Michael van Gerwen sealed top spot in the Unibet Premier League after recording a sublime victory over Rob Cross, whilst Raymond van Barneveld eased past Gary Anderson in Birmingham, to keep the play-off race alive heading into the final week of action.
Van Gerwen thrashed Cross 7-2 in the opening week of the Premier League season and repeated the feat to secure top spot for the sixth consecutive campaign- subsequently claiming the £25,000 league leader’s bonus.
‘The Green Machine’ averaged 111.57- the highest of the competition thus far- whilst also firing in three maximums and converting 54% of his attempts at double. The Dutchman eased into an early 2-0 lead, before dispatching a two-dart 76 kill for an 11-dart leg and a double-break.
Van Gerwen stretched his lead to 4-0 and although Cross opened his account by taking out 78, the world number one responded by crashing in a spectacular 144 checkout to regain his four-leg buffer.
‘Voltage’ doubled his tally with a tidy 14-darter but the world champion was blown away by an irrepressible Van Gerwen, who secured a point with an assured 13-dart hold, before conjuring up an 86 outshot on the bullseye to cap off a stunning display.
MvG said: “I think it was a phenomenal game from me, I did the right things when I had to. I know I have to perform well every week and I have to make sure I do the right things at the right times. I know I’m the best but I have to make sure I go out at prove it every week. The pressure if off me now and I can make sure I’m fully focused going to The O2.”
Michael Smith sealed his spot in the play-offs after earning a point in a high-quality tussle against Daryl Gurney. ‘Super Chin’ averaged 98.82, crashed in six maximums and took out two huge ton-plus finishes, but Smith showed impressive resistance to salvage a draw with an impressive 99.36 average.
Gurney drew first blood on D10, but Smith then rattled off three legs in succession to seal command. The Northern Irishman reduced the arrears with a majestic 147 checkout, before levelling up proceedings at four apiece with an inspired 167 kill three legs later.
The World Grand Prix champion then fired in an 11-darter to edge ahead and he heaped the pressure on ‘Bully Boy’ to lead 6-5, but the St Helen’s star responded. Smith fired in his second maximum in the decider to leave 81 after 9 darts, which he duly took out on the bullseye to secure a share of the spoils inside 12 darts.
“My dad can book his hotel for The O2 now,” Smith quipped. “Daryl hit me with some good shots, the 147 and the 167, but I kept my head level. I knew I needed one big leg at the end, thankfully I threw well and went out in 12 darts,” the former World Youth champion added.
Fourth-placed Gary Anderson is not yet assured of his place at the O2 after suffering a 7-3 defeat against an impressive Raymond van Barneveld. Anderson trailed from the outset and struggled to influence matters, as Van Barneveld ran out a comprehensive winner with a 100.11 average, three 180’s and a 54% checkout success rate.
The five-time world champion secured an instant break in the opener with a 13-darter on D11, before doubling his lead with a clinical 103 kill. The Dutchman extended his lead with a double-break via D16, but ‘The Flying Scotsman’ hit back with an effortless two-dart 80 combination.
Van Barneveld then rounded-off a scrappy fifth leg on D1 to secure his third break of throw in as many legs, before completing a 15-dart hold on tops to increase his advantage to 5-1. Anderson fired in a sublime 11-darter to double his tally, but RvB was coolness personified.
The 51-year-old Den Haag ace completed a classy 90 checkout to guarantee himself a point and round-off a 12-darter, and although Anderson took out 95 to prolong the contest, Van Barneveld finished off matters with a 13-dart leg on D8 to register his third win in four matches.
Barney reflected: “When the pressure is off, you release stress and I felt very comfortable. I was playing well and I felt focused. I tried to win by a big score to keep myself in the tournament. It hasn’t been my best Premier League campaign but I want to end it well and finish as high up the league as possible.”
Earlier in the evening, Peter Wright leapfrogged Simon Whitlock to move into seventh position after closing out a scrappy 7-4 win over the profligate Australian. ‘The Wizard’ couldn’t find his magic in the finishing department, missing 16 of his 20 attempts at double as ‘Snakebite’ prevailed with a modest 93.05 average.
Wright capitalised on Whitlock’s wastefulness to lead 4-1 and 5-2, but the Aussie ace completed consecutive 17-dart legs to reduce the arrears to 5-4. However, he then spurned two darts at tops to level at five apiece and was ruthlessly punished.
Last year’s Premier League finalist hammered home a brilliant 118 finish on D9 to guarantee himself a point, before sealing the deal with a 14-dart hold on D16 to secure just his fourth victory of the season.
Wright admitted: “I was battling myself to be honest. I was a very lucky man because Simon should’ve won the match ages ago, if he’d have hit his doubles with the first dart every leg I would’ve been in big trouble.”
The final league night at Aberdeen’s BHGE Arena on May 10th will see Gurney needing to win his tie with Wright by a 7-2 scoreline or better to keep the pressure on home hero Anderson, who takes on Van Gerwen. Elsewhere, Cross takes on Whitlock, whilst Smith kicks off the evening against Van Barneveld.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Unibet Premier League
Night 14 – May 3
Peter Wright 7-4 Simon Whitlock
Rob Cross 2-7 Michael Van Gerwen
Daryl Gurney 6-6 Michael Smith
Gary Anderson 3-7 Raymond Van Barneveld
Night 15 – May 10
The BHGE Arena, Aberdeen
Michael Smith v Raymond van Barneveld
Simon Whitlock v Rob Cross
Peter Wright v Daryl Gurney
Michael van Gerwen v Gary Anderson