Defending World Cup champions England survived a major scare as they scraped past the excellent Spanish pairing of Cristo Reyes and Antonio Alcinas in a thrilling last-leg decider in Frankfurt on Friday evening.
Taylor and Lewis, who are bidding for a fourth World Cup crown this weekend, were pushed all the way by Reyes and Alcinas, who finished with an average of 95.68, the highest recorded in round-one of this year’s event.
The Spaniards broke throw in 13 darts in the opening leg, but Taylor led England’s recovery, hitting D16 to draw level, before taking out 128 on the bullseye to seize the initiative. Reyes drew Spain level by pinning D16, before Taylor converted a 49 finish with his last-dart to edge the number one seeds ahead once more.
Spain knocked England out of the inaugural staging of the World Cup in 2010 and a repeat performance appeared distinctly possible as Reyes converted 68 on D20 to restore parity at 3-3. The Spanish duo stole the darts in the seventh leg, but the turning point came when Cristo narrowly missed D20 for a 114 checkout and a vital break of throw.
Lewis registered his first double of the tie via D10 but Spain remained unperturbed, as Alcinas nervelessly took out D20 with his last-dart to force a last-leg decider. England had the darts and left D20 after 12 darts, with Spain in close contention on 78. Nevertheless, Lewis sealed England’s progression by pinning D20 with his third and final dart.
Taylor and Lewis will meet China’s Yuanjun Liu & Wenge Xie in round-two, after the Chinese duo secured their first ever World Cup victory against the Czech Republic’s pairing of Michal Kocik & Pavel Drtil.
China started strongly and breezed into a 3-0 advantage, but Czech Republic responded impressively and drew level at three-apiece with finishes of 78, 40 and 86. However, China stopped the rot, as Xie posted D10 after Liu missed D20 for a 157, before Liu converted a 100 finish on D20, to complete victory and spark jubilant scenes of celebration.
Gerwyn Price enjoyed a fine World Cup debut, as he and Mark Webster eased past Finland’s Kim Viljanen & Marko Kantele. ‘The Iceman’, winner of two Players Championship events in the last month, continued his fine form in Frankfurt, sealing Wales’ progression with a majestic 150 checkout, culminating on D15.
The fifth seeds will face Canada in Saturday’s second-round, after three-time world champion John Part and Ken MacNeil defeated tournament debutants Greece, represented by John Michael and Ioannis Selachoglou.
The Canadians stormed into a 3-0 lead, but Michael got Greece back in it with a majestic 160 finish. Selachoglou pinned D18 as Greece reduced the arrears to 3-2, but Canada averted a potential comeback, winning the final two legs to seal a routine victory.
Fourth seeds Northern Ireland eased past Japan to set up an enticing round-two meeting against arch rivals Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland, represented by Brendan Dolan and World Cup debutant Daryl Gurney, averaged 85.80 en route to a 5-2 victory, with Dolan sealing victory with an eye-catching 95 finish culminating on the bull.
The Republic of Ireland’s progression was less serene, as they were taken a last-leg decider by 2015 quarter-finalists Hong Kong. Scott MacKenzie produced a sublime 135 checkout on the bull as Hong Kong established a 3-2 cushion, before Mick McGowan eventually sealed Ireland’s progression with a magnificent 94 outshot in the deciding leg.
Elsewhere, Singapore sprung a surprise as they thrashed South Africa duo Devon Petersen and Graham Filby 5-1. Singapore, represented by Harith Lim and his veteran namesake Paul Lim, took advantage of South Africa’s profligate finishing to ease into round-two, as the South Africans hit just 1 of their 16 attempts at double.
Finally, eighth seeds Austria secured the first whitewash victory of this year’s competition against Italy’s Daniele Petri & Michel Furlani. Mensur Suljovic and Rowby-John Rodriguez were in clinical mood, with Rowby-John converting a classy 124 checkout on D11 in the fourth leg. Austria’s reward is a last 16 tie against Singapore on Saturday afternoon.
Betway World Cup of Darts
Friday June 3 (8pm local time)
First Round x8
Czech Republic 3-5 China
Greece 2-5 Canada
Republic of Ireland 5-4 Hong Kong
South Africa 1-5 Singapore
Northern Ireland 5-2 Japan
Wales 5-1 Finland
England 5-4 Spain
Austria 5-0 Italy
Saturday June 4
Afternoon Session (2pm local time)
Second Round x4
Belgium v Hungary
Northern Ireland v Republic of Ireland
Wales v Canada
Austria v Singapore
Evening Session (8pm local time)
Second Round x4
Scotland v Norway
Australia v Denmark
England v China
Netherlands v Philippines