Peter Wright survived a major scare to edge out Jonny Clayton and set up a European Championship quarter-final showdown against World Grand Prix champion Daryl Gurney on a dramatic evening of darts in Hasselt on Saturday evening.
Second seed Wright is aiming to secure his third televised title of 2017 to accompany his UK Open and German Darts Masters successes, but he was forced to come back from 4-0 down to secure his spot in the last eight on an enthralling evening of second-round action in Belgium.
Both players were guilty of profligacy in the finishing department, missing 44 darts at double between them. However, Wright won ten out of the last 14 legs to complete the comeback and triumph with a 98.94 average, eight maximums and a 31% checkout conversion rate.
Clayton won the opening two legs in 14 and 15 darts respectively, before capitalising on four missed darts at double from Snakebite to seal a 3-0 lead via D5. The Welshman was looking rock-solid in the opening exchanges and extended his lead further in the fourth leg; after Wright missed D6 for a 126 outshot.
Nevertheless, the world number three opened his account via D10, before following up his third maximum with a 71 finish to double his tally. Clayton converted a clinical 64 kill to restore his three-leg lead, but ‘The Ferret’ squandered six darts at double across the next two legs as Wright reduced the arrears to 5-4.
The Scot then rounded-off a 13-darter to level proceedings, before securing the lead for the first time after Clayton missed a further three darts at double to regain the initiative. The next three legs all went with throw in sub 15-dart legs, before further drama ensued.
Wright landed his sixth maximum and appeared destined to move 8-7 ahead, but his finishing frailties resurfaced as Clayton picked out tops for a 13-darter. Despite this, the roles were reversed moments later, as ‘The Ferret’ missed two at tops for 9-7, allowing Wright to level via D8.
The UK Open champion had control of the contest and on this occasion, he failed to relinquish it. He kicked off the 17th leg with six perfect darts and completed a majestic 11-dart hold to move to the cusp of victory, which he subsequently sealed with a 14-darter on D4, after Clayton failed to take out 75 which would have forced a decider.
Wright will take on World Grand Prix champion Daryl Gurney in the last eight, after the Northern Irishman produced a sensational display of finishing to defeat a resurgent Stephen Bunting. ‘Super-Chin’ averaged 94.12, posted six maximums, dispatched two ton-plus checkouts and converted 67% of his attempts at double to prevail.
The first four legs all went with throw, before Gurney produced a moment of magic to break. The Northern Irishman followed up his second 180 with a clinical 112 finish, before converting a classy 64 kill to extend his lead. His magnificent finishing continued as he landed a majestic 121 kill for a 12-dart double break, but Bunting responded.
‘The Bullet’ landed his first maximum and converted a crucial 68 finish to break straight back, before sinking D8 to reduce the deficit to the solitary leg. The next two legs both went with throw, before Bunting squandered five darts at double to level the contest, which Gurney ruthlessly punished with a two-dart 65 outshot to move 7-5 in front.
Bunting found D16 to again move to within one of Gurney, but the Northern Irishman dispatched a string of classy finishes to overcome the former Lakeside world champion and seal his progression.
‘Super-Chin’ piled in his fifth maximum and produced a two-dart 81 combination to restore his two-leg advantage, before completing a clinical 80 checkout to move to the brink of victory. This visibly deflated ‘The Bullet’ and Gurney landed the defining blow with a fine 67 kill, to clinch the win which sees him move up to fourth in the world.
Elsewhere, Rob Cross fended off a brave fightback from an injured Dave Chisnall to seal a spot in the last eight on his European Championship debut. Chisnall was plagued with a bad back throughout the contest and struggled to lift his throwing arm on occasion, but he provided a spirited showing in Hasselt.
Cross was far from his best, but produced the goods when it mattered most; averaging 94.56, landing three maximums and converting 40% of his attempts at double to defeat the four-time major finalist in a gruelling battle.
‘Voltage’ secured an early 2-0 lead by virtue of a clinical 72 finish followed by a 16-darter, before Chisnall dispatched a 75 checkout to open his account. Cross then restored his two-leg lead via D16, before piling in impressive 120 and 82 outshots to extend his advantage to 5-1.
Chisnall was visibly struggling with a back injury but he displayed impressive resolve fightback. The pair exchanged 15-dart holds, before ‘Chizzy’ punished two sloppy legs from Cross to reduce the arrears to 6-4 at the second interval.
Cross- seeded sixth in Hasselt, sank D10 before landing a 13-darter to reassert his control at 8-4, but the St Helen’s star continued to battle back. He fired in a brace of maximums to round-off a 15-dart hold, before registering impressive 13 and 14-darters respectively to cut the deficit to the solitary leg.
The former electrician was under significant pressure with a wounded Chisnall responding superbly, but the debutant showed his class to fend off the fightback. Cross closed out a nerveless 13-darter to move to the cusp of victory at 9-7, before following up his third maximum with a sublime 100 kill to seal his progression inside 11 darts.
Cross will now face third seed Michael Smith, who edged out Benito van de Pas in a gripping last-leg decider in the evening’s curtain-raiser. Smith led 8-4 at one stage, but Van de Pas won five of the next six legs to force a decider, only for ‘Bully Boy’ to break throw in a nervy decider to prevail with a 93.06 average.
Van de Pas drew first blood with a fine 124 in the opening leg, before Smith levelled via D8. The pair then exchanged 13-dart breaks of throw, before the St Helen’s star found tops for the third successive break to lead at the interval.
The former World-Youth champion then established control after the break; following up a clinical 75 checkout with consecutive 14-darters to storm 6-2 ahead. Van de Pas stopped the rot via D10 before sinking D8 to reduce the arrears to 6-4, having missed the bull for a 167 checkout in the preceding visit.
Missed doubles had plagued ‘Big Ben’ in the early stages and these frailties resurfaced as Smith landed tops for a 7-4 lead, before he converted an effortless 90 outshot for a 12-dart hold. Nevertheless, with the St Helen’s star seemingly in total control, the Dutchman reeled off three straight legs to cut the deficit to 8-7.
Smith landed his third maximum as he aimed to move within a leg of victory, but Van de Pas replied with a stunning visit of 170 to leave 71 after just 9 darts. However, both players spurned opportunities at double as Smith eventually found D2 to move to the cusp of victory at 9-7.
Van de Pas refused to relent however. He stayed alive with a tidy 13-darter after Smith missed D11 for a 124, before forcing a deciding-leg via a nerveless two-dart 68 combination, after Smith missed a second match dart at tops. Despite this, the third seed held his nerve; conjuring up a brilliant 118 finish to prevail in a breathless tussle.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Unibet European Championship
Saturday October 28
Michael Smith 10-9 Benito van de Pas
Rob Cross 10-7 Dave Chisnall
Stephen Bunting 6-10 Daryl Gurney
Peter Wright 10-8 Jonny Clayton