What an unbelievable night of Darts at the O2 Arena in London, as Dave Chisnall, Gary Anderson, Michael van Gerwen & Raymond van Barneveld fought it out for the right to be named 2015 Premier League Champion.
It was the current World Champion Gary Anderson who added this title to his ever-growing collection, by beating Michael van Gerwen 11-7 in a thrilling climax. I was privileged to be in the arena to witness four of the best dartists in the world produce three pulsating matches. Whilst Anderson will deservedly take the plaudits for a fantastic victory; darts was the real winner last night.
The first semi-final was contested between Dave Chisnall and Gary Anderson. Chisnall had beaten the Scot 7-2 and 7-3 in their respective league meetings, although Anderson began the favourite, presumably due to his wealth of experience of handling the big occasion. However, it was Chisnall who began in more confident fashion; the first seven legs of the contest all went with throw, although Chizzy was scoring far more consistently.
Gary took out a brilliant 100 finish, culminating in two D20s to ensure the contest remained level, however Chisnall responded superbly, taking out 152 for a 4-3 lead. He then took advantage of a disappointing leg from the World Champion, to secure a precious break of throw and establish a 5-3 advantage. The St Helen’s ace was looking in firm command going into the commercial break and at 7-4, he appeared on the verge of reaching the final.
However, The Flying Scotsman fought back fantastically, narrowly missing the bull for a maximum 170 checkout and within minutes, the contest was level at 7-7. Chisnall stopped the rot in leg 15, finally regaining his lead despite squandering half a dozen darts at double, before Anderson held routinely. With the Scot poised to break throw in leg 17, The ‘Yellow Peril’ showed fantastic composure, taking out 68 after pinning his solitary dart at D16.
Anderson responded in identical fashion, clinically taking out 68 within two darts to force the opening semi-final into a dramatic deciding leg. The crowd acknowledged the gravity of the situation and roared both players on, which made a refreshing change from the incessant Yaya/Kolo chants that had began to rear their ugly head as the contest progressed.
Chisnall had the throw and appeared in firm control, leaving D16 after 12 darts. Anderson could not produce the heavy scoring we know he’s capable of; leaving 116 should Chisnall miss. Unfortunately for the 34-year old from St Helen’s, that’s exactly, what happened, as he squandered darts at D16, D8 and D4 for victory. There was a certain sense of inevitability as Anderson strode to the oche, as he subsequently took out 116 in stunning fashion to snatch victory from the clutches of defeat.
It was a phenomenal show of class and character from the Scot; a further indication of how his mental fortitude has evolved over the last 12/18 months. He has always possessed the ability, but he now has the belief to produce his best in critical moments. Whilst I held great admiration for Anderson’s resilient fightback, I was devastated for Dave. He has enjoyed an incredible PL campaign and he controlled the vast majority of their semi-final.
It’s extremely easy to claim that Chizzy ‘lost his nerve’, however nerves were inevitable in such an intensely pressurised environment. It was a timely reminder that these top professionals are indeed human; despite their stratospheric performances pointing to the contrary. I have no doubt that Dave will learn from this experience; he has matured as a player immensely over the last 18 months and I’m adamant that major glory is on the horizon for the World Number 9.
I thought it would take something extremely special to eclipse the opening encounter, due to the drama and high quality that unfolded, but the all-Dutch clash between World No. 1 Michael van Gerwen and reigning Premier League Champ Raymond van Barneveld, was an absolutely fantastic battle.
Van Barneveld was the outsider; however he overcame the odds to win last year’s event, where he beat van Gerwen 10-6 in the final. Considering he was 100/1 with Betway to retain his title just prior to Judgement Night, it was a fabulous achievement from the 48-year-old to simply qualify. After Judgement Night, Raymond secured 13pts from a possible 14 to reach the O2.
It was a high-quality affair in the early stages; van Barneveld had the advantage of throw and despite continued pressure from the Green Machine, the veteran Dutchman illustrated why he is regarded as one of the most composed figures in world darts. At 3-3, MvG fired in a 180 to create a break opportunity, but Barney took out 64 on D4 to lead 4-3. Although the 25-year-old was dominating the averages, this dominance didn’t relate to the scoreline.
Van Barneveld almost stunned the 2013 Premier League Champ, missing D19 for a terrific 158 checkout. MvG was clearly shaken by this near miss, celebrating his D18 for 4-4 in typically jubilant fashion. In the following leg; roles were reversed. Van Gerwen missed D16 for a 64 finish and a vital break, but Raymond punished this error, by clinching the leg with a 44 checkout.
The tenth leg was UNBELIEVABLE! The Five-Time World Champion hit successive 180’s to establish a clear lead and subsequently set up a possible 9-dart opportunity. The seventh dart was in the middle of the T20, the eighth dart found the T19 bed and as the crowd roared in anticipation, van Barneveld agonisingly wired D12 for a history-making nine-darter. Unfortunately, the elusive wait for a 9-darter in this year’s competition went on. We have now seen D12 missed on SIX separate occasions for the perfect-leg.
WATCH: van Barneveld’s brilliant nine-dart attempt! http://www1.skysports.com/darts/news/12288/9859459/raymond-van-barneveld-narrowly-misses-nine-darter-against-michael-van-gerwen
However, the drama wasn’t finished there. Van Gerwen missed the bull for an astonishing 161 checkout, which would have crushed his compatriot. Fortunately, van Barneveld returned to hit D12 for a 10-dart leg, which handed him a 6-4 lead going into the interval. He then moved one leg closer to victory in leg 11, nailing a fantastic 110 checkout for a pivotal hold, with MvG looming on D18. This stunning checkout has epitomised Raymond van Barneveld in the last two months. In adversity, with the pressure at its greatest; the Dutchman has continued to produce the goods.
Nevertheless, van Gerwen is an extremely unique talent. He is capable of reeling off a series of legs within an instant, through a combination of destructive scoring and clinical finishing. This was evidenced last night. Van Gerwen won five consecutive legs, in 12,11,15,11,15 darts, leaving RvB stunned. The reigning Champion wasn’t prepared to surrender the grasp of his title without a major fight; he managed to halt MvG’s momentum briefly with a 14-darter and comfortable hold, to reduce the arrears to 9-8.
Neither men scored at their prolific best in the 18th leg; van Barneveld left 142 after 12 darts and simply had to finish it, to preserve his title hopes. He was unable to do so and the league leader van Gerwen held his nerve on D4, to seal a memorable 10-8 victory.
It was a thrilling contest between two darting juggernauts; van Gerwen averaged 106. 4, hit 6 180’s and 50% on his doubles; in comparison van Barneveld averaged 100.4 and recorded 7 maximums; although he was understandably distraught in defeat, he defended his title valiantly. Both Chisnall and van Barneveld should have departed the O2 with their heads firmly held high.
The final was a tantalising prospect; as Anderson and van Gerwen renewed their intriguing rivalry. The Scotsman had made no secret of his desperation to face Michael, but the final began disastrously for the World Champion; he squandered three clear darts at D20 and Michael raced into an early 2-0 lead.
The next eight legs were quite remarkable. Van Gerwen is well renowned for being arguably the most explosive player in world darts; but he was completely overwhelmed by Anderson’s relentless power scoring. The Scot surged into the lead at 3-2 with a spectacular 11-dart leg, but van Gerwen responded in equally emphatic fashion, by nailing a delightful 121 checkout to restore parity. A 64 checkout restored Anderson’s slender 4-3 lead, but the eighth leg was critical in the eventual outcome. Van Gerwen, who finished so impressively against Barney, squandered SEVEN darts at a double. The World Champion was a considerable distance back, but a 180 and 56 checkout gave him an unlikely lead.
Van Gerwen never really recovered from this setback; MvG missed a further two darts in the tenth leg, and suddenly Anderson led 7-3 at the interval. The Scot was delighted, but the Dutchman’s frustration was abundantly clear. He stifled the Scot’s momentum immediately after the interval, taking out 72 in 2 darts for a 14-darter, before finishing 81, again on D12, to reduce Anderson’s lead further.
Nevertheless, missed doubles continued to plague the World Number 1 in leg 13. With van Gerwen poised to secure his third successive leg for 7-6, he missed three clear darts at D20. He was ruthlessly punished. He held his throw in commanding fashion in the following leg, but the potentially decisive blow was dealt in the 17th leg. Van Gerwen was sat on D20 for an invaluable break, but Anderson demonstrated why he’s the World Champion, finishing 96 in two darts to move one leg away from glory at 10-7.
In the following leg, Michael missed one dart at D20 for 10-8 and by some considerable margin; leaving Gary a shot at 64 to secure the Premier League title for the second time in his illustrious career. His clinical nature was a feature of the final and he succeeded where van Gerwen failed, hitting D20 with his final dart, to secure a wonderful 11-7 victory. Van Gerwen was devastated; missed doubles proved his downfall, but Anderson’s triumph epitomised why darts is so unpredictable and watchable. He was on the verge of exiting the tournament in the semi-finals, surviving three match darts. However, he certainly capitalised on his good fortune, to continue his incredible 2015.
The PDC were in unchartered territory in Premier League Darts terms; for the first time in the competition’s 11-year history, Phil Taylor failed to qualify for the play-offs. Despite the growing success of van Gerwen and Anderson, in the eyes of many, Taylor remains THE flag-bearer in Darts; however, it was refreshing to see a fresh face in Dave Chisnall vying for glory, along with the usual suspects of van Gerwen, Anderson and van Barneveld.
Last night conclusively demonstrated that the game of Darts is in very safe hands. All four semi-finalists performed superbly and are fantastic ambassadors for this wonderful sport; however, the World Champion is now the Premier League Champion! Not a bad résumé! Congratulations Gary Anderson!