Michael van Gerwen regained top spot in the Premier League with a comprehensive 7-2 win over Gerwyn Price at Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena on Thursday night, as Rob Cross, Mensur Suljovic and Michael Smith also triumphed on Night Six.
Van Gerwen was under the microscope against Price having lost to James Wade and drawn with John Henderson over recent weeks, but ‘The Green Machine’ defied a lacklustre start to maintain his impeccable record over the Welshman.
Both players were averaging in the 70’s after four legs, but the contest suddenly exploded into life. Price reduced the arrears to 3-2 but Van Gerwen reeled off the final four legs in 13, 12, 13 and 14 darts to prevail with a 96.07 average – the highlight being a stunning 132 checkout on the bull in leg seven.
“The main thing tonight was to get back to winning ways, so I’m happy with that even though the performance wasn’t fantastic,” said Van Gerwen, who has won all 14 of his meetings against Price.
“For some reason tonight both Gerwyn and myself struggled to play our best game which is a shame but I got better towards the end of the game and ended up winning comfortably.”
Rob Cross is level at the top with Van Gerwen after easing past Raymond van Barneveld 7-3 to secure his third straight league win. Cross stormed into an early 2-0 cushion but Van Barneveld levelled in 15 and 14 darts, only to spurn two darts at a double for a 3-2 advantage.
Cross, who also landed a 129 checkout in the opening leg, squandered eight match darts in a scrappy conclusion to the contest as his average slipped from 112 to 101.21, but he maintained his unbeaten record over Barney to leave the Dutchman rooted to the foot of the table and still without a win.
“I’m happy with the win but I think I got a bit complacent when I got in front, and started to mess around a bit at the end,” said Cross, who has now posted ton-plus averages in five of his six outings thus far.
“I’m really enjoying my darts at the moment, my family life is brilliant, the routine is there and I’m feeling more comfortable every week. As long as I’m feeling happy in myself I know the results will come. Now I want to raise the bar and keep on pushing myself and go all the way in this Premier League.”
Newly crowned UK Open champion Nathan Aspinall suffered a disappointing 7-2 defeat to Michael Smith on his Premier League bow, as ‘Bully Boy’ claimed his second win of the season to ease his elimination fears.
‘The Asp’ missed 10 darts at double in the opening three legs as Smith raced into a commanding lead and although Aspinall showed glimpses of his quality with a magnificent 158 checkout, he was punished for a sloppy display as Smith followed up finishes of 90 and 112 with a 127 clincher on the bullseye.
“I don’t think I played well but the only thing that matters is getting the two points to keep me clear of the relegation zone,” said Smith. “My goal is to make sure I get past Judgement Night and then make a real push towards the top four and maybe go one better than last year.”
Mensur Suljovic is up to sixth after producing his best performance of the campaign to defeat James Wade 7-3. ‘The Machine’ topped the table heading into Thursday’s action, but the Austrian averaged 101.38, crashed in six maximums and converted 50% of his attempts at double to prevail.
The opening two legs went with throw, before three consecutive breaks saw Suljovic take a 3-2 lead. ‘The Gentle’ followed it up with a clinical 84 checkout to open up a two-leg cushion and Wade was unable to respond, as Suljovic claimed three of the remaining four legs to seal the two points.
Elsewhere, Peter Wright and Daryl Gurney shared the spoils in the evening’s finale, as the Northern Irishman rallied from 6-3 down to move three points clear of elimination. Wright averaged 102.91 to Gurney’s 94.98, but ‘Super Chin’ survived one match dart as he avoided a third straight defeat.
The opening five legs went with throw, before Wright punished seven missed darts at double from Gurney to lead 4-2. The pair then traded breaks before Snakebite sank a 90 checkout on the bull to lead 6-3, but Gurney won the remaining three legs in 13, 14 and 14 darts, surviving one match dart at tops in the penultimate leg.
The Unibet Premier League continues on Thursday March 21 with Night Seven in Berlin, as German number one Max Hopp makes his Premier League debut against Van Barneveld at the Mercedes-Benz Arena, with Barney in desperate need of victory to keep his slender survival hopes alive.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Night Six – Thursday March 14
Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham
Nathan Aspinall 2-7 Michael Smith
James Wade 3-7 Mensur Suljovic
Rob Cross 7-3 Raymond van Barneveld
Gerwyn Price 2-7 Michael van Gerwen
Peter Wright 6-6 Daryl Gurney
Night Seven – Thursday March 21
Mercedes-Benz Arena, Berlin
Gerwyn Price v Rob Cross
James Wade v Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen v Daryl Gurney
Michael Smith v Mensur Suljovic
Max Hopp v Raymond van Barneveld