Phil Taylor’s hopes of winning a fifth European Championship title are still alive as he survived a valiant fightback from Michael Smith in the last 16 of the European Championships in Hasselt.
Taylor was at his imperious best early on, as ‘The Power’ stormed into a 4-0 lead with an astonishing 122 average. Taylor could have gone 5-0 ahead, although ‘Bully-Boy’ got off the mark by taking out 70 to enter the interval with some momentum.
Smith moved two legs adrift of Taylor after the break, clinically taking out 82 in two darts, before the next two legs were shared. Taylor moved 6-3 in front, courtesy of D8, but Smith produced a vital 110 checkout, to reduce the arrears to 6-4.
Smith was battling superbly and after holding his nerve on D5, suddenly he had the opportunity to restore parity in the contest, which seemed an unlikely prospect after the opening four legs.
The St Helen’s ace posted a maximum and was in cruise control of the leg, but he missed four clear darts at double. This allowed Taylor to step in and deliver a ‘typical Taylor’ finish of 100, to regain his two-leg advantage.
This leg proved decisive, as the 16-Time World Champion held throw for an 8-5 lead, before delivering the final blow to Smith in the following leg with a phenomenal 161 checkout. Taylor didn’t relinquish his grip on the contest, and completed the win with a 97 checkout for a 12-darter.
The Power averaged 105 and was impressive; but he did show some signs of fragility at one stage when Michael Smith battled back. The former World-Youth Champion will be desperately disappointed with those missed doubles for 6-6, but he should take great pride from the battling qualities he showed, when many others would have faltered.
World Number 1 Michael van Gerwen coasted through to the quarter-finals as he eased past Cristo Reyes 10-3. The Spaniard was unable to replicate yesterday’s performance against Max Hopp, whilst van Gerwen was at his ruthless best, averaging 107 and hitting 50% on the doubles.
MvG led 6-1 at one stage, but Reyes produced a mini-fightback, winning two of the last three legs in the second session, courtesy of 96 and 88 finishes. Despite this, van Gerwen refused to allow Reyes back into the contest, winning the final three legs with consummate ease to maintain his hopes of defending his European Championship crown.
In the final match of the last 16 stage, Jelle Klaasen continued his fine form as he knocked out eight-time major winner James Wade, winning 8 out of the last 10 legs to clinch a famous 10-5 triumph.
The Dutchman had chances to break in the opening leg, but couldn’t capitalise. Despite this, he made amends by holding throw and then breaking Wade’s throw with a classy 114 checkout.
‘The Cobra’ failed to cement the break by losing his throw instantly, before subsequently missing three darts at D19 to break ‘The Machine’ in leg five.
However, Klaasen enjoyed a fantastic second session, winning four out of five legs to move 6-4 ahead. With Wade sat on 96 to restore parity, Jelle took out the very same shot in the crucial tenth leg.
The former Lakeside Champion maintained his form after the break, breaking Wade’s throw courtesy of D20, before delivering a killer blow in the twelth leg, taking out 118 with the left-hander poised on D10 to break back.
Wade reduced the deficit to 8-5 with a routine hold, but Klaasen was on fine form, taking out 114 to move one leg away from victory, before sealing a quarter-final spot with a majestic 158 finish.
The 31-year-old is playing sensational darts at the moment and will fancy his chances against Gary Anderson in the last eight tomorrow afternoon. Wade battled valiantly, but he beaten by an inspired opponent.
Earlier in the day, Adrian Lewis kept his quest for a second European Championship title alive, as he came through a hard-fought battle against the Force, Justin Pipe. Lewis boasted the higher average throughout, but Pipe was tenacious and continued to keep pace with the Two-Time World Champion.
However, with the scores level at 7-7, Lewis turned on the after-burners and raced to victory. He delivered a devastating 128 checkout to edge ahead, before breaking Pipe’s throw to move 9-7 up. This was the first time in the entire contest that either player had lead by two legs.
Lewis refused to relinquish this control and held throw to clinch a 10-7 victory, posting an impressive 101 average in the process.
Elsewhere, 2012 European Champion Simon Whitlock crashed out, narrowly losing out to World Champion Gary Anderson. Many believed that Anderson would win in relatively routine fashion, but in fairness to the Australian, he put up a very spirited fight.
Whitlock won the opening two legs, but Anderson delivered an instant riposte, winning three successive legs to lead at the break. However, ‘The Wizard’ was left frustrated, after missing three clear darts at D20 to steal the fifth leg.
The Flying Scotsman was impressive in both the scoring and finishing departments. He hit 6 180’s and posted four ton-plus finishes. With Whitlock poised on 120 to send this encounter into a last-leg decider, the World Champion showed his class; delivering a stunning 136 checkout to seal victory.
Dave Chisnall prevailed in an epic all-St-Helen’s clash against Stephen Bunting, to set up a quarter-final against Michael van Gerwen tomorrow. Chisnall hit ten 180’s and averaged 103.92 in beating the former BDO World Champion 10-6.
Bunting raced into an early 3-1 lead, but Chizzy responded superbly and reeled off three consecutive legs to edge 4-3 ahead. Chisnall then extended his advantage in the eighth leg, following up his fifth maximum with a clinical 117 finish.
This prompted an incredible sequence of breaks of throw. There were 7 consecutive breaks; Chisnall continued to edge two legs ahead, but Bunting showed tremendous character to bounce straight back.
The Bullet produced a breath-taking 142 checkout to reduce the arrears to 7-6 and this had the potential of being a decisive moment.
Any hopes of a Bunting fightback were quickly diminished by the two-time major finalist Chisnall, who threatened a 9-darter in the following leg, before eventually cleaning up the leg with a 12-darter.
Chisnall’s scoring was simply unrelenting and he secured the victory in the sixteenth leg, hitting his tenth maximum en route to a 14-darter. It was an enthralling battle, with 17 maximums and ton-topping averages. On this evidence, Chisnall could be a major contender this weekend, whilst Bunting will take tremendous encouragement from two excellent displays.
Peter Wright edged out home-favourite Kim Huybrechts in a classic encounter in the evening session’s opening contest. Snakebite, sporting a rather ‘unique’ beard in the spirit of Halloween, inflicted a nightmare start on Huybrechts, as he raced into a 2-0 lead.
However, Kim was unperturbed and battled back to win the next three legs to lead 3-2 at the first interval. This was an extremely high-quality contest. Both men were clinical on their doubles and dominant on throw. The next 11 legs went with throw, as Wright restored parity at 8-8, after Kim missed one dart to break.
The encounter essentially became a best-of-three match and Peter Wright demonstrated why he’s being touted as the next new PDC major winner. Huybrechts missed one dart at D20 for a 110 finish, allowing Snakebite to step in and deliver a nerveless 116 checkout.
The Belgian threatened an instant break-back, beginning the eighteenth leg with a 180, but after missing the bull for a 135 finish, Wright delivered another ton-plus checkout, taking out 101 for the match.
Huybrechts was visibly dejected in the immediate aftermath, as his hopes of claiming glory on home-soil was ended, but Wright will be delighted to gain revenge for his defeat against Kim in the European Grand Prix final just a fortnight ago.
In the opening match of Saturday’s double session, John Henderson progressed through to just his second PDC major quarter-final, as he thrashed an abject Rowby-John Rodriguez 10-2. Rowby-John endured a nightmare afternoon, averaging a meagre 73 in defeat.
Henderson only averaged 84, but he was clinical on his favourite D20 and he was never troubled by the 21-year-old Austrian. Rodriguez was impressive against Kist yesterday, but never looked comfortable against the Scot.
Nevertheless, to his immense credit, Rowby-John fronted up and gave a very honest account of his performance in an interview immediately afterwards. That level of maturity will hold him in great stead for the future.