Jonny Clayton continued his blistering start to this year’s Premier League by landing a spectacular nine-darter in his 7-3 victory over fellow debutant Jose De Sousa on Night Three in Milton Keynes on Wednesday.
‘The Ferret’ averaged 105.56 to claim a share of the spoils against Peter Wright on the opening night, before closing out a convincing 7-3 victory over defending Premier League champion Glen Durrant on Night Two, courtesy of another ton-plus average.
The Welshman wasn’t at his brilliant best during the early stages of his clash against ‘The Special One’, but he produced an astonishing late surge to topple De Sousa, achieving perfection in the eighth leg at the Marshall Arena.
Playing in just his third match as part of the full-time Premier League line-up, the 46-year-old followed up his nine-darter with legs of 11 and 12 darts to complete a 7-3 success with a 105.26 average. However, his average across the last three legs was an astonishing 140.90.
The Masters champion has enjoyed a sensational start to 2021, scooping three ranking titles and posting a litany of ton-plus averages. His exploits against De Sousa marked with 26th three-figure average of the season, and he currently occupies third spot in the table, trailing Dimitri Van den Bergh and Michael van Gerwen via legs difference.
“I’m a happy man, it’s brilliant,” said a delighted Clayton. “I know my kids will have been bouncing around the house tonight watching that. It was a great game, Jose is a brilliant player. We’ve played each other a few times on tour and I knew I’d have to play my best to win and thankfully that’s what I did.
“It’s all going well for me at the moment. The darts are flowing nicely, my confidence is high and I’m enjoying it. I won’t get ahead of myself though, my aim is still just to make sure I’m still in the competition after Judgement Night.”
Clayton’s fellow debutant Dimitri Van den Bergh currently tops the table, after inflicting the 12th whitewash in Premier League history at the expense of reigning champion Glen Durrant.
The three-time BDO world champion’s torrid start to the season continued as he squandered 11 darts at double in an extraordinary opening leg, and he simply never recovered.
Durrant missed all 16 of his attempts at double and averaged a paltry 84, as Van den Bergh converted clinical 82 and 129 finishes en route to an emphatic 7-0 win, fresh from his stunning comeback against Nathan Aspinall on Tuesday evening.
In a repeat of the 2019 Premier League final, Michael van Gerwen produced a vintage performance to kick off the evening with a resounding 7-3 success against former world champion Rob Cross.
‘The Green Machine’ had won their previous seven Premier League meetings by an aggregate score of 57-21, and he maintained that dominant record to continue his unbeaten start to the campaign, averaging 107.58 and firing in four maximums to prevail.
There was little to separate the pair in the opening stages, but after Cross reduced the arrears to 4-3 with an 11-dart hold, the world No 2 reeled off a hat-trick of legs in 15, 15 and 12 darts each, wrapping up the win with a clinical 100 checkout.
“To win a game like this against Rob is good for my confidence,” said Van Gerwen. “Things are starting to change for me in a positive way.
“Rob is a phenomenal player, you have to do the right things at the moments to beat him. I’m glad I was able to tonight. It’s going better than last year but I need to make sure I keep this going now and keep towards my aim of winning my title back.”
Peter Wright secured the bragging rights in his all-Scottish affair against Gary Anderson, closing out a 7-4 victory against ‘The Flying Scotsman’ with a 100.03 average.
‘Snakebite’ struggled with illness as he succumbed 7-2 to Van Gerwen on Tuesday night, but the 2020 world champion returned to form to record his first win of this year’s campaign, defying six maximums from his compatriot in an entertaining affair.
Anderson frittered away opportunities to break throw in the opening leg as Wright raced into a 3-0 advantage, and the world No 3 maintained his cushion throughout proceedings, converting 54% of his attempts at double to triumph, after Anderson spurned two darts at tops to force a decider, despite landing a brace of 180’s in the leg.
“I woke up today and I decided I needed to use these darts to straighten up my throw,” Wright explained, having returned to the design of dart with which he won the World Championship.
“It’s nice to get a win against Gary because he normally beats me! I think I’ve played the best three players first so it’s been a tough start for me and I’m happy to get my first win on the board.”
Elsewhere, last year’s runner-up Nathan Aspinall registered his second win inside three days, courtesy of a commanding 7-4 victory against 2009 champion James Wade.
‘The Machine’ was once again punished for a lacklustre start as he suffered back-to-back defeats, as Aspinall defied a late rally from the left-hander to climb back into the play-off picture.
Aspinall averaged 96.5, posted twelve 140’s and boasted an impressive 54% checkout success rate, taking out a crucial 102 finish in leg five to establish a three-leg cushion.
Aspinall surrendered a 5-3 lead against Van den Bergh on Night Two and Wade threatened a repeat as he reduced the deficit to 6-4 – having originally trailed 6-2. However, the former UK Open champion dispelled any prospect of darting dejavu, producing a two-dart 76 outshot to confirm the two points.
Thursday will see Night Four take place, as Clayton looks to maintain his electrifying form against Cross. League leader Van den Bergh takes on former finalist Wright in the opening game, while Van Gerwen and Wade collide in a battle of the former Premier League champions. Aspinall meets the winless De Sousa, while Durrant bids to open his account against Anderson.
Image Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2021 Unibet Premier League
Wednesday April 7
Rob Cross 3-7 Michael van Gerwen
Glen Durrant 0-7 Dimitri Van den Bergh
Peter Wright 7-4 Gary Anderson
Nathan Aspinall 7-4 James Wade
Jose de Sousa 3-7 Jonny Clayton
Thursday April 8
Dimitri Van den Bergh v Peter Wright
Jonny Clayton v Rob Cross
Jose de Sousa v Nathan Aspinall
James Wade v Michael van Gerwen
Gary Anderson v Glen Durrant