 average. The other semi-final will be contested between Chisnall and World Champion Gary Anderson, who clinched top spot with a comprehensive 7-3 triumph over a slightly erratic Adrian Lewis.
In the opening match of the evening in Brighton, Phil Taylor responded to his disappointment of failing to qualify for the play-offs in the best possible fashion. Taylor demolished James Wade 7-1 with an 109 average, despite Wade winning the opening leg. Incredibly, this was Taylor’s 12th 100+ average in 16 matches, but it still wasn’t enough for the Power, who misses out on the play-offs for the first time in the competition’s 11-year history.
Taylor: “I feel awful for the people who have supported me this season and I’m gutted, but I am going to improve trust me.”
Taylor was at his merciless best and displayed little signs of the doubling frailties which had plagued his campaign thus far, boasting a stunning 70% checkout rate against the Machine. It was a real statement of intent from Taylor; he has been prematurely written off by some, but trust me, there is an awful lot still left in Taylor’s tank. Wade didn’t play poorly, averaging 100.3 himself, but his scoring wasn’t consistent enough to trouble the 16-time World Champion.
Taylor admitted after his victory: “I feel awful for the people who have supported me this season and I’m gutted, but I am going to improve trust me.” However, he was bullish about his hopes for 2015. “I went up to Target yesterday and they’ve altered something on my darts and it’s working for me; everything’s positive really. I’m working harder than ever before and I will put it right.”
The biggest problem Taylor had to contend with was a nasty looking black-eye, which he admitted he sustained after being hit by his 6 year-old grandson Nathan, who has recently taken up Karate! Poor old Phil; it’s not been his year so far!
Raymond van Barneveld has the unenviable task of facing van Gerwen in next week’s semi-finals after finishing 4th in the table; however he heads to the O2 in fantastic form, having won 6 of his last 7 matches, whilst also boasting an 8-match unbeaten record since Judgement Night. He was very impressive in beating Bunting, who arguably produced his best performance since Judgement Night, albeit in defeat.
Both players began rather slowly, until Barney hit a majestic 174 to set up the opening leg; as the contest progressed, they found their fluency and produced some great darts. Van Barneveld’s finishing was the decisive factor; a brilliant 74 finish on the bull helped establish a 3-1 lead for the Dutchman; from that moment onwards he never relented. He hit a silky smooth 121 finish (Bull, T13, D16) for 4-1 and his prolific 140 hitting was particularly impressive.
van Barneveld: “”I’m so excited to be back in London next week; it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it; I can’t wait!”
Bunting finished up in 8th spot on 11 points, but he acquitted himself well in his debut campaign. He didn’t produce what we know he’s capable of, but this experience will be invaluable and presuming he is selected next year, he will be far more prepared and settled. As Dave Chisnall has exemplified, big-stage experience against the world’s best, week-in-week-out, is imperative to a player’s development.
Van Barneveld appeared unperturbed about whom he’d face in the semis and confessed he was relishing the prospect of defending his title next week. “I’m so excited to be back in London next week, it gives me goosebumps just thinking about it; I can’t wait!” The 48-year old from Den Haag will have to be at his very best to defeat van Gerwen, who has averaged 117, 113, 104 and 113 over the last four weeks, but Raymond’s revival has been absolutely phenomenal and he’ll be confident of beating anyone at present. Van Gerwen and van Barneveld are both good friends and share great mutual respect, but Dutch bragging rights will be up for grabs in the capital next Thursday!
Gary Anderson spoke candidly about wanting to face MvG in the semi-finals, although his wish wasn’t granted, after Anderson secured 3rd spot by beating Adrian Lewis 7-3. This looked like a potential banana skin for the Scot; particularly as Lewis romped into a 2-0 lead, posting a 77 finish, followed by 80 with 2 D20s! However, Jackpot’s showboating appeared to galvanise Anderson, who reeled off six successive legs to stun the Stokie.
The turning point came in the fifth leg, with Lewis poised to take a 3-2 lead. The World Champion nailed a fantastic 105 finish, also culminating with 2 D20s and Lewis never really recovered. He was resigned to his fate and began to throw rather nonchalantly as Anderson neared victory.
Anderson has now won 9 of his last 10 competitive meetings against Lewis and he will be desperate to add the Premier League crown to his World Championship title. If he’s to enjoy success at the O2, he’ll have to overcome Dave Chisnall, who has beaten Ando 7-2 and 7-3 in their previous league meetings this season.
Rather fittingly, the final match of the league phase was arguably the match of the tournament thus far. Chisnall was agonisingly close to securing victory and top spot in the process, but a brilliant 108 finish from MvG preserved his spot at the summit of the table. The scoring from both players was astonishing; three of the opening four legs were won in 12 darts or less, with Chisnall winning leg two in 13 darts. Mediocre eh!
The next four legs all went against throw, as Chisnall edged ahead before being promptly pegged back. The highlight came in the tenth leg, with MvG posting a sumptuous 10-darter for 4-4. With MvG sat on 41 for a 6-5 lead after missing the bull for a rip-roaring 170 checkout, Chisnall stunned the World Number 1 with a scintillating 161 checkout, putting him on the verge of top spot.
Unfortunately for the St Helen’s star, he began the final leg sluggishly and despite a late 180, van Gerwen held his nerve to sink 108 for a share of the spoils. It was a phenomenal contest played in a terrific spirit; van Gerwen averaging 113, compared to Chisnall’s 106. Could that have been a dress-rehearsal for next week’s final?
It’s a brilliant line-up and I can make an extremely strong case for all four semi-finalists to be victorious at the O2. The line-up consists of the World Number 1, the current World Champion, the reigning Premier League Champion and arguably the best player in this year’s competition. It still feels slightly surreal that Phil Taylor failed to qualify; despite boasting a tournament average of 103. This simply underlines the quality and strength in depth throughout the PDC at present.
Will van Gerwen continue his darting dominance and win the Premier League for a second time? Will Anderson add this title to his growing collection? Will van Barneveld complete the most impressive revival in Premier League history and defend his title? Or will Chizzy round off a stunning campaign and win his first ever PDC major? It’s going to be an amazing night; you’d be a fool to miss it!