Phil Taylor’s hopes of winning his first ranking TV major in 2015 were halted prematurely, as he suffered an agonising 6-5 loss against Gary Anderson, in the first-round of the Players Championship finals in Minehead.
Anderson and Taylor, who are ranked 2nd and 3rd in the World respectively, were pitted against each-other due to their Pro Tour rankings. The Scot was seeded 12th, whilst Taylor was 21st, due to his sporadic participation on the floor in 2015.
The first three legs went with throw, before Taylor came agonisingly close to hitting a 9-darter in the fourth leg. ‘The Power’ posted successive maximums, hit a seventh T20, followed by a T19, but his ninth and decisive dart was pulled way below the D12.
After missing 6 darts for a 3-2 lead, Anderson eventually regained the initiative, only after Taylor had missed two darts at D8 for a break. However, the 16-Time World Champion levelled up at 3-3, before nailing a spectacular 148 checkout to edge ahead for the first time in the contest.
Nevertheless, the reason for his major drought in 2015 was perhaps exemplified in the following leg. The 55-year-old was in cruise control of the leg, but squandered three clear darts at 32, allowing Anderson a reprieve, which he gladly capitalised on.
The next two legs were shared, forcing a dramatic last-leg decider, but Anderson’s advantage of the throw proved critical. He closed out a clinical 14-darter with Taylor not even in the vicinity, to progress through and set-up a last 16 clash against Daryl Gurney tomorrow.
Elsewhere, Michael van Gerwen survived a potential banana-skin as he edged past Keegan Brown 6-4. Keegan led 3-2 and had one dart at D18 for a 5-4 lead, however the World Number 1 scraped through, to set up a second-round clash with his good friend Vincent van der Voort.
However, Raymond van Barneveld will not be joining them, as he was beaten in a tense last-leg decider against World Number 9 Ian White.
Barney trailed 2-1 before producing an inspired 141 checkout to restore parity, which he followed up with consecutive 180’s to set up a potential 9-dart chance.
The elusive 9-darter didn’t come, but van Barneveld missed 5 darts to take the lead, allowing White to take out 68 to move 3-2 ahead at the interval.
Both men have been playing extremely well recently, although both were lacking in conviction this evening. van Barneveld hit D3 to force a last-leg decider after White had bust 68, although the Stokie had the advantage of the throw.
van Barneveld appeared to have the initiative after three solid tons, but a crucial 140 from White kept him in it, before Raymond suffered a cruel bounce-out, his fourth of the match, at a pivotal stage. White eventually sealed the win, taking out 68 via D2 to set up a meeting with Gerwyn Price tomorrow night.
Adrian Lewis recovered from 3-2 down to beat John Henderson earlier in the evening. Lewis led 2-0, but ‘Big John’ fired back, hitting D20 with consummate ease to level up at 2-2, before he edged ahead with a stunning 137 checkout to break Jackpot.
Nevertheless, the interval came at the wrong time for the amiable Scotsman. Henderson lost his range completely in the second session, enabling Lewis to reel off four consecutive legs to safely seal his passage through to the second-round.
World Series of Darts finalist Peter Wright continued his good form with a comfortable 6-2 victory against Steve Beaton. Wright’s scoring wasn’t particularly impressive, but he capitalised on profligacy from Beaton to establish a commanding 5-0 lead.
Yet, to his credit, Beaton refused to surrender and gained some respectability in terms of the scoreline, taking out a terrific 132 to open his account, before doubling his tally via D6.
Beaton appeared in control of the eighth leg, but missed doubles proved costly, as Wright confirmed the win by hitting D20. Wright will face Simon Whitlock tomorrow, and given the Australian’s underwhelming form of late, Snakebite will be the emphatic favourite.
World Grand-Prix Champion Robert Thornton suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of talented Welshman, Jamie Lewis. Lewis hit five 180s in as many legs, to forge 3-2 ahead at the interval.
Thornton appeared to have regained the initiative as he led 5-4, but Lewis kept his hopes alive with a tremendous 96 checkout, culminating on D20 and D18. The young Welshman then punished a mediocre scoring leg from the Thorn to break throw and claim a notable scalp.
Elsewhere, both James Wade and Dave Chisnall ended their Players Championship Finals hoodoos, as they were comfortable victors against Mark Webster and Joe Murnan respectively.
Both Wade and Chisnall had lost in the opening round of this tournament for three successive years, but Wade cruised to a 6-3 win against fellow left-hander Webster.
Mark has enjoyed a remarkable renaissance over recent months, but he didn’t produce the standard we know he’s capable of this evening. Wade led 5-1 and although Webby produced a spirited fightback, ‘The Machine’ sealed victory with a clinical 102 finish.
Dave Chisnall began his campaign in comprehensive fashion, whitewashing Joe Murnan 6-0 in the opening match of the evening session. Chizzy was solid if unspectacular, but Murnan didn’t produce what he’s capable of.
Dave averaged 97 and was efficient on the doubles, but Murnan could only muster an 82 average. However, Joe has been lacking match-practice recently, as the Pro Tour season drew to a close some time ago.
Despite this, Chisnall will be encouraged by his performance, and his reward for beating Murnan is a last 16 clash against Robert Thornton’s conqueror, Jamie Lewis, tomorrow afternoon.
Evening Session (7pm-11pm)
Dave Chisnall (8) 6-0 Joe Murnan (25)
James Wade (4) 6-3 Mark Webster (29)
Adrian Lewis (6) 6-3 John Henderson (27)
Robert Thornton (9) 5-6 Jamie Lewis (24)
Michael van Gerwen (1) 6-4 Keegan Brown (32)
Gary Anderson (12) 6-5 Phil Taylor (21)
Ian White (7) 6-5 Raymond van Barneveld (26)
Peter Wright (3) 6-2 Steve Beaton (30)