Joe Cullen produced the performance of his career as he defied EIGHT 180s and a 111 average from Raymond van Barneveld to progress through to the quarter-finals of the European Darts Grand Prix in Sindelfingen.
The 5-Time World Champion hit eight maximums in as many legs, but Cullen was in inspired form, claiming a 6-2 victory with a 110 average himself.
Van Barneveld hit back-to-back maximums in the opening leg to move 1-0 ahead, but Cullen then reeled off 5 legs in succession with some stunning finishing. The ‘Rockstar’ took out 91, 125 and 100 en route to a 5-1 lead, but van Barneveld’s 7th maximum set up D14 as he earned his second leg of the contest.
Both men began the ninth leg with 180’s, before Barney left himself on 81 after 9 darts. The 48-year-old Dutchman wired the bull, allowing Cullen to return and post D2 for one of the best victories of his career.
Cullen had thrashed Dave Chisnall 6-2 yesterday evening, averaging 104 and missing just one dart at double throughout the entire contest, so he’s enjoying a remarkable run of form in Germany.
Cullen will face Mensur Suljovic in the quarter-finals, who survived two match darts from Mervyn King to progress through in a nail-biting last-leg decider. King was in the ascendancy for the majority of the encounter, but finishes of 141 and 137 brought Suljovic level at 4-4.
King then crucially broke with a stunning 141 finish of his own, before missing two match darts on D16 in the following leg. This proved decisive, as Suljovic levelled up at 5-5, before enjoying a dominant 11th leg on throw; setting up D18 with a majestic 174 to secure the win with a 13-darter.
Suljovic memorably defeated Michael van Gerwen in a remarkable contest last night, defying a 111 average from the World Number 1 to claim a 6-4 victory. The Austrian averaged 109 against MvG and has enjoyed a phenomenal 2015, as he closes in on a place in the World’s top 20.
Suljovic and Cullen have both defied incredible averages to reach the quarter-finals, so it could be an epic battle this evening.
Elsewhere, James Wade came back from 5-4 down to beat Simon Whitlock and progress through to the last eight. Wade’s doubling was uncharacteristically flaky and the Australian capitalised, but in the crucial moments, he was found wanting. His scoring power deserted him in the final leg, as he hit just 1 treble in 15 darts, enabling the Machine to complete the comeback.
World Grand-Prix Champion Robert Thornton couldn’t replicate last weekend’s heroics as he was dumped out in the last 16 by a rejuvenated Jelle Klaasen. Neither player was at their best, but missed doubles proved critical for the Scot, allowing the former Lakeside Champion to seal the win.
Michael Smith’s hunt for a third European Tour title of 2015 continues, as he eased past an under-par Gerwyn Price 6-3. Smith hit three 180s and averaged a respectable 93, although his D20 hitting was somewhat disappointing; ‘Bully-Boy’ hit D20 just twice from ten attempts; he must improve that ratio in the quarters, where he’ll face an in-form Kim Huybrechts.
The Belgian came through an epic last-leg decider against the veteran Steve Beaton in Sindelfingen. Huybrechts stormed into a 4-1 lead, where he was averaging 119, but his scoring power diminished slightly, allowing the Bronzed Adonis to restore parity at 4-4.
Both men held throw to take the contest into an eleventh and deciding leg, but Beaton couldn’t produce the big scores required, and Kim converted D16 for the victory, finishing with an average of 105.
Peter Wright won the all-Premier League clash in the last 16, easing past Stephen Bunting 6-2. It was the perfect epitome of the notion: “Trebles for show, doubles for dough.” Bunting scored prolifically throughout, finishing with an impressive average of 103, but he mustered just two doubles from twelve attempts and Snakebite was at his clinical best.
World Number 8 Ian White will face Wright in a tongue-twisting quarter-final clash, after the Diamond overcame birthday-boy Lee Evans, winning five consecutive legs to triumph 6-3. Evans was in inspired form in the early exchanges, hitting back-to-back 11 dart legs for a 3-1 lead.
However, White’s consistency proved decisive. He levelled up at 3-3 with a magnificent 10-darter and maintained the initiative from this point onwards. Nevertheless, it was a tremendous European Tour debut from Evans, who showed his quality throughout the event.
In my opinion, this was one of the best ever sessions of darts in PDC history. The vast majority of the matches were very closely fought contests, and the standard was terrific. The van Barneveld v Cullen match undoubtedly stole the show however.
There were 13 180s in eight breath-taking legs of darts between the pair; the pace of the game made it a delight to watch. The fact that you can average 111, hit eight 180s and still be beaten by a comprehensive scoreline is simply indicative of the remarkable standard in World Darts at present. Darts has gone mad!
2015 European Darts Grand Prix
Sunday October 18
James Wade 6-5 Simon Whitlock
Robert Thornton 4-6 Jelle Klaasen
Kim Huybrechts 6-5 Steve Beaton
Michael Smith 6-3 Gerwyn Price
Peter Wright 6-2 Stephen Bunting
Ian White 6-3 Lee Evans
Raymond van Barneveld 2-6 Joe Cullen
Mensur Suljovic 6-5 Mervyn King
Evening Session (7pm-11pm local time, 6pm-10pm local time)
James Wade v Jelle Klaasen
Kim Huybrechts v Michael Smith
Peter Wright v Ian White
Joe Cullen v Mensur Suljovic