Peter Wright survived two match darts to edge past Stephen Bunting in a nail-biting first-round tussle in Dublin, as Steve West dumped out two-time Grand Prix winner James Wade on another dramatic evening of darts at the Citywest Hotel on Monday evening.
Wright was installed as the bookmakers favourite for this event after Gary Anderson’s withdrawal and Michael van Gerwen’s shock first-round exit, but the Scot enjoyed a huge slice of fortune to edge past Stephen Bunting in the final match of a dramatic first-round.
Snakebite was averaging over 100 for the opening two sets, but the final set was extremely nervy. However, the UK Open champion held his nerve to prevail; averaging 95.90, posting four maximums and converting 59% of his finishing doubles to defeat a resurgent Bunting- who can be encouraged by his performance.
Bunting enjoyed a fine start; posting an early maximum and converting a clinical 64 kill for an immediate break. He then doubled his lead with a classy 76 finish, before Wright landed his first maximum and found D6 to open his account. Yet ‘The Bullet’ fired back, following up his second 180 with a vital 78 outshot after Wright spurned one dart at D16.
Nevertheless, the world number three bounced back superbly to level up proceedings; averaging 109 in a high-quality second set which he clinched without reply. Yet Bunting regained the ascendancy early in set three, exploiting three missed darts at double from ‘Snakebite’ to break throw on D8.
The St Helen’s star then landed his third maximum and pegged D4 with his last dart in hand to move to the cusp of victory, but Wright recorded a convincing hold on D16 to preserve his hopes.
Bunting enjoyed the dream start to the fourth leg, as Wright missed five darts to kick off proceedings. The pair traded maximums, but ‘The Bullet’ spurned two match darts at D16 and was subsequently punished. ‘Snakebite’ found D16 to force a deciding-leg shootout before maintaining his composure to complete a fine comeback victory on tops.
Steve West sprung a surprise at the Citywest Hotel for the second year in succession after producing a fine display to dump out two-time Grand Prix winner James Wade in straight sets. ‘The Machine’ fell out of the world’s top 10 for the first time in a decade last month, but his struggles showed little signs of subsiding in Dublin.
Wade kicked off proceedings with a strong 15-dart hold, but West completely outscored the eight-time major winner, reeling off three legs on the spin to move 1-0 ahead, converting a clinical 101 kill to claim the set.
‘The Machine’ began the second set with a 13-darter, but once again West bounced back. The Waltham Abbey man dispatched finishes of 114 and 101 in consecutive legs to move to the brink of victory, before pegging D2 to secure another famous win on the Citywest stage- having beaten Phil Taylor here twelve months ago.
Sixth seed Mensur Suljovic recovered from 1-0 down to defeat Ian White and book his place in round-two. The recent Champions League of Darts winner endured a lacklustre start as White clinched the opening set, but the Austrian won six of the final eight legs to prevail with an 85.89 average and an impressive 64% checkout conversion rate.
‘The Diamond’ enjoyed a terrific start and conjured up brilliant checkouts of 160, 84 and 71 to draw first blood. He then produced finishes of 63 and 87 to force a decider in set two, where he had the throw for the match. However, the Stoke star crucially missed his first four darts at double as Suljovic forced a final set via D10.
White’s doubling prowess at the start of legs had evaporated, whilst Suljovic found D14 at the first attempt in each of the three legs in the deciding set. That was ultimately the decisive factor for ‘The Gentle’, who won the third set without reply to overcome a minor scare.
Simon Whitlock survived a match dart to edge out Christian Kist in arguably the match of the tournament thus far. ‘The Wizard’ averaged 89.31, fired in five maximums and converted 44% of his attempts at double to prevail in a thriller, as former Lakeside world champion Kist was cruelly denied on his Dublin debut.
‘The Lipstick’ clinched a high-quality first set in which all five legs went with throw, and that pattern continued in the second, as the first three legs all went with the man throwing first. However, Whitlock registered the first break to level up proceedings at one set apiece after Kist took 14 darts at double to kick off the leg.
‘The Wizard’ kicked off the third and final set with a majestic 153 checkout, but Kist reeled off legs of 14 and 13 darts to turn the contest on its head. However, Whitlock found D16 to force a deciding leg, before capitalising on one missed match dart at tops from Kist to secure a memorable victory by virtue of a nerveless 108 finish.
Gerwyn Price defied a spirited fightback to dump out seventh seed Michael Smith in a highly-charged first-round clash. Smith defeated the Welshman in Dublin two years ago, but the UK Open finalist gained retribution; averaging 86.36, landing three 180’s and converting 54% of his attempts at double to cap off an impressive display.
‘Bully-Boy’ drew first blood via tops, but Price produced clinical 105 and 86 finishes to hit the front, before clinching the opener on D20 after Smith had missed the bull for a 121 outshot. Price clinched his fourth straight leg via D12, but the St Helen’s star responded with 72 and 92 checkouts, before eventually sinking D2 to level up the tussle at 1-1.
The Welshman’s game had deteriorated alarmingly in the second set, but he rectified matters superbly; following up a nerveless 88 finish with a 13-darter via tops to move to the brink of victory. Smith stayed alive with a brilliant 98 finish under intense pressure, but Price followed up his third 180 by landing tops to seal his progression.
Elsewhere, Benito van de Pas edged out Cristo Reyes in the evening’s curtain-raiser, to inflict the Spaniard’s second successive first-round exit at the Citywest Hotel. Neither player were at their best, but Van de Pas held his nerve to prevail with an 83.59 average, two maximums and a 44% checkout success rate.
The pair exchanged breaks in a sloppy opening set, before Van de Pas piled in a spectacular 144 outshot (T18, T18, D18) to clinch the opener, after Reyes had wired D19 for a 155 finish in the preceding visit.
‘The Spartan’ converted finishes of 72 and 104 to wrap up the second set and force a decider, but the Dutchman held his nerve to progress in a nervous third and final set, after Reyes missed a 113 checkout to force a final leg. As a result, ‘Big Ben’ will now take on Gerwyn Price for a place in the quarter-finals.
Former Grand Prix finalist Mervyn King eased through to round-two with a straight-sets triumph over Ronny Huybrechts. ‘The Rebel’ was making his debut in the double-in event, but he struggled to make an impression as King recorded a convincing win with an 85.36 average and a modest 25% checkout success rate.
‘The King’ stormed into an early 2-0 lead in the opener, but spurned six set darts across two legs, as Huybrechts pegged D10 in successive legs to force a decider. However, King eventually sealed the set at the seventh attempt, before capitalising on missed darts from the Belgian to cruise to a convincing straight-sets victory.
Finally, Richard North enjoyed a dream World Grand Prix debut to dismantle former Dublin semi-finalist Mark Webster in straight sets. The former Lakeside world champion only qualified for the tournament by virtue of Gary Anderson’s withdrawal on Sunday night, but he was unable to capitalise on his good fortune.
North, competing in his first televised PDC major, averaged 75.21, piled in two maximums and boasted a checkout success rate of 38% to prevail in convincing fashion. In stark contrast, it was a night to forget for ‘Webby’, who converted just one of his 11 attempts at a finishing double.
‘Northy’ hit the front via D16, before taking out a sensational 145 finish after Webster spurned darts to level. He then eventually pinned D1 to clinch the opening set to nil, before capitalising on further profligacy from the Welshman in the second set- pegging a fine 80 kill for a crucial break, where he then rounded-off victory by hitting D6.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2017 Unibet World Grand Prix
Monday October 2
Benito van de Pas 2-1 Cristo Reyes
Mervyn King 2-0 Ronny Huybrechts
Steve West 2-0 James Wade
Simon Whitlock 2-1 Christian Kist
Mensur Suljovic 2-1 Ian White
Gerwyn Price 2-1 Michael Smith
Richard North 2-0 Mark Webster
Peter Wright 2-1 Stephen Bunting