Reigning champion Gary Anderson and World Matchplay holder Rob Cross were dumped out of the Champions League of Darts on a dramatic opening day in Leicester, as Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright booked their spots in the semi-finals.
The PDC’s top eight players headed to the Morningside Arena for the fourth staging of the event and Anderson’s title defence came to a premature end after he suffered group-stage defeats against Michael Smith and James Wade respectively.
‘The Flying Scotsman’ surrendered a 5-1 lead against his former protege Smith in his Group A opener, as ‘Bully Boy’ won seven of the final eight legs to prevail with a 100.64 average and seven maximums.
Anderson subsequently faced James Wade on Saturday night, after ‘The Machine’ was edged out 10-8 by world No 1 Van Gerwen in the other Group A opener. Wade capitalised on a profligate start from Anderson to establish an early 3-0 lead, but ‘The Flying Scotsman’ came roaring back to lead 7-5.
Wade levelled at seven apiece only for Anderson to restore his two-leg cushion at 9-7. Nevertheless, with ‘The Flying Scotsman’ sat on 50 for victory, the nine-time major winner converted a nerveless 121 kill on the bull to force a decider, where he then took out 60 in two darts to prevail.
Wade will now face World Matchplay finalist Smith in a straight shootout for semi-final qualification on Sunday afternoon, after the St Helen’s star was unable to follow up his electrifying win over Anderson with victory over Van Gerwen.
‘The Green Machine’ stormed into a 5-0 lead, only for Smith to reel off four consecutive legs of his own to reduce the arrears. However, he was continually held at arm’s length by the Dutchman, who closed out a 10-6 win with a 100.19 average to book his place in the last four.
Van Gerwen, who averaged over 103 against Wade, now takes on Anderson in his final Group A fixture. Although his qualification is confirmed, he’s bidding to secure top spot and secure a maiden Champions League crown, which would complete a remarkable clean sweep of PDC televised titles.
The first man to seal his semi-final spot was last year’s finalist Peter Wright, who recorded wins over Daryl Gurney and Gerwyn Price to seal control of Group B. It was a tale of two displays for Snakebite, who struggled against ‘Super Chin’ but raised his game significantly against the Welshman.
Wright recovered from 3-0 and 6-3 down to defeat Gurney in the tournament’s curtain-raiser, in a bizarre contest which featured 55 missed darts at double. Neither player performed anywhere near their best, but the Scot improved in the closing stages to triumph with a modest 89.76 average.
Nevertheless, Wright showed his class against Price later in the evening. The former UK Open champion – who posted a record broadcast average of 123.50 in a Pro Tour event on Monday, averaged 102.82, fired in six 180’s and converted 53% of his attempts at double to complete a 10-8 success.
Price – the solitary debutant in this year’s event, will now lock horns with Gurney in a decisive tussle on Sunday afternoon, with the winner assured of joining Wright in progressing from Group B. That’s after both players claimed wins over second seed Cross, who is now unable to qualify.
Price averaged 99.34 and rattled in seven maximums to defeat ‘Voltage’ 10-5 on Saturday afternoon, whilst Gurney defied a late comeback from the former world champion in the evening session, condemning Cross to a group stage exit for the second straight year.
The Northern Irishman led 8-2 only for Cross to reel off four successive legs to threaten an unlikely comeback. Despite this, there was no repeat of their extraordinary clash at this year’s World Matchplay, as Gurney regained his composure to seal a 10-6 win courtesy of a clinical 116 checkout.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2019 Paddy Power Champions League of Darts
Saturday October 19
4x Group Matches
Peter Wright 10-7 Daryl Gurney (Group B)
Gerwyn Price 10-5 Rob Cross (Group B)
Michael Smith 10-7 Gary Anderson (Group A)
Michael van Gerwen 10-8 James Wade (Group A)
4x Group Matches
Daryl Gurney 10-6 Rob Cross (Group B)
Peter Wright 10-8 Gerwyn Price (Group B)
James Wade 10-9 Gary Anderson (Group A)
Michael van Gerwen 10-6 Michael Smith (Group A)
Sunday October 20
Afternoon Session (1315 BST start)
4x Group Matches
Order of play TBC
Daryl Gurney v Gerwyn Price (Group B)
Rob Cross v Peter Wright (Group B)
Michael van Gerwen v Gary Anderson (Group A)
Michael Smith v James Wade (Group A)