We’re bereft of live sporting action at present amid the uncertainty surrounding the Coronavirus pandemic, therefore I’ve decided to take a trip down memory lane and reflect on an all-time Premier League classic that took place almost five years ago today.
It featured a clash between two all-time greats, as Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld collided in Glasgow. Van Barneveld – the defending Premier League champion – was facing the prospect of elimination on Judgement Night, having claimed just three points from his opening six matches.
The bookmakers had almost consigned the five-time world champion to his fate, with Taylor, Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson his remaining three fixtures, although Van Barneveld defied the odds in spectacular style on a history-making night on Scottish soil.
Taylor stormed into an early 2-0 lead with legs of 12 and 15 darts and he appeared poised to stretch his lead to 3-0, until an error of judgement from ‘The Power’ not only changed the contest, but the entire course of the Premier League season.
With Van Barneveld sat on 144, Taylor opted against going for the bull for a 125 checkout and another 12-dart break, instead choosing to leave double 16. Taylor was notorious for his mind-games – goading opponents into believing they weren’t capable, but this time it backfired emphatically.
The enigmatic Dutchman produced the roof-raising 144 checkout and Taylor could only offer his old foe an approving nod, before Van Barneveld defied a third maximum from the Stoke-on-Trent to level proceedings with a clinical 11-dart break of throw.
Taylor’s blistering barrage of power scoring continued as he kicked off leg five with back-to-back maximums, but whilst he was unable to register his fourth Premier League nine-darter, he regained the initiative with his second 12-darter of proceedings.
In spite of Taylor’s relentless power scoring, Van Barneveld remained unflappable. He restored parity at three apiece with a classy 82 finish and a 12-darter of his own, before a dramatic seventh leg ensued.
For the second straight leg on the Barney throw, Taylor fired in consecutive maximums to leave 41 after 9 darts, only to miss two darts at double 16. Having missed the bull for a 135 outshot in the preceding visit, RvB returned to close out a 15-darter and secure the lead for the first time.
The Stoke star shook his head in disbelief as Van Barneveld let out a huge roar and with the doyen of Dutch darts brimming with confidence, he capitalised on more missed doubles from ‘The Power’ to break throw, before posting a stunning 12-dart hold to guarantee himself a point.
Remarkably, Taylor’s average had barely fluctuated throughout the entire contest. He was still averaging in excess of 115 as he rattled in back-to-back 180’s for the THIRD time in the match and an effortless 84 combination for a 12-dart skin-saver saw him reduce the arrears to 6-4.
It appeared incomprehensible that Taylor was facing the prospect of defeat despite such an incredible performance, but Barney was a man inspired as he opened up leg 11 with a timely maximum en route to leaving 65 after just nine darts thrown.
The Dutchman squandered two match darts, although he was afforded a reprieve as Taylor failed to take out 130 and force a decider. On his return, Van Barneveld made no mistake, pinning double five for a 13-dart clincher to send the Glasgow crowd into a frenzy.
The statistics were incredible. Taylor hammered in NINE maximums in just 11 legs and boasted an average of 115.80 – which remains the highest losing average in the history of televised darts. Van Barneveld averaged 104.18 himself, but his clutch doubling under pressure proved decisive.
It was a memorable showdown between two of the sport’s greatest ever arrowsmiths, but the repercussions for the remainder of the reason were even more significant, as Taylor missed out on a play-off spot for the first and last time throughout his illustrious Premier League career.
Van Barneveld remained in peril despite his heroics against ‘The Power’ and defeat against Michael van Gerwen seven days later in Dublin meant that the five-time world champion had to avoid defeat against world champion Gary Anderson to stay in the tournament.
‘The Flying Scotsman’ averaged 108.83 and landed seven maximums in their Week Nine clash in Manchester, but Anderson was still unable to topple a resilient Van Barneveld, who claimed a share of the spoils to ensure his Premier League survival.
This sparked a sensational surge from Barney, won six of his last seven games to secure an improbable play-off spot. He defeated Taylor, Van Gerwen, Dave Chisnall, Anderson, Adrian Lewis and Stephen Bunting in successive weeks, only to succumb 10-8 to MvG on Finals Night.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC