Gerwyn Price insists he won’t be holding back with his celebrations after kicking off his 2019 Unibet Premier League campaign with a brilliant 7-4 victory over Daryl Gurney, as Michael van Gerwen and James Wade also made winning starts in Newcastle.
This year’s Premier League kicked off with a bang at the Utilita Arena on Thursday night, with all ten players averaging over 95 on a high-quality opening night of action. However, Price produced arguably the most impressive performance of the evening to register his first ever Premier League win.
‘The Iceman’ was eliminated from last year’s competition on Judgement Night without a victory to his name, but he recovered from 2-0 down against Gurney to prevail with a 104.11 average, six maximums and a 43% checkout success rate.
Gurney secured the early initiative, but Price replied by reeling off five straight legs in 14, 13, 15, 13 and 14 to establish a 5-2 cushion, and after ‘Super Chin’ missed two darts at double 18 to take the match to a final leg, Price found his favourite double top to complete a satisfying win.
The Welshman had been under intense scrutiny after he was fined £21,500 and handed a suspended three-month ban by the Darts Regulation Authority earlier last month, relating to his conduct at the 2018 Grand Slam Darts.
There was uncertainty about whether Price would temper his celebrations after a relatively subdued performance at last weekend’s BetVictor Masters, but in his post-match interview with Live Darts TV, the Grand Slam champion bullishly revealed that he’d continue to celebrate in his usual style, irrespective of the possible repercussions.
“Am I allowed to do that, I don’t know? I thought I’m not going to hold myself back and not be myself, I’m either going to play this game and be myself or they may as well just ban me. I’m just happy to get the win and I’m going to be myself from here on in and whatever happens happens.
“It’s been tough for the last couple of weeks since they announced the fine and I just didn’t know what direction to go in, but I played rubbish at the Masters and now I know which direction to go in and obviously if there’s a few bumps in the road I’m just going to have to try and get over them.”
Elsewhere, world champion Michael van Gerwen kicked off his bid for a fourth consecutive Premier League crown with a hard-fought 7-5 victory over Michael Smith, in a repeat of last year’s Premier League final and the recent World Championship final.
The pair kicked off proceedings by exchanging 12-dart breaks, before Van Gerwen won three of the next four legs to lead 4-2. However, ‘Bully Boy’ broke back immediately, before conjuring up an inspired 150 checkout to restore parity at four legs apiece.
The next three legs all went with throw as Smith threw for a point, but ‘The Green Machine’ produced the goods when it mattered, following up his fifth maximum with a clinical 81 kill to seal victory with a majestic 11-darter and a 104.98 average.
“We played some phenomenal legs and some not so good legs, so I have things to work on to improve over the next few weeks. Even without Gary Anderson this is going to be a very tough season and to beat a great player in Michael in my first game is the best way to start,” said Van Gerwen, who is aiming to top the league phase for the seventh consecutive season.
Local favourite Chris Dobey was the first of nine ‘contenders’ to make his Premier League debut and he played out a thrilling 6-6 draw with Mensur Suljovic, as ‘The Gentle’ recovered from 5-1 down to claim a point, averaging 100.99 to Dobey’s 98.53.
Two-time major quarter-finalist Dobey landed a classy 113 finish in the opening leg as he raced into a 5-1 lead with a 105 average, but he then squandered four darts for a 6-1 cushion, as Suljovic reeled off five consecutive legs to turn the contest on its head. However, Dobey recovered to find a crucial double 16 with his last dart in hand to avoid defeat on home soil.
“It was a dream come true to play in front of that crowd tonight, I felt like Alan Shearer at one point! If it wasn’t for the fans spurring me on I could’ve easily thrown that one away and it was a great feeling to get the draw in the end.
“This was an amazing opportunity and now I want more of this, which means putting the hard work in on the ProTour and hopefully more chances will come for me in the future,” Dobey said.
Rob Cross and Peter Wright shared the spoils in a high-quality finale in Newcastle, with both players averaging in excess of 100. Cross averaged 103.57 to Wright’s 101.56, but ‘Voltage’ survived a match dart in a dramatic conclusion to the tie.
‘Snakebite’ made a sluggish start as Cross breezed into a 3-1 lead, with the former world champion averaging 25 points more than the Scot. However, Wright suddenly burst into life after reeling off legs of 14, 11 and 13 darts, though neither player was able to complete the crucial break of throw, as Cross converted a nerveless 62 kill in the decider to salvage a point.
The opening match of this year’s tournament saw James Wade defeat Raymond van Barneveld 7-4 in a battle of the former Premier League champions. Wade averaged 99.24 to Van Barneveld’s 95.15, but the finishing proved decisive, with Wade boasting a 58% checkout success rate compared to Barney’s 31%.
The opening six legs all went with throw, despite Van Barneveld missing multiple chances to break. The five-time world champion struck in the seventh leg to lead 4-3, before spurning three clear darts for a 5-3 advantage, which proved costly. Wade subsequently reeled off four legs on the spin to triumph on his Premier League return, sealing the deal with a 124 finish on the bull.
Night Two in Glasgow will see Van Gerwen take on Suljovic, Van Barneveld face Price, whilst Cross meets Wade. The night kicks off with a clash between Wright and Smith, while three-time BDO world champion Glen Durrant makes his Premier League debut against Gurney.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
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