Michael van Gerwen maintained his 100% start to this year’s Premier League with a thumping win over Rob Cross, whilst Raymond van Barneveld produced another stirring comeback from 5-1 down to salvage a point against Mensur Suljovic on a dramatic night of darts in Dublin.
The world’s top two collided at the 3Arena on Thursday night, but Van Gerwen ran out a comprehensive 7-2 winner to extend his lead at the top of the Premier League table. ‘The Green Machine’ averaged 101.34, landed two maximums and converted 35% of his attempts at double to breeze past an under-par ‘Voltage’.
The 2018 world champion posted successive ton-topping averages on the opening two nights, but he failed to recover from missing two darts to break MvG in the opening leg. The world number one fired in a hat-trick of 14-darters and an 11-dart leg as he raced into a 6-0 lead, before Cross narrowly avoided a whitewash defeat.
The Dutchman squandered two darts at double four for a tenth whitewash in Premier League history and Cross registered back-to-back legs to restore some pride. However, his brief resistance was ended in the ninth leg, as Van Gerwen sank double four to prevail with his eighth match dart and continue his perfect start to his Premier League defence.
“I’m happy with the win but I’m a bit annoyed with myself, I think I could’ve played better as Rob could have, but maybe that was because of the pressure of playing against me,” said Van Gerwen. “I can’t really complain because I won the game but you have to be critical of yourself and I shouldn’t have missed all those doubles at the end.
“It would be nice to win every game this season because no one has ever done that before but I think that’s nearly impossible. People think it’s easy but I have to work hard to produce performances like this, there’s no time to rest and I have to perform week after week.”
Happy with my start to the match and to the Premier League… would've been nice to win it a little bit quicker and I should've done that but 7-2 is a good result. Fantastic crowd as always.
Thank you Dublin. https://t.co/zozBQOkFLQ
— Michael Van Gerwen (@MvG180) February 21, 2019
Peter Wright maintained his unbeaten start to the season as he recovered from 3-0 down to defeat home hero Steve Lennon. The Irishman received a rousing reception as he became the third ‘contender’ to appear in this year’s Premier League and he made a blistering start.
The Carlow ace took out a classy 105 finish en route to storming into a 3-0 lead, but he spurned six darts at double across the next two legs, which ultimately proved costly. Wright reeled off five consecutive legs to seal control of the contest and although Lennon rallied to force a deciding leg, ‘Snakebite’ produced a strong final leg to seal his first win of this year’s event.
“I was happy to see play Steve play so well because he was under a lot of pressure in front of his home crowd,” said Wright. “He was amazing in the first few legs and I was wondering if I was going to get a chance.
“So far this season I’ve played former World Champion Rob Cross and World Championship runner-up Michael Smith and now Steve Lennon in front of his own fans so I’m very happy with my start to this year’s Premier League.”
WRIGHT BEATS LENNON
Peter Wright gets his first win of the Premier League against hometown favourite Steve Lennon.
— Sky Sports Darts (@SkySportsDarts) February 21, 2019
For the second week in succession, Raymond van Barneveld recovered from four legs down to salvage a point as he enjoyed an emotional final Premier League appearance in Dublin. The five-time world champion made a sluggish start to the contest, but rallied to claim a share of the spoils with a 91.65 average, three maximums and a 50% checkout success rate.
Suljovic dominated the opening stages to cruise into a 5-1 lead, but Van Barneveld fought back valiantly; registering legs of 13, 17, 14 and 14 darts to restore parity at five apiece. ‘The Gentle’ sealed a point via double 14, but he missed double 19 for a 158 match-clincher in the decider, as Van Barneveld converted a nerveless 92 combination on double eight to pinch a point.
“The crowd were amazing, I love playing in Dublin and I’m happy that I managed to fight my way back into that game,” said Van Barneveld.
“The receptions I get every week are so special to me, but I want to give them more back. I’m battling every single week, practising every single day to give the crowd ‘their Barney’. The motivation is there and I cannot play darts without these amazing crowds, and I want to get better through the season for them.”
❤️THANK YOU DUBLIN❤️ What an amazing crowd !! You made it so special tonight… Happy to get a point from @MensurSuljovic !! He opened the door for me. Making little steps to get where I want but fighting till the end. Tomorrow ET Qualifiers then Pro Tours this weekend Good Night pic.twitter.com/iLnPo0kmB6
— Raymond v Barneveld (@Raybar180) February 21, 2019
Gerwyn Price and James Wade played out a thrilling draw in the evening’s curtain-raiser, in a contest which included ten maximums. ‘The Machine’ averaged 103.89, posted five maximums and converted two ton-plus checkouts, but it wasn’t enough to defeat the impressive ‘Iceman’, who has already doubled his points tally from last year’s campaign.
The opening four legs were shared, before Wade reeled off three straight legs to seal command – including an eye-catching 11-darter in leg seven. Nevertheless, Price staged a spirited fightback, posting back-to-back 13-darters, before levelling with a clinical 88 kill on the bullseye for a 12-dart break.
The Welshman clinched his fourth straight leg with a 17-dart hold on tops to preserve his unbeaten start to the season, but Wade produced a brilliant final leg; completing a 12-dart hold courtesy of an effortless 129 checkout.
“Raymond pinched a point off me last week and I did the same to James this week,” said Price. “I’m scoring really well at the moment but I just didn’t do that today so I have to be happy to get out of that one with a point.”
😯 A rare collector's item.
— Sporting Life (@SportingLife) February 21, 2019
Elsewhere, Players Championship Finals winner Daryl Gurney is up to second in the table after edging out World Championship runner-up Michael Smith in an entertaining affair. The Northern Irishman averaged 99.14, piled in four maximums and converted 27% of his attempts at double to register back-to-back Premier League victories.
Smith raced into an early 2-0 lead with legs of 14 and 15 darts, but Gurney replied with three straight legs to seize the initiative. ‘Bully Boy’ then left tops after 9 darts in leg six but incredibly didn’t get a dart at double, as ‘Super Chin’ conjured up an inspired 140 outshot to complete a 12-dart hold.
Nevertheless, it was a case of from the sublime to the ridiculous in leg seven, as Gurney squandered TEN darts at a double, which saw Smith embark on a run of three straight legs to regain the advantage at 5-4.
However, the topsy-turvy nature of the contest continued, as Gurney won the final three legs to wrap up a thrilling 7-5 win, which leaves Smith bottom of the pile after Night Three. Despite this, the St Helen’s star displayed terrific sportsmanship once again as he attempted to keep the crowd jeers down as Gurney threw for victory.
DARYL GURNEY WINS!
— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) February 21, 2019
The Premier League roadshow heads to Exeter next week, as Van Gerwen takes on Wade, whilst ‘contender’ Luke Humphries makes his Premier League debut against Price. The top four players at the end of 16 nights will face off in the Play-Offs at The O2, while the ninth-placed player following Judgement Night in Rotterdam will face an early elimination.
Photo Credit: Michael Cooper/PDC
Night Three – Thursday February 21
Gerwyn Price 6-6 James Wade
Steve Lennon 5-7 Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen 7-2 Rob Cross
Michael Smith 5-7 Daryl Gurney
Mensur Suljovic 6-6 Raymond van Barneveld
Night Four – Thursday February 28
Luke Humphries v Gerwyn Price
Daryl Gurney v Rob Cross
Mensur Suljovic v Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen v James Wade
Michael Smith v Raymond van Barneveld