Jonny Clayton produced a star-studded display on his Premier League debut to salvage a share of the spoils against Peter Wright on Monday evening, and in the absence of his compatriot Gerwyn Price, ‘The Ferret’ is flying the Welsh flag alone in this year’s tournament.
World champion and world No 1 Price was ruled out of this year’s Premier League following a positive Covid-19 test upon arrival in Milton Keynes, and he was subsequently replaced by UK Open champion James Wade, who held Gary Anderson to a draw in his opener.
However, Clayton’s clash against Wright provided the highlight of the opening night, and speaking in his post-match press conference, the Masters champion offered his reaction to the absence of his World Cup partner.
“It’s hard on Gezzy. Being World Champion and World Number One, he wants to be here. I obviously feel sorry for the guy. He’s a good friend, a great dart player and I think the Premier League will miss him. We need him there and the public would like to see him play so I’m gutted for him,” admitted the 46-year-old.
However, there were plenty of positives for Clayton as he kicked off his debut campaign by recovering from 5-3 down to salvage a deserved point against ‘Snakebite’. Having been thrashed 7-1 by Michael Smith as a challenger during last year’s competition, the World Cup winner underlined his evolution to produce the performance of the night at the Marshall Arena.
There’s a strong argument to say Clayton is the form man in world darts. ‘The Ferret’ has already scooped three titles in 2021, and his 105.56 average against Wright was his 24th ton-plus average of the campaign – more than any other player on the PDC circuit.
The Welshman also saw the 2020 world champion boast an astonishing 100% success rate on the outer ring, featuring 106 and 138 combination finishes, but Clayton responded with a crucial 129 kill on the bull in leg nine, before wrapping up proceedings with a two-dart 78 outshot to deny Wright a winning start.
“It was obviously a good point and a bad point,” Clayton continued. “I think I had my chance, I didn’t take it so it’s a good point. I missed 16’s and the bull, Peter didn’t miss anything on doubles so at the end of the day, I can’t argue with that. When I got my chance, I didn’t take that to take that leg off him, so listen he’s class and I’m happy with the way I’m played.”
Clayton takes on reigning Premier League champion Glen Durrant on Night Two, with the three-time BDO world champion bidding to open his 2021 account. Following four consecutive draws to round off last night’s action, Durrant is the only player without a point to his name, after he was convincingly beaten 7-3 by Nathan Aspinall in a rematch of last year’s final.
The headline act of Night Two will see Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright renew their rivalry. The pair have been embroiled in a war of words over recent weeks, and with Price missing out on this year’s event, they are the highest ranked players in this year’s field.
Despite producing a flawless display of finishing against Clayton, Wright described his 101 average as ‘rubbish’ and insists he will improve against the five-time Premier League winner, while Van Gerwen rescued a point against debutant Dimitri Van den Bergh in Monday night’s finale, taking out 101 in the decider to avoid defeat.
Van den Bergh takes on table-topper Aspinall on Night Two, while the action begins with two-time champion Gary Anderson locking horns with Grand Slam holder Jose De Sousa, who was forced to settle for a point on debut against 2019 finalist Rob Cross. ‘Voltage’ rallied from 6-4 adrift to salvage a point against ‘The Special One’, and he meets 2009 champion James Wade in the fifth and final match of Tuesday’s session.
Image Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Unibet Premier League
Monday April 5
Nathan Aspinall 7-3 Glen Durrant
Rob Cross 6-6 Jose de Sousa
Peter Wright 6-6 Jonny Clayton
James Wade 6-6 Gary Anderson
Michael van Gerwen 6-6 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Tuesday April 6 (1900 BST)
Gary Anderson v Jose de Sousa
Jonny Clayton v Glen Durrant
Dimitri Van den Bergh v Nathan Aspinall
Michael van Gerwen v Peter Wright
James Wade v Rob Cross
Best of 12 legs