Six years ago today, Raymond van Barneveld wrote another iconic chapter in his illustrious career, defeating Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen on the same night to seal his maiden Premier League title at London’s O2 Arena.
RvB was no stranger to the Premier League play-offs. He was making his seventh appearance at Finals Night after finishing runner-up to Van Gerwen in the league phase for the second straight year, but he was bidding to end a run of six consecutive semi-final defeats in the competition.
The five-time world champion was up against his old adversary Taylor in the semi-finals, whilst Van Gerwen locked horns with Anderson in another mouthwatering clash. All four players boasted a decorated résumé but Barney was a 9/1 outsider with most bookmakers to lift the title.
The Dutchman finished above Taylor on legs difference after losing his final two league fixtures to Van Gerwen and Anderson but in order to end his semi-final hoodoo he had to create history and defeat ‘The Power’ in the Premier League for the very first time.
The two juggernauts had met on 20 previous occasions in the sport’s biggest roadshow and although they had drawn three of their last four meetings – including both fixtures in the 2014 season – Van Barneveld was unable to inflict defeat on Taylor.
Even Barney’s most ardent supporters could have been forgiven for fearing that history was set to repeat itself as Taylor stormed into a 3-0 lead with a 109 average, but the Stoke-on-Trent star crucially missed three at double for a 4-0 cushion which ignited a spirited fightback from the Den Haag ace.
Taylor’s doubling woes resurfaced in leg seven as the six-time Premier League champion squandered SIX darts for a 5-2 cushion and after capitalising via tops, Van Barneveld pinned the same target moments later to complete a 116 checkout and level proceedings at four apiece.
The Dutchman had been nowhere near his brilliant best but suddenly he had belief – a clinical two-dart 86 combination for a 14-dart break moved him ahead for the first time and he cemented his buffer in leg 10 with a nerveless last-dart double 12, sparking a huge roar of celebration.
Taylor stopped RvB’s sequence of five straight legs with a 15-dart hold to reduce the arrears to 6-5, but after leaving 87 after nine darts and pinning double four to move to the cusp of victory, Van Barneveld sealed his progression with a majestic 11-dart break, courtesy of a 76 finish.
It was a victory of seismic proportions for Van Barneveld. It marked his first ever Premier League win over Taylor – his first televised victory over the 16-time world champion since June 2008 and more importantly, it saw him reach his first Premier League final after a litany of semi-final heartbreak.
He was up against his younger compatriot MvG in the evening’s showpiece, after ‘The Green Machine’ edged out Anderson in a last-leg thriller. Van Gerwen had defeated Taylor 12 months earlier to secure debut glory and he was an emphatic favourite to repeat the feat, but Barney had other ideas.
Van Gerwen underlined his intentions with a blistering start, firing in seven perfect darts before closing out the opener in 13, but Van Barneveld was unperturbed, coolly levelling on double eight, before rattling in 14 and 13-dart legs to establish an early 3-1 advantage.
The world number one fired back with 11 and 12-dart holds but he was struggling to make inroads on the Van Barneveld throw. Barney’s magnificent set-up shooting was a feature of the final and he maintained his grip on proceedings to lead 5-3 at the interval.
The break appeared to hamper RvB’s momentum but Van Gerwen had no such problems – drawing level using just 24 darts. ‘The Green Machine’ has an unrivalled habit of producing devastating bursts of brilliance which could have spelled disaster for Barney, but the pendulum swung once more.
The five-time world champion punished an indifferent leg from Van Gerwen to break straight back in 13 darts, which was followed by a crucial 12th leg. MvG posted a stunning 171 to set up another break opportunity, only for Van Barneveld to convert a nerveless 94 kill on tops to lead 7-5.
The doyen of Dutch darts was rampant – moving three legs ahead for the first time with an 86 checkout to round-off a 12-dart break. Van Gerwen had the opportunity to respond in identical fashion only to miss double nine, as Barney pegged double 18 for a 13-darter to move within a leg of glory.
‘Mighty Mike’ refused to relinquish his title without a fight and nailed a 110 finish to prolong matters, although Van Barneveld wasn’t to be denied. The legendary Dutchman rattled in a timely maximum en route to leaving tops after 12 – returning to triumph with a 15-darter via double ten.
This famous night in the capital featured distinct parallels to his famous 2012 Grand Slam triumph against Van Gerwen – which ended his five-year major drought. Van Barneveld dictated the pace on that occasion and led from the outset – a pattern he replicated 18 months later.
The 53-year-old took out a host of clutch finishes during that epic 2012 encounter and his finishing was equally impressive in his first Premier League final – every time MvG drew level or threatened to assert control, Barney responded with a moment of magic to wrestle back the initiative.
The Premier League is arguably third only to the World Championship and World Matchplay in terms of prestige. It features ten of the world’s elite and is the ultimate test of consistency and endurance – hence why only five men have lifted the coveted title since the tournament’s inception in 2005.
Van Barneveld has had a special affinity with the Premier League since making his PDC debut in Blackburn back in 2006. He’s made the most Premier League appearances in the competition’s history and his Rotterdam receptions will live long in the memory.
The five-time world champion has lifted so many of the sport’s biggest titles, yet this was of special significance, as he defeated the two greatest players of all-time on the same evening against all the odds – a night which typified the mercurial genius that is Raymond van Barneveld.
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