Raymond van Barneveld made a phenomenal start to his 2016 Premier League campaign, with a thumping 7-2 victory over his old rival Phil Taylor at the First Direct Arena. Elsewhere, James Wade produced a stunning comeback to shock world number one Michael van Gerwen on Thursday evening in Leeds.
Van Barneveld stole the show however, averaging 103.60 and hitting a remarkable 7/9 on the doubles in his victory over Taylor. In addition, he almost became the first player in Premier League history to boast a 100% checkout ratio in victory.
Yet, the most pleasing aspect for van Barneveld was his overall performance, coupled with an emphatic victory, which condemned the 16-time world champion to a humbling opening night defeat.
Taylor made a strong start to the contest by holding throw on D8, but Barney responded superbly, levelling up proceedings with a commanding 13-dart hold, before the five-time world champion broke Taylor’s throw by hitting his favourite D18 for a spectacular 10-dart leg.
Van Barneveld kicked off the fourth leg with his second maximum and again posted D18 to establish a two-leg advantage, before converting a 61 checkout for a 14-darter to break throw in the fifth leg.
Taylor, who performed superbly in last weekend’s Unibet Masters, was notably struggling to establish himself in the contest and van Barneveld won his fifth straight leg to move 5-1 ahead, again courtesy of pinning D18 to complete a 66 kill.
Raymond was threatening yet another break of throw, leaving 62 after just 12 darts by virtue of a fantastic 139, but ‘The Power’ stopped the rot with a fine 113 finish. Nevertheless, the Den Haag ace was unperturbed and clinically converted a 64 checkout on D16 to clinch at least a point.
Van Barneveld was yet to miss a dart at double, although this unprecedented streak ended in the ninth leg, as he missed two darts at D16 for a 62 finish which would have sealed victory.
However, Barney wasn’t punished as Taylor spurned two darts at D20 which would have reduced the arrears to 6-3. The Dutchman profited on Taylor’s profligacy, hitting D16 to complete a majestic 7-2 victory over his old adversary. Van Barneveld is now unbeaten in his last 6 Premier League meetings against Taylor, and he’ll be delighted with his display.
Elsewhere, James Wade won seven out of the last eight legs to cause a huge opening night upset against Michael van Gerwen. The ‘Green Machine’ stormed into a 3-0 lead, before missed doubles proved pivotal, allowing Wade to complete a fine 7-4 win.
Van Gerwen dominated the opening leg and despite missing a multitude of doubles, he opened his account on D1. It went from the ridiculous to the sublime in leg two, as MvG broke Wade’s throw with an incredible 167 checkout, before establishing a 3-0 lead through visits of 180 and 177.
Van Gerwen, who won the Premier League title in his debut 2013 season, missed one dart at D20 for a 4-0 lead, which would eventually prove decisive. Wade hit his trusted D10 for an important hold, before breaking back with a fabulous 13-darter on D12.
Van Gerwen missed chances to reclaim his two-leg cushion in the sixth leg, and he was ruthlessly punished by the eight-time major winner. Wade converted a stunning 116 checkout to hold moments later, and suddenly we were level.
Michael was visibly shaken by Wade’s remarkable revival and ‘The Machine’ won his fourth straight leg on D10, having hit his fourth maximum in the preceding visit. Van Gerwen was displaying uncharacteristic frailties on the doubles, missing a further two darts at D10 for an 80 checkout; enabling Wade to post D20 for a 5-3 advantage.
Van Gerwen eventually halted Wade’s charge by producing an assured 70 checkout to reduce the arrears to 5-4. Despite this, the left-hander maintained his composure superbly and secured a point with a classy 121 finish culminating on D14.
Wade had made an unconvincing start to this tie, but he was firing on all cylinders at this stage. He produced a timely fifth maximum to pressure MvG’s throw, before securing the victory with a magnificent 81 checkout on the bullseye for a 12-darter. Wade’s average of 97 may not appear earth-shattering, but his timing throughout the match was exemplary.
World Grand-Prix champion Robert Thornton endured a miserable start on his Premier League return, suffering a 7-0 whitewash against Dave Chisnall. Thornton, who relinquished an 8-0 advantage against Chizzy in last weekend’s Unibet Masters, averaged a paltry 75.68 and only had a solitary dart at double in the entire match.
Chisnall, who finished second in last year’s league phase, was extremely solid throughout, averaging 101.16 and boasting an impressive 63% checkout ratio; although he was never seriously tested by the misfiring Scot.
Finally, Michael Smith endured a tough baptism of fire on his Premier League debut, losing both of his games to Peter Wright and Adrian Lewis respectively. ‘Bully-Boy’ was forced to play twice on Thursday evening, after his mentor Gary Anderson was too unwell to compete in Leeds, and Smith won just three legs over the course of his two matches.
He faced Wright in the opening match of the 2016 Premier League campaign, and ‘Snakebite’ was extremely professional, averaging 99 en route to a 7-2 victory. In the final match of the evening, Adrian Lewis kicked off his season with a comprehensive 7-1 rout against Smith.
Lewis, who was runner-up to Gary Anderson in last month’s World Championship, hit three maximums and averaged over 100 against the former World Youth Champion. The pair made a sluggish start, but Lewis grew into the contest, and secured the valuable two points by virtue of successive 84 finishes.
Smith averaged just 86 and 81 respectively in his two matches, which is nowhere near his capability. The Premier League is an extremely unforgiving entity, and the St Helen’s star will be hoping to bounce back next week against Robert Thornton, who is also under considerable pressure following his 7-0 drubbing at the hands of Chisnall.
2016 Betway Premier League
Night One, First Direct Arena, Leeds
Peter Wright 7-2 Michael Smith
Michael van Gerwen 4-7 James Wade
Phil Taylor 2-7 Raymond van Barneveld
Robert Thornton 0-7 Dave Chisnall
Adrian Lewis 7-1 Michael Smith