Peter Wright kicked off his bid for a maiden European Championship title with an impressive win over World Masters champion Krzysztof Ratajski, as Rob Cross and Jonny Clayton produced ton-topping averages on a high-quality session of darts in Hasselt on Friday afternoon.
Second seed Wright began his campaign with a hard-fought win over World Masters champion Krzysztof Ratajski. ‘The Polish Eagle’ has impressed on the European Tour circuit this year and clinched major glory in the BDO World Masters back in September, but Snakebite’s consistency proved decisive in Hasselt.
The Scot stormed into an early 2-0 lead with a 120 average, but Ratajski recovered to reduce the arrears to 4-3. He also missed darts at bull for 128 and 164 outshots to break the UK Open champion, but after enduring some late double-trouble, Wright clinched victory via D7, to triumph with a solid 98.06 average.
Rob Cross enjoyed a dream European Championship debut in Hasselt, producing an imperious display to whitewash German World Cup star Martin Schindler. ‘Voltage’ entered the tournament as sixth seed having reached two European Tour finals this year, and he lived up the billing to dismantle ‘The Wall’.
The former electrician was in sparkling form; averaging 101.33, crashing in five maximums and converting 46% of his darts at double to prevail in emphatic fashion, as Schindler left Belgium leg-less, despite averaging a respectable 90.28.
Cross will now take on Dave Chisnall in the second-round, after ‘Chizzy’ produced a classy display to ease past an off-colour Cristo Reyes. The St Helen’s star piled in a magnificent 138 finish to break throw in the opening leg and this set the tone for a dominant display from the world number eight.
Chisnall averaged 99.51, landed three maximums and converted 66% of his attempts at double to cap off a complete display, as the Spaniard was ruthlessly punished for dispatching just one of his eight attempts at double.
World Grand Prix champion Daryl Gurney continued his fine form to dump out former Lakeside world champion Steve Beaton in round-one. ‘The Bronzed Adonis’ kicked off proceedings with a sublime 11-darter to break throw, but he couldn’t sustain this form as ‘Super-Chin’ ran out a convincing winner.
After losing the opening leg, Gurney reeled off five legs in succession to seal total control of the contest. Beaton fought back to reduce the arrears to 5-3, but the Northern Irishman dismissed any hopes of a heroic fightback to prevail with a 98.60 average, four maximums and a 60% checkout success rate.
Gurney will take on former Lakeside world champion Stephen Bunting for a place in the quarter-finals, after ‘The Bullet’ survived four match darts to dump out seventh seed Joe Cullen. It was a topsy-turvy affair, but Bunting held his nerve impressively to continue his resurgence and prevail with a 93.65 average.
Bunting started strongly to open up a 3-1 cushion, but Cullen reeled off four straight legs to lead 5-3 and close in on victory. Nevertheless, ‘The Rockstar’ then spurned four darts at double for a 6-3 win and Bunting capitalised; winning three straight legs of his own to complete the comeback; which he duly sealed with a nerveless 74 kill in the decider.
Elsewhere, Jonny Clayton produced the performance of the opening round to dismantle Dimitri van den Bergh and end Belgian hopes in Hasselt. Kim and Ronny Huybrechts were both edged out in last-leg deciders on Thursday, leaving Van den Bergh as the only home favourite left in the competition.
However, ‘The Dream-Maker’ had his hopes crushed by an irrepressible Clayton. The Welshman, who won his maiden PDC title at Players Championship 22 earlier this month, averaged 102.80, fired in four maximums and dispatched 46% of his attempts at double to set up a last 16 tussle against second seed Peter Wright.
Third seed Michael Smith fended off a valiant fightback from tournament debutant Nathan Aspinall to book his place in round-two. ‘Bully-Boy’ stormed into a 4-0 lead, but Aspinall responded by reeling off four legs on the spin to level, only for the former World-Youth champion to recover and close out a hard-fought 6-4 win.
Smith converted clinical finishes of 80 and 114 to punish missed doubles from Aspinall and establish a 4-0 cushion. However, ‘The Asp’ fought back superbly to level the tie, only to surrender his throw in the ninth leg as Smith retrieved the situation; progressing to the last 16 with an 89.14 average, three 180’s and a 50% checkout success rate.
Smith will take on Benito van de Pas in round-two, after ‘Big Ben’ survived two match darts to edge out his fellow countryman Vincent van der Voort in a dramatic affair. Van de Pas had lost in the first-round on his three previous European Championship appearances, but he enjoyed some good fortune on this occasion.
Van der Voort spurned two darts at D15 in a dramatic tenth leg, and Van de Pas forced a decider via D8. ‘Big Ben’ then conjured up a majestic 12-dart leg on throw in the decider to triumph with a 94.21 average, condemning Van der Voort to his eighth first-round exit at the European Championship in the last nine years.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Friday October 27
Afternoon Session (1.45pm local time, 12.45pm UK time)
Jonny Clayton 6-1 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Dave Chisnall 6-1 Cristo Reyes
Benito van de Pas 6-5 Vincent van der Voort
Daryl Gurney 6-3 Steve Beaton
Michael Smith (3) 6-4 Nathan Aspinall
Rob Cross (6) 6-0 Martin Schindler
Stephen Bunting 6-5 (7) Joe Cullen
Peter Wright (2) 6-3 Krzysztof Ratajski