Gary Anderson confirmed his spot in the Premier League Play-Offs with a thrilling win over world number one Michael van Gerwen, as the league season concluded on a dramatic night of action in Aberdeen on Thursday evening.
The two-time world champion was assured of his spot at the O2 Arena after Daryl Gurney was held to a 6-6 draw by Peter Wright earlier in the night, but ‘The Flying Scotsman’ overcame league leader Van Gerwen 7-5 to move up to third and set up a semi-final clash against his close friend and protégé Michael Smith.
Although MvG’s league season culminated with his fourth defeat of the campaign, he still finished three points clear at the summit- the sixth consecutive year he has topped the Premier League table. The Dutchman will take on world champion Rob Cross in the second semi-final, in a repeat of their Alexandra Palace classic.
However, the story of the night was Anderson’s dramatic win over Van Gerwen on home soil. Roared on by a partisan crowd at the BHGE Arena, the Scot averaged 98.28, fired in four maximums and converted two ton-plus checkouts to round-off a famous win over the world number one.
Both men made a sloppy start by trading breaks of throw, before Van Gerwen moved ahead on D18 after Anderson wired the bull for a 170 finish. ‘Mighty Mike’ then missed tops for a 160 kill as Anderson levelled with a tidy 66 outshot, before the home hero crashed in a sublime 121 checkout on D14 for a 12-dart break of throw.
Anderson clinched his third straight leg on D2 to open up a 4-2 cushion, but Van Gerwen hit back majestically; following up a nerveless 104 finish by pegging an 81 kill on the bull for a 12-dart break of his own, to restore parity at four apiece.
‘The Flying Scotsman’ responded with another 12-dart break of throw to regain the initiative, before sending the Aberdeen crowd wild with a brilliant 112 finish on tops to guarantee a share of the spoils.
Van Gerwen won the next leg on D6 to force a decider, but he was unable to salvage a point and Anderson closed out a fine win on tops, to claim a potentially key psychological advantage heading into finals night next week.
Ando admitted: “I’m pleased to win tonight and it’s great for me ahead of the Play-Offs. It’s been hard since Rotterdam so I’m pleased to get the win against Michael. The 15 weeks is gone now and it’s all down to one night.”
The two-time world champion’s spot at the O2 Arena was confirmed earlier in the night, as his only top four challenger Daryl Gurney was held to a 6-6 draw by Peter Wright. ‘Super Chin’ needed to win by a 7-2 scoreline or better and appeared on the verge of doing so at 5-2, but ‘Snakebite’ hit back to end the Northern Irishman’s play-off dreams.
In a puzzling start to the contest, Gurney opened up a 3-1 lead despite averaging a miserly 79, as Wright was punished for converting just one of his nine attempts at double.
‘Snakebite’ then sank D4 to reduce the arrears to 3-2, but the World Grand Prix champion followed up a 14-dart hold with a clinical 81 kill on the bull for a 12-dart break and a 5-2 cushion. Nevertheless, Wright fired in his second maximum and closed out a 13-dart break on D19 to end Gurney’s slender hopes of qualification.
The Northern Irishman appeared set to sign off with victory as the next two legs went with throw to see Gurney leading 6-4, but the world number two displayed impressive resilience; winning the final two legs in 13 and 15 darts respectively to finish the season in seventh position.
Gurney reflected:“It’s definitely been a positive campaign for me. I started off slowly because I was too nervous for the first five or six weeks but I’ve played better since Judgement Night. I can’t complain, I’ve played against the best players in the world, in front of the best crowds in the world – what else can you ask for as a darts player?”
On a night of stalemates, Michael Smith confirmed second spot as he shared the spoils in a thrilling curtain-raiser against Raymond van Barneveld. In a match which included five ton-plus checkouts, Van Barneveld extended his unbeaten run to five matches to cement sixth position, whilst Smith heads into the O2 in determined mood.
The five-time world champion fired in an early maximum to leave 41 after 9 darts but then proceeded to miss five darts at double, as Smith gratefully opened his account via D10. However, Van Barneveld then demonstrated his brilliance, taking out finishes of 122 (Bull, T12, D18) and 126 on D6 to level at two apiece.
Smith got in on the act to move 3-2 ahead with a delightful 124 finish on D11 for a 12-dart hold, but Barney replied in kind by conjuring up his third ton-plus checkout of the contest- dispatching a 121 outshot on D14 for his second 12-dart leg of the contest.
The pair then traded holds to continue the dominance with throw, but Van Barneveld secured the contest’s first break of throw via D9. Nevertheless, he relinquished his advantage in the following leg by missing three darts for a point, before Smith piled in a sublime 107 finish to guarantee himself a point, with RvB sat on tops.
‘Bully Boy’ kicked off the decider by crashing in his third maximum and he appeared poised to close out victory by leaving 20 after 12 darts. Nevertheless, Van Barneveld effortlessly dispatched a two-dart 91 combination to salvage a deserved share of the spoils with a 97.28 average.
Elsewhere, Rob Cross will face Michael van Gerwen in next week’s play-offs, after he was held to a draw by a dogged Simon Whitlock. ‘Voltage’ was punished for missing 13 darts at double throughout the match; firing in five 180’s and averaging a modest 89.86 as his winless run was extended to five matches.
The world champion made the perfect start; completing a 112 finish on D18 for an instant break of throw. He continued his early dominance to open up a 4-2 cushion, before spurning four darts at D10 for a double-break.
This proved costly as Whitlock eventually held throw courtesy of D4, before he pegged D17 to level up proceedings inside 13 darts. Cross regained the initiative with a 90 checkout culminating on D15, but once again he was unable to cement his advantage.
‘The Wizard’ conjured up some magic by nailing a brace of D8s to level at five apiece, before capitalising on three more misses from ‘Voltage’ to seal a point via D10. The world champion rallied to take out a fine two-dart 94 outshot in the decider to avoid defeat, but Anderson’s win over MvG sees Cross slip to fourth in the table.
The Premier League debutant acknowledged: “I didn’t play that well. I’ve had a few days off practicing to give myself a rest, then I’m going to go hard at it next week. I’ve learnt a lot this year, I’m pleased with how I’ve done so far but I think next year I will be even better for the experience.”
The 2018 Unibet Premier League will conclude on Thursday May 17th as the Play-Offs take place at The O2. The semi-finals will see reigning champion Van Gerwen take on Cross, while Smith faces Anderson before the winners face off to play for the title and the £250,000 top prize.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Unibet Premier League
Night 15 – May 10
The BHGE Arena, Aberdeen
Michael Smith 6-6 Raymond van Barneveld
Simon Whitlock 6-6 Rob Cross
Peter Wright 6-6 Daryl Gurney
Michael van Gerwen 5-7 Gary Anderson
Play-Offs – May 17
The O2, London
Michael van Gerwen v Rob Cross
Michael Smith v Gary Anderson
Michael van Gerwen/Rob Cross v Michael Smith/Gary Anderson