Brendan Dolan produced a series of scintillating performances to secure his eighth PDC ranking title at Players Championship Five, defeating Michael Smith 8-6 in Tuesday’s final as PDC Super Series 2 began in Milton Keynes.
The Northern Irishman enjoyed arguably the finest day of his darting career as he scooped the £10,000 top prize in the first of four Players Championship events being staged at the Marshall Arena this week, boasting a tournament average of 102.19 across his seven matches.
‘The History-Maker’ signalled his intent with an imperious opening round display against Jason Lowe – registering his best average since the introduction of the Darts Connect system. The 47-year-old averaged 111.3 en route to a 6-3 win, reeling off six of the last seven legs in 15, 11, 13, 13, 13 and 15 darts respectively, before recording 6-2 victories over Jamie Hughes and world champion Gerwyn Price to breeze into the last 16.
The Northern Irishman then posted a whopping 106.4 average to edge out Players Championship Four finalist Damon Heta 6-4, despite the Australian averaging almost 105. The former World Grand Prix finalist wasn’t done there however, as he prevailed in another blockbuster clash against former BDO world champion Scott Mitchell, closing out a 6-3 success – averaging 109.5 to Mitchell’s 106.7.
This set up a semi-final showdown against top seed Joe Cullen, who maintained his fabulous form from last month’s Super Series to reach his third Players Championship semi-final in five events. ‘The Rockstar’ posted three ton-plus averages and overcame Chas Barstow, William O’Connor, Max Hopp, Dave Chisnall and Ryan Joyce to reach the last four, although he was second-best throughout against Dolan, eventually losing out 7-4.
In the bottom half of the draw, Smith survived a major scare in his opener against Gavin Carlin, fending off a late rally from the Irishman to advance via a last-leg decider. However, ‘Bully Boy’ then surrendered the solitary leg against Berry van Peer, before sealing consecutive whitewash wins against Luke Woodhouse and Lisa Ashton, averaging 106 to dispatch ‘The Lancashire Rose’.
Smith continued his serene progression to complete a convincing 6-2 win over Ryan Searle in the last eight, before coming through another decider against first-time semi-finalist Alan Soutar. The Scot claimed a multitude of scalps during the first Super Series and accounted for Glen Durrant and Peter Wright to reach the last four, yet the advantage of throw proved decisive for Smith, who triumphed 7-6 to make the final.
There was little to separate Dolan and Smith in the early stages of Tuesday’s showpiece. The opening six legs went with throw, as an emphatic 13-dart hold from Dolan was followed by Smith’s spectacular 135 finish (T19, T18, D12). The St Helen’s star sealed the game’s first break of throw in leg seven, but his advantage was short-lived, as Dolan responded with an 11-darter to restore parity at four apiece.
The pair traded four further holds of throw with the contest poised at six apiece, before a dramatic finale ensued. Smith narrowly missed double 10 for a spectacular 140 checkout in leg 13 as Dolan moved to the cusp of victory, and the Northern Irishman wrapped up his latest ranking triumph with a nerveless 15-darter, after the world No 8 missed double for a 110 finish which would have forced a deciding-leg.
Dolan’s last tournament wins came with a brace of Players Championship titles in 2019, and his latest triumph moves him up to 33rd on the Order of Merit, as he eyes an immediate return to the world’s top 32. Smith – a winner of back-to-back events at last year’s PDC Winter Series – was denied his 12th PDC ranking title on Tuesday, yet he enjoyed his best display of 2021 to reach his first ranking final since November.
With Michael van Gerwen opting out of this week’s Super Series, many high-profile names will sense an opportunity to make their mark, but there were multiple surprise casualties in round one. Two-time world champion Gary Anderson was beaten by Andy Boulton despite averaging 101, while Premier League runner-up Nathan Aspinall was brushed aside by four-time women’s world champion Lisa Ashton at the same stage.
Newly crowned UK Open champion James Wade suffered a shock 6-3 defeat to Martin Atkins in round one, while five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld was beaten by fellow veteran Mervyn King in a high-quality affair. Elsewhere, Simon Whitlock, Daryl Gurney and Danny Noppert were also among the first-round casualties.
The Premier League quartet of Dimitri Van den Bergh, Jose De Sousa, Glen Durrant and Jonny Clayton crashed out in round two, as world No 1 Price was thrashed 6-2 by Dolan in the third round. ‘The Iceman’ wasn’t the only world champion to exit in round three though, as Rob Cross succumbed to Dave Chisnall in a thrilling affair, before Adrian Lewis relinquished a 3-1 advantage against an inspired Ashton in his board final.
‘The Lancashire Rose’ secured a spot in the last 16 of a Pro Tour event for just the second time in her career, although she was whitewashed by an irrepressible Smith in the fourth round, as her hopes of reaching a maiden ranking quarter-final were unceremoniously quashed. Ashton departed alongside world No 3 Peter Wright, who was beaten by his fellow Scot Soutar for the second straight Super Series.
Scott Mitchell progressed to his first Pro Tour quarter-final before succumbing to an inspired Dolan in the last eight, while Dirk van Duijvenbode posted an astonishing tournament average of 105.2, only for the Dutchman to relinquish a 5-2 advantage against Soutar in the quarter-finals, as the 43-year-old firefighter continued his blistering start to life in the PDC by reaching a maiden ranking semi-final.
We were treated to an astonishing standard throughout the day at the Marshall Arena, with Ritchie Edhouse and Wayne Jones becoming the latest players to register nine-dart finishes. Edhouse landed an unconventional nine-darter against William Borland – following up successive 174s with a 153 checkout – whereas ‘The Wanderer’ achieved perfection in more regulation fashion against Price, albeit in a 6-1 defeat.
The PDC Super Series 2 action continues on Wednesday with Players Championship 6, as the 128 players compete for a further £75,000 in prize money from 2pm.
Image Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Players Championship 5
Tuesday March 16, Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
Joe Cullen 6-3 Dave Chisnall
Ryan Joyce 6-2 Darius Labanauskas
Brendan Dolan 6-4 Damon Heta
Scott Mitchell 6-5 Devon Petersen
Ryan Searle 6-2 Callan Rydz
Michael Smith 6-0 Lisa Ashton
Alan Soutar 6-4 Peter Wright
Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-5 Mensur Suljovic
Joe Cullen 6-4 Ryan Joyce
Brendan Dolan 6-3 Scott Mitchell
Michael Smith 6-2 Ryan Searle
Alan Soutar 6-5 Dirk van Duijvenbode
Brendan Dolan 7-4 Joe Cullen
Michael Smith 7-6 Alan Soutar
Brendan Dolan 8-6 Michael Smith