Michael van Gerwen moved two points clear at the top of the Unibet Premier League with victory over Michael Smith, whilst Peter Wright suffered his third consecutive 7-1 defeat against Raymond van Barneveld on a dramatic night of action at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow.
However, reigning Premier League champion Van Gerwen moved two points clear at the summit after prevailing 7-2 in his top-of-the-table clash against Michael Smith. ‘Mighty Mike’ started sluggishly but ran out a comprehensive winner; averaging 101.56, firing in three maximums and converting 50% of his attempts at double.
Smith capitalised on an abject start from the world number one to open up an early 2-0 cushion, but Van Gerwen suddenly sparked into life. ‘Bully Boy’ struggled to showcase his usual scoring power and Van Gerwen rattled off seven straight legs to round-off a brilliant win; converting finishes of 148, 116 and 107 in the process.
MvG admitted: “I wouldn’t say it’s the best of my performances but I am not making many mistakes. I’m doing okay but I’m winning my games and sometimes that’s a strong point. To finish at the top of the league table is harder than winning the tournament in my opinion so I want to keep going and keep winning.”
Raymond van Barneveld moved into the play-off places after recording a thumping 7-1 win over world number two Peter Wright, who is now in serious danger of being eliminated on Judgement Night. ‘Snakebite’ suffered his third successive 7-1 drubbing after averaging a modest 88.18, but Van Barneveld was impressive.
The legendary Dutchman missed three darts to break throw in leg one but was handed a reprieve as Wright spurned four darts of his own, and this set the tone. Wright’s solitary leg came with a 13-darter in the third, but the five-time world champion ran off five straight legs to triumph; averaging 99.76 and dispatching finishes of 70, 72, 82 and 86.
Van Barneveld reflected: “To be at The O2 in May is where everyone wants to be and I believe I can do it. It’s two big points. Peter has been struggling for the past couple of weeks but it’s a massive result for me and my finishing was perfect.
“Since the UK Open I’ve been working hard on my fitness and I’m feeling good. I’ve got five points from the last three matches so I’m really happy and it makes you want to work harder when you’re getting the results.”
Elsewhere, Gary Anderson received a hero’s welcome from the partisan Glasgow crowd as he registered a brilliant 7-4 win over Simon Whitlock to leapfrog the Aussie in the table. ‘The Wizard’ averaged 104.13, but it wasn’t sufficient to down the Scot; who averaged 102.68, fired in six maximums and converted 54% of his darts at a double.
The opening two legs were shared, before Anderson reeled off consecutive 12-darters to lead 3-1. ‘The Flying Scotsman’ then found D4 to increase his lead inside 15 darts and although Whitlock responded valiantly, he was unable to break the Anderson throw as the UK Open champion held his nerve to secure just his second win of the season.
Anderson acknowledged: “To be back in Scotland playing darts in Glasgow is special. I was nervous before the game but once you hit that first twenty it’s game on and you just have to get on with it – it’s amazing to be here.
“The Premier League is a long hard 16 weeks and now you’ve got to start winning. Tonight has been great but it’s time to get the head down and keep going – I’ve got to keep plugging away and get as close to the top boys as I can.”
World champion Rob Cross clinched his fifth consecutive Premier League win after completing a 7-1 rout over a beleaguered Gerwyn Price. The Welshman broke throw in the opening leg but became embroiled with the crowd and ‘Voltage’ grew in confidence as the tie progressed; averaging 102.57 and boasting a 70% checkout success rate.
‘The Iceman’ punished an abject opening leg from Cross to break, before squandering a dart at tops for a 2-0 lead. He was unable to recover from this setback, as the world champion secured the lead with a spectacular 143 checkout for a 12-dart hold.
The former electrician then broke Price’s throw once more with an effortless 11-darter, before rounding-off three consecutive 14-darters to guarantee himself a share of the spoils. Price remained poised for any chance but it wasn’t forthcoming, as Cross held his nerve to complete a clinical 66 kill which moves him level on points with Michael Smith.
Cross said: “It took me a couple of legs to settle, but when I started to play I played well and it’s a good win for me. I’m feeling comfortable and I’ve got a good routine now. You can’t win every week but you want to perform and I’m in a good place at the moment.
“I’m playing well and I’ll look forward to the next game now. I’ve turned it around after the first couple of weeks and I’m really happy with my game. I’m clinical at the end of legs and that’s the biggest thing for me.”
Meanwhile, Daryl Gurney enjoyed the perfect present as he claimed his first ever Premier League victory on his 32nd birthday. The Northern Irishman had drawn four of his opening six ties, but he upped the ante considerably to triumph on Scottish soil.
The first six legs all went with throw, before Gurney suddenly seized control. He found tops at the fifth time of asking to hold, before securing the first break with a fine 61 outshot. ‘Super Chin’ then guaranteed himself a point via tops, before capping off a dominant display with an eye-catching 102 checkout.
Gurney added: “That was a real birthday present for me. I’ve been playing well and I know I can beat these guys, and the couple of ton-plus finishes probably swung the game in my direction.
“The confidence is coming back now and I just have to keep going and get away from the bottom two. I’m glad to get over the finish line and get my first win in the Premier League – it’s a monkey off my back!
Photo Credit: Steve Welsh/PDC