Daryl Gurney continued his fairytale story at the Players Championship Finals, reeling off six consecutive legs to stun World-Champion Gary Anderson at the last 16 stage in Minehead.
Gurney, who caused one of the shocks of the opening round in dismantling Kim Huybrechts 6-2 on Friday, repeated the feat against the World Number 2, to claim a comprehensive 10-4 victory.
In truth, Anderson didn’t look comfortable from the outset. Gurney headed into the interval with a 3-2 advantage, but he had enjoyed complete domination on his throw; the Scot had failed to even threaten a break.
Anderson levelled up proceedings at 3-3, before Gurney took out 82 to reclaim the initiative. Nevertheless, Anderson produced the eighth consecutive hold of the contest; hitting 65 to restore parity once more.
However, Gurney upped the ante from this point onwards, winning six successive legs without reply to clinch an incredible 10-4 victory. The Flying Scotsman was poor on the doubles, whereas Gurney was clinical when presented with an opportunity.
“I thought it was rubbish. It was probably Gary’s worst game in over a year and I was just lucky to be on the end of it.”
The decisive blow was dealt in the twelfth leg, when Gurney cleaned up 70 to move 8-4 ahead. He then posted D16 to move to the cusp of victory, before breaking Anderson’s throw for the third time in succession to seal a quarter-final tie against Benito van de Pas.
Despite this, Gurney urged caution in his post-match interview, underplaying his performance quite significantly. He admitted: “I thought it was rubbish. It was probably Gary’s worst game in over a year and I was just lucky to be on the end of it.”
“I’m not going to go too mad over this. I’m going to put things right tomorrow against Benito and calm my head,” the Northern Irishman added.
Anderson was admittedly well-below par. He averaged a miserly 86 and his checkout percentage was a very poor 21%. Nevertheless, Gurney was solid if unspectacular, averaging 94 and capitalising on the opportunities handed to him. You can only beat the performance in front of you!
Michael van Gerwen’s quest for an 18th title in 2015 remains alive as he overcame close friend Vincent van der Voort 10-6 in the final match of the evening. van Gerwen came agonisingly close to hitting a 9-darter, but D12 denied him once more!
The ninth and decisive dart at double has been missed three times during this tournament, whilst van Gerwen has now missed D12 for a nine-darter on an extraordinary 10 occasions in 2015!
However, MvG started in sloppy fashion, missing three darts to claim the opening leg. van der Voort capitalised, taking out 74 for a break, before doubling his advantage moments later.
The ‘Dutch Destroyer’ had the chance to establish a 3-0 lead, but missed his chance and van Gerwen levelled up at 2-2 thanks to a clinical 94 finish. He then secured the lead for the first time in the fifth leg, converting D8 as his average rose to 97.
The next three legs were shared, as van der Voort held his nerve by taking out 68 to restore parity at 4-4. van Gerwen’s double percentage was an underwhelming 26%, but Vincent was profiting on Michael’s profligacy.
Nevertheless, the turning point in the contest came in the tenth leg, with van Gerwen leading 5-4. Van der Voort missed one dart at D20 and Michael established a two-leg cushion for the first time in the encounter.
Missed doubles again proved costly for Vincent after the break, as he squandered two clear chances at D20, but he made amends in the immediate aftermath, taking out 130 to reduce the arrears to 7-5.
In the thirteenth leg, van Gerwen posted back-to-back maximums to set up a potential 9-darter, but once again, D12 eluded him, to his immense frustration. Yet, MvG re-gathered himself, hitting D6 for a 10-darter, to reclaim his three-leg advantage.
To his credit, van der Voort continued to battle away, but his scoring power simply wasn’t sufficient to trouble the World Number 1, as MvG closed out a 10-6 victory with a 103 average.
The alarming factor for Michael’s rivals is that he didn’t even look close to his best for much of the contest. He has many more gears to go through, which he may need to produce against Dave Chisnall in tomorrow’s last-eight clash.
Elsewhere, Simon Whitlock secured his biggest TV win in 2015, as he beat Peter Wright 10-9 in an enthralling last-leg decider, to reach his first PDC major quarter-final in over 18 months.
Wright appeared in command for much of the contest, leading 4-1 and 8-5 at one stage, but the Australian rallied superbly to seal the comeback win. Wright missed 4 match darts, but Whitlock was overcome with emotion after hitting D9, crying through sheer joy and relief.
When Whitlock initially joined the PDC, his finishing was absolutely sensational. It was the catalyst for him reaching the 2010 World Championship final; but in recent months, he has lacked conviction in the latter stages of legs.
However, he was clinical against Snakebite, producing finishes of 82, 68, 96, 88 and 74, as he fought back from 5-2 to lead 9-8. ‘The Wizard’ threw for the match in the eighteenth leg, but Wright capitalised on Simon’s mediocre scoring leg, hitting a 14-darter to force a decider.
Wright had the advantage of throw, but Whitlock stole a march early on. Then, out of nowhere, the Scot posted a sublime 180 to leave 61 after 12 darts, with Whitlock sat on the maximum 170 checkout. Whitlock hit the two T20s, but his dart at the bull was wayward, landing in the 14 bed.
Despite this, Wright only had 1 dart at D20 and squandered the chance, leaving Whitlock in pole position to seal victory. Yet, unbelievably, the Aussie fluffed his lines, missing 3 clear darts.
Wright seemed destined to clinch it, but he himself missed three clear darts, at D20, allowing Simon another chance to progress to the last eight. This time, Whitlock made no mistake, hitting D9 to set up a tie with Adrian Lewis tomorrow afternoon.
Wright will be hurting; this is his second consecutive loss in a last-leg decider, after he was beaten 11-10 in last weekend’s World Series of Darts Final against MvG.
Irrespective of this, Snakebite is throwing superbly well. He averaged 102, albeit in defeat, and is well placed to challenge for the title at next month’s World Championships.
In the other match in the evening session, Ian White prevailed in another last-leg decider; beating Gerwyn Price 10-9 in a nail-biting tussle.
White, who beat Raymond van Barneveld 6-5 on Friday evening, was the better player for much of the contest, but was forced to win the last two legs to seal his quarter-final berth.
In the early stages, White was averaging an astonishing 18 points higher than Price, but the Welshman is tenacious, and remained in touching distance, trailing 3-2 at the first interval.
White was dominant in the scoring department, but Price was producing key shots in crucial junctures of the match. Trailing 8-7 with White sat on D20 to move to the cusp of victory, Gerwyn produced a tremendous 95 checkout to level proceedings at 8-8.
The ‘Diamond’ then spurned three darts at D20 for a 9-8 lead and Price pounced, taking out 74 to lead 9-8 and throw for the match. The Welshman appeared poised to clinch the win, but from nowhere, White produced a vital maximum, which changed the game completely.
Price was sat on 83 to win it, but he failed to even register a shot at double after some sloppy shooting. White needed to convert 81 to prolong the contest and did so, hitting D12 with his final dart.
The World Number 9 had the advantage of the throw in the decider, which ultimately paid dividends. White held his nerve, to progress through to the last eight, where he’ll face Mensur Suljovic. Ian has never reached the semi-final of a PDC major. What an opportunity to rectify that tomorrow.
Cash Converters Players Championship Finals
Saturday November 28
Evening Session (7pm-11pm)