Peter Wright, Gary Anderson and Raymond van Barneveld were all knocked out on a day of shocks on day one of the Players Championship Finals in Minehead, as Michael van Gerwen kicked off his campaign in comprehensive fashion on Friday evening.
The Scottish duo of Wright and Anderson were beaten by Steve Hine and Mickey Mansell respectively, both of whom are ranked outside the world’s top 100, whilst Van Barneveld spurned two match darts as he lost out to world number 17 Ian White in an engrossing contest.
However, the shock of the night saw Peter Wright edged out by the returning Steve Hine. ‘The Muffin Man’, ranked 104th in the world, presented Snakebite with a muffin on stage, but he provided no gifts on the board; averaging 97.10 and converting 46% of his attempts at double after Wright missed a match dart at the bullseye to triumph.
Gary Anderson also suffered a shock defeat at the hands of world number 102 Mickey Mansell. ‘The Flying Scotsman’ had been struggling with a back injury and was also understandably distracted due to his baby daughter being unwell and that reflected in his performance.
Anderson averaged a miserly 84.14, missed 12 of his 15 attempts at double and Mansell capitalised; averaging 86.28, crashing in two maximums and taking out a spectacular 136 checkout en route to securing a 6-3 win, in arguably his biggest ever televised victory.
Elsewhere, Ian White survived two match darts to edge out five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld. Van Barneveld led 3-2 at one stage with a 109.6 average, but the break appeared to disrupt RvB’s rhythm and ‘The Diamond’ piled in five maximums and averaged 95.25 to book his spot in round-two.
World number one Michael van Gerwen began his title defence with a convincing 6-2 win against former champion Paul Nicholson. ‘The Asset’ acquitted himself well on his return but ‘The Green Machine’ was in typically ruthless form; producing the first ton-plus average of the tournament and dispatching 67% of his shots at a double.
World Grand Prix champion Daryl Gurney stormed into the second-round with a whitewash win over Jeffrey de Zwaan after the young Dutchman missed 14 attempts at a double, whilst Champions League of Darts winner Mensur Suljovic also triumphed by virtue of a whitewash win against an off-colour Andy Boulton.
Top seed Rob Cross eased through to round-two with a 6-2 win over debutant Robert Owen. The Welshman landed three maximums and was competitive throughout, but ‘Voltage’ underlined his credentials by sealing victory with a sublime 129 outshot (T19, D18, D18) to prevail with a solid 92.18 average.
Adrian Lewis secured a confidence-boosting 6-3 win over Belgian star Mike De Decker, using Raymond van Barneveld’s darts! The two-time world champion has endured a miserable few months but showed signs of a resurgence in Minehead; averaging 98.89, posting three 180’s and converting 50% of his attempts at double to prevail.
Last year’s finalist Dave Chisnall sneaked through to round-two with a scrappy 6-5 win over Joe Murnan. ‘Chizzy’ converted just six of his 28 attempts at a double as Murnan fought back from 4-1 behind to force a decider, but the St Helen’s star eventually sank D2 to close out the win with a modest 87.53 average.
Elsewhere, seven-time major winner James Wade also battled his way through to round-two with a narrow 6-4 win over 2011 winner Kevin Painter. ‘The Machine’ profited from Painter spurning 18 of his 22 attempts at double; averaging 89.90, registering the solitary maximum and dispatching 38% of his attempts at double to seal his progression.
Robert Thornton edged out James Richardson in a remarkable deciding-leg shootout, where he missed D12 for a nine-darter. ‘The Thorn’ almost wrapped up victory with the perfect leg but then squandered a multitude of opportunities, before finally sealing the win on D3 with his 11th match dart, after ‘Ruthless’ had missed one match dart at tops.
Stephen Bunting continued his resurgence with an impressive 6-3 win over world number fourteen Benito van de Pas. ‘Big Ben’ struggled for consistency but the former Lakeside world champion was impressive; averaging 96.73, landing four maximums and converting 60% of his attempts at a double.
Last year’s semi-finalist Darren Webster kicked off the tournament with a 6-3 win over Spanish star Toni Alcinas. The pair were locked at three apiece after ‘The Demolition Man’ struggled in the finishing department, but he regained his composure and closed out victory with a majestic 10-darter to triumph with a 92.96 average.
Meanwhile, Chris Dobey produced a clinical display of finishing to condemn Kim Huybrechts to a sixth first-round exit on TV this year. ‘Hollywood’ averaged 94.80 and converted 67% of his attempts at double as Kim joined his brother Ronny in exiting the tournament at the first hurdle, after ‘The Rebel ‘was beaten 6-4 by Steve Beaton.
Jamie Caven survived one match dart to edge out eighth seed Joe Cullen in a dramatic deciding-leg. ‘Jabba’ took out a stunning 156 en route to establishing a 5-3 lead, but ‘The Rockstar’ landed successive 15-darters to force a decider. However, Cullen spurned one match dart at D16 in the finale, as Caven nailed D10 with his last dart to prevail.
On stage two, Jelle Klaasen defeated Alan Norris in arguably the tie of the opening round. ‘Chuck’ averaged 102.53 and landed six maximums, but Klaasen was equally impressive; averaging 100.83 and also crashing in six 180’s to record a dramatic 6-4 victory.
Ron Meulenkamp and Jan Dekker clinched surprise victories over Kyle Anderson and Michael Smith respectively, whilst the Welsh pairing of Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton defeated the Dutch duo of Jimmy Hendriks and Jeffrey de Graaf.
World Grand Prix finalist Simon Whitlock battled past a struggling Christian Kist to book his spot in round-two, whilst William O’Connor defied seven 180’s from James Wilson to prevail in a dramatic eleventh and final leg, after Wilson squandered one dart at tops for the match.
John Henderson converted 67% of his attempts at double to ease past Darren Johnson and set up a second-round showdown against Ian White, whilst Robbie Green kept his World Championship qualifying hopes alive with a nerve-jangling deciding leg win over Vincent van der Voort, who led 4-2 at one stage.
Richard North impressed on his Players Championship Finals debut, averaging 99 to thrash Peter Hudson 6-1 to set up a second-round tie against Adrian Lewis. Another emphatic first-round winner was quick-fire Dutchman Jermaine Wattimena, who whitewashed former World-Youth champion Keegan Brown 6-0.
Two-time semi-finalist Justin Pipe won six out of the final seven legs to defeat former Lakeside world champion Mark Webster 6-3, whilst Mervyn King edged out fellow veteran Brendan Dolan in an attritional last-leg decider.
Finally, Peter Jacques survived five match darts against Spanish star Cristo Reyes to triumph on his Minehead debut, whilst Steve West and Steve Lennon recorded hard-fought 6-4 wins against Ryan Searle and Zoran Lerchbacher.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Mr Green Sport Players Championship Finals
Friday November 24
Darren Webster 6-2 Antonio Alcinas
Robert Thornton 6-5 James Richardson
Jamie Caven 6-5 Joe Cullen
Dave Chisnall 6-5 Joe Murnan
Stephen Bunting 6-3 Benito van de Pas
Chris Dobey 6-3 Kim Huybrechts
Adrian Lewis 6-3 Mike De Decker
James Wade 6-4 Kevin Painter
Steve Lennon 6-4 Zoran Lerchbacher
Justin Pipe 6-3 Mark Webster
Richard North 6-1 Peter Hudson
Mervyn King 6-5 Brendan Dolan
Steve Beaton 6-4 Ronny Huybrechts
Steve West 6-4 Ryan Searle
Jermaine Wattimena 6-0 Keegan Brown
Peter Jacques 6-5 Cristo Reyes
Ian White 6-5 Raymond van Barneveld
Mensur Suljovic 6-0 Andy Boulton
Rob Cross 6-2 Robert Owen
Daryl Gurney 6-0 Jeffrey de Zwaan
Mickey Mansell 6-3 Gary Anderson
Michael van Gerwen 6-2 Paul Nicholson
Steve Hine 6-5 Peter Wright
Simon Whitlock 6-3 Christian Kist
Gerwyn Price 6-4 Jimmy Hendriks
William O’Connor 6-5 James Wilson
John Henderson 6-2 Darren Johnson
Robbie Green 6-5 Vincent van der Voort
Jonny Clayton 6-3 Jeffrey de Graaf
Ron Meulenkamp 6-4 Kyle Anderson
Jan Dekker 6-3 Michael Smith
Jelle Klaasen 6-4 Alan Norris