Michael van Gerwen kicked off the defence of his European Championship title with an incredible performance to defeat Paul Nicholson, whilst Rob Cross, Peter Wright, Michael Smith and Simon Whitlock all progressed through to round-two on the opening night in Dortmund.
Van Gerwen began his bid for a fifth successive European Championship with a mesmerising 6-2 victory over Paul Nicholson, who performed impressively on his return to the big stage. Nicholson made a blistering start to lead 2-0, but ‘The Green Machine’ then ran riot; reeling off six straight legs to prevail with an incredible 110.32 average.
Nicholson kicked off proceedings with back-to-back 12 dart legs, courtesy of an 81 kill and a brilliant 127 on the bullseye. However, Van Gerwen replied emphatically; halving the deficit with a sumptuous 11-dart break, before restoring parity at two apiece with a 13-dart hold on tops.
The decisive moment came in the fifth leg, as Nicholson squandered SIX darts for a 3-2 advantage, before MvG eventually sank D1 to secure the lead. Van Gerwen made it four legs on the spin with another 12-darter, before conjuring up a sensational 170 checkout to move to the cusp of victory, which he duly sealed moments later with a 15-dart hold.
World champion Rob Cross survived a scare as he fought back from 4-2 behind to defeat Danny Noppert in a hard-fought affair. ‘Noppie’ had a number of opportunities as he led 2-0 and 4-2 at one stage, but ‘Voltage’ produced the goods when it mattered to record a 6-4 victory with a 97.17 average, two maximums and 46% on the doubles.
The Dutchman started strongly and missed tops for a 125 finish for a 3-0 lead, before Cross levelled at two apiece. Noppert regained his two-leg cushion with a fine 108 checkout, but finishes of 76, 88 and 84 saw Cross gain control, and last year’s finalist rounded-off the comeback with a tidy 15-dart hold on D16 in the final leg.
Peter Wright cruised into round-two with a whitewash win over quick-fire Dutchman Jermaine Wattimena. ‘The Machine Gun’ was firing blanks in Dortmund but Wright was extremely solid; averaging 101.33, posting seven 140’s and boasting a brilliant 75% on the doubles.
Wright will now play 2012 European Champion Simon Whitlock in the last 16, after Whitlock claimed an impressive 6-3 win over an in-form Steve Beaton. ‘The Bronzed Adonis’ has been rolling back the years over recent weeks, but the Aussie was in imperious form; averaging 101.16 and boasting a wonderful 75% checkout success rate.
‘The Wizard’ conjured up some magical finishes; completing a tops-tops 99 checkout, taking out a 90 finish on the bull, before rounding off victory with a spectacular 128 outshot. Beaton also performed well but he was unable to match the Australian’s consistency, with Whitlock’s winning legs coming in 16, 15, 14, 15, 12 and 12 darts.
Premier League finalist Michael Smith won the final four legs of his first-round contest to fend off the challenge of Steve Lennon. The Irishman scored impressively but was punished for profligacy in the doubling department, as Smith triumphed 6-3 with a 100.76 average.
Smith opened up an early 2-0 lead after Lennon spurned five darts at double in the opening leg, but the Irish ace then won three straight legs in 11, 15 and 13 darts to secure the lead. However, the St Helen’s ace stopped the rot with a vital 105 outshot to level, before winning the next three legs without reply to avoid an upset.
Richard North completed a shock 6-1 demolition of fourth seed Ian White to cause the upset of the opening night in Dortmund. ‘The Diamond’ was well below par; averaging 88.94 and converting just one of his six attempts at a double and North duly capitalised to cap off a magnificent debut.
White drew first blood with a clinical 64 kill, but North then ran riot; reeling off six consecutive legs to seal an emphatic win, which he clinched with an impressive 82 checkout culminating on tops.
Steve West and Mervyn King kicked off the tournament in fine style, with West prevailing 6-5 in a breathless tussle. The pair fired in nine maximums between them, but West prevailed with a 92.53 average, four maximums and a 50% checkout conversion rate to set up a second-round showdown against Michael van Gerwen.
West established an early 2-0 lead but King won five of the next seven legs to seize control. West converted a nerveless 72 kill to force a decider after King missed one match dart at D14 and history repeated itself in the decider, as King wired the bull for a 126 outshot, which enabled West to complete a dramatic win with a brilliant 106 finish.
Fifth seed Joe Cullen reeled off five straight legs to ease past Jelle Klaasen and set up a showdown with Michael Smith for a place in the quarter-finals. Neither man was at their best, but Klaasen was brutally punished for some woeful finishing; converting just 2 of his 14 attempts at a double.
Cullen opened up with a sublime 12-darter, but Klaasen responded by registering back-to-back legs. ‘The Cobra’ then squandered seven darts at a double across the next two legs and ‘The Rockstar’ capitalised; eventually sealing his progression with a 94.76 average, four maximums and a 40% checkout success rate.
Photo Credit: PDC
Unibet European Championship- First Round x8
Steve West 6-5 Mervyn King
Richard North 6-1 Ian White
Simon Whitlock 6-3 Steve Beaton
Michael Smith 6-3 Steve Lennon
Joe Cullen 6-2 Jelle Klaasen
Michael van Gerwen 6-2 Paul Nicholson
Rob Cross 6-4 Danny Noppert
Peter Wright 6-0 Jermaine Wattimena