Rob Cross stormed to his third Players Championship title of the year with a sensational 6-2 victory over world number three Peter Wright in Players Championship 19 at the Citywest Hotel, Dublin, on Friday afternoon.
‘Voltage’ was in magnificent form throughout the day; defeating four top-ten players and dropping just 14 legs across his six matches to clinch the title and secure the £10,000 winner’s prize.
However, he saved his best performance until last to defeat Wright 6-2 in a thrilling finale. ‘Snakebite’ averaged 110.72 but was rendered helpless against an inspired Cross, who reeled off six straight legs to stun the Scot; averaging 113.21, firing in five maximums and converting 67% of his attempts at double to triumph.
Wright drew first blood with a clinical 81 kill for an immediate break of throw, before doubling his lead via D19. However, Cross sank D2 to open his account, before landing back-to-back 12 darters by virtue of 81 and 88 finishes to seize the initiative.
The 27-year-old continued his charge in the sixth leg; posting another maximum and taking out 81 once more for a third successive 12-dart leg, leaving the UK Open champion shell-shocked.
The former Challenge Tour star then pinned D16 for a 13-darter to move to the cusp of victory, before wrapping up proceedings with another 13-darter, to complete one of the finest victories of his career to date.
Cross was at his brilliant best for much of the day and kicked off proceedings with a comprehensive 6-1 win against five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld. The legendary Dutchman was below-par but Cross was impressive; averaging 100.93 despite dispatching just 31% of his darts at double.
The 27-year-old then eased into round-four with convincing victories over David Pallett and Justin Pipe, before edging out eight-time major winner James Wade in a deciding-leg shootout to seal his place in the quarter-finals.
Vincent van der Voort awaited in the quarter-finals, after ‘The Dutch Destroyer’ defeated world number one Michael van Gerwen, followed by recent Auckland Darts Masters winner Kyle Anderson. Nevertheless, Cross had no such problems, whitewashing the former UK Open finalist 6-0 to breeze into the last four.
This set up a semi-final showdown against Champions League of Darts winner Mensur Suljovic, who earlier in the day posted a spectacular nine-dart finish in his last 16 clash against Ryan Searle.
However, the Austrian was swept aside by an imperious Cross in a spellbinding display. The Kent ace averaged 108.99, registered four maximums and boasted a checkout success rate of 75%, as Suljovic was hammered despite averaging 99.61 and converting his solitary attempt at double.
Cross stormed into a 5-0 lead with legs of 15, 12, 15, 14 and 15 darts respectively, before ‘The Gentle’ conjured up an inspired 161 checkout out of nowhere to avoid the indignity of a whitewash. However, this wasn’t the start of an inspired fightback, as Cross began the next leg with seven perfect darts, eventually closing it out in 11.
On the other side of the draw, Peter Wright’s progress to the final was less serene. The UK Open champion- who made PDC history last week by becoming only the fourth man to win 10 PDC titles in a calendar year, kicked off his campaign with consecutive 6-4 wins against Joe Murnan and Brendan Dolan respectively.
The top seed continued his trend of 6-4 victories, following up a win over talented left-hander Chris Quantock by beating Gerwyn Price- the man he defeated to win his UK Open title back in March, by the same 6-4 scoreline.
This set up a quarter-final clash against Andrew Gilding, who enjoyed a welcome return to form with wins over Jamie Lewis, Ryan Meikle, John Henderson and a brilliant 6-1 triumph over Adrian Lewis in round-two. However, ‘Snakebite’ proved an obstacle too far for ‘Goldfinger’, who succumbed 6-1 to the Scot.
Wright then faced surprise semi-finalist Antonio Alcinas, after the Spaniard reached his first PDC semi-final for six years- when he and Carlos Rodriguez took Spain to the semi-finals of the inaugural PDC World Cup of Darts. However, Wright quashed Alcinas’ hopes of winning a maiden Pro Tour title with a comfortable 6-3 triumph.
However, reflecting on his third Pro Tour title of the year, Cross told the PDC’s official media channel: “At the beginning of the year, all I aimed to do was make the top 64 in the world.
“Nobody could predict, not even me, the way this year has gone. I am now going from strength to strength and I know I can get better. If I keep doing that, then I know I can be in for a shout of winning anything,” he added.
Nevertheless, there were a number of high-profile first-round casualties in Dublin today. Five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld was thrashed 6-1 by eventual winner Rob Cross, whilst world number six Dave Chisnall was thumped by East Anglian ace Ryan Meikle.
Recent Players Championship winners Daryl Gurney and Joe Cullen were dumped out by Vincent Kamphuis and Kirk Shepherd respectively, whilst Ian White, Benito van de Pas, Mark Webster and Alan Norris were other recognised names to fall at the first hurdle.
Elsewhere, world champion Michael van Gerwen suffered a surprise third-round defeat against his compatriot Vincent van der Voort, having previously enjoyed a run of 12 consecutive victories over his close friend.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC