Gary Anderson began the defence of his World Championship title with a comprehensive straight-sets victory over Andy Boulton at the Alexandra Palace on Thursday evening. The Scot was professional throughout and averaged just under 100 en route to victory.
Anderson made a stunning start, hitting 5 perfect darts to secure an 11-darter in the opening leg. He then repeated the feat in leg two; hitting consecutive 140’s and producing a clinical 81 finish in two darts. The third leg was a scrappier affair, but the Flying Scotsman hit D10 to move 1-0 ahead.
The second set was also a procession. The World Number 2 won the second set without reply, and Boulton was yet to have a shot at double.
The ‘X-Factor’ had his first shot at double in the opening leg of set three, as he wired the bull for a 124 checkout. Gary then returned and hit D10 with his final dart to continue the rout.However, Boulton was spared the indignity of a whitewash after Anderson missed D8 for a spectacular 136 checkout. Boulton returned and then finished 62 with great composure.
Nevertheless, Andy’s joy was short-lived, as Anderson regained the initiative by taking out 73. Yet, after the World Champion missed one match dart at D20, Boulton prolonged the contest by taking out 80.
However, the 44-year-old Scot held his nerve in the fifth and deciding leg of the set, taking out 62 for a 14-darter to seal his serene progression to round-two.
Elsewhere, 2014 World Championship Finalist Peter Wright eased through to the second round of the World Championships, beating former World-Youth Champion Keegan Brown 3-0.
Wright wasn’t at his best throughout the contest, although he was never seriously tested by Keegan, who didn’t do himself justice this evening.
Snakebite won six consecutive legs to cruise in to a 2-0 set advantage. The Scot was clinical in the latter stages of legs, but he only recorded four scores of 140 or better in the opening two sets.
Keegan secured his first leg of the encounter in the opening leg of set three, after capitalising on uncharacteristic profligacy from Wright. The World Number Four missed 6 darts at double, and Keegan finished 72 with aplomb.
Nevertheless, any hopes of a Brown fight back were mercilessly quashed by Wright. He took out a classy 116 to break back instantly, before hitting D16 to move one leg away from round two.
Wright missed two match darts on D8, and Brown hit D4 to force a deciding leg in the third set. Yet, this simply delayed the inevitable, as Wright took out 131 for a 12-darter; sealing a straight-sets win in sumptuous style.
Snakebite was solid if unspectacular, averaging 95.91 and hitting 39% on his doubles; but Brown, despite hitting five maximums, averaged 83.61, which is way below his capability.
In his post-match interview, Wright told Josh’s Dartistry that his performance was ‘terrible’. He admitted: “I was just plodding really. I need someone to push me, like Gary, Phil or Michael to produce the fire. I always play badly in the first-round.”
Meanwhile, Daryl Gurney continued his fine run of form as he defeated World Number 31 Jamie Lewis in an intriguing first-round tussle.
Gurney will now take on the reigning World Champion Gary Anderson in the last 32. They met in the last 16 of the Players Championship Finals last month, a contest Gurney won 10-4.
Gurney made a blistering start to his first round encounter, winning the first set without reply, with an average in excess of 109. However, Jamie Lewis responded well and scored with far more fluency after the first interval.
The Welshman established a 2-1 advantage in the second set, thanks to successive 14-darters on his throw. He then levelled up proceedings after Gurney missed four darts at double in the fourth leg of the set.
The third set was a nail-biting affair. Lewis broke for the second leg in succession to move ahead for the first time in the contest, although the Northern Irishman responded superbly. Gurney hit his third maximum and subsequently took out 76 to restore parity.
Gurney edged ahead once more after hitting D20, but Lewis forced a deciding leg in the third set by hitting the same target. The Welshman, ranked 31st in the world, was unable to take out 120, enabling Gurney to regain his one-set advantage courtesy of D11.
This appeared to deflate Jamie, and Daryl capitalised. He broke throw on D10 and moved to the cusp of victory with D16 for a 16-dart leg.
Lewis preserved his slender hopes by taking out 50 on D16, although Daryl hit 5 perfect darts at the start of leg four to cement his advantage. The Northern Irishman held his nerve, hitting D9 with his final dart to seal an excellent win.
It was an accomplished performance by the 29-year-old from Derry. He averaged just over 94, hitting 5 180’s and posting a respectable 37% on the doubles. Jamie recovered well from a disappointing first-set, but Daryl was simply more clinical in the decisive moments.
In the opening match of this year’s tournament, Andy Boulton survived four match darts from Per Laursen to secure victory on his World Championship debut and seal a first-round tie vs Anderson.
Boulton reeled off three consecutive legs in the final set to seal the win in a nerve-jangling preliminary tie.
The first set was a tentative affair. The first four legs were shared with both men holding throw comfortably, but the experienced Dane, competing in his eighth PDC World Championship, hit D20 for a 16-darter to clinch the opening set.
Boulton dominated the second set to force a third and deciding set. The only leg Laursen won in the second set came courtesy of the ‘X-Factor’ missing five darts at double.
However, the 49-year-old from Laasby responded superbly, hitting the game’s first maximum and producing a 15-darter to edge ahead. In the following leg, the Stoke star missed another five darts at double, allowing Laursen to nail D4 and move one leg away from victory.
The writing was seemingly on the wall for Boulton after he missed D20 for a spectacular 160 checkout, but he was handed a major reprieve as Per squandered four match darts. Andy then took out 83 on the bullseye to force a dramatic last-leg shoot out, and he duly completed the comeback by hitting D16 to seal victory.
Boulton’s scoring was impressive, as he posted 14 140’s, but his checkout ratio of 24% almost proved costly. Laursen struggled throughout, averaging just 79, but he will depart Ally Pally ruing his profligacy in that third set.
Tomorrow, World Number One Michael van Gerwen begins his pursuit of a second World title, whilst Kim Huybrechts and Mark Webster are also in action.
William Hill World Darts Championship
Thursday 17th December-7pm-11pm
Andy Boulton 2-1 Per Laursen (Prelim)
Jamie Lewis 1-3 Daryl Gurney
Peter Wright 3-0 Keegan Brown
Gary Anderson 3-0 Andy Boulton