Clinical Cross continues his charge with PC26 glory

Rob Cross secured his second PDC ranking title in the space of five days after he followed up his European Championship success with victory at Players Championship 26 in Barnsley on Thursday.

‘Voltage’ fired in five ton-plus averages in scooping the £10,000 top prize – his first Players Championship success since June 2018 – which he sealed with a hard-fought 8-6 victory over Ryan Searle.

The former world champion breezed through to round two with a whitewash win over David Evans, before overcoming World Cup champion John Henderson in a tough second-round contest.

Cross would later defeat Henderson’s World Cup partner Peter Wright 6-3 in the last 16, but that was sandwiched in between wins over Andy Hamilton and Vincent van der Voort, featuring 107 and 101 averages respectively.

The four-time major winner then defied a nine-darter from Madars Razma to prevail 7-4 in the semi-finals, reeling off three consecutive legs from four apiece to set up a showdown against Searle.

Cross underlined his intent with a majestic 124 finish on the bullseye for a 12-dart opener, and he stretched his lead to 6-2 as ‘Heavy Metal’ was left to rue missed opportunities on the outer ring.

Nevertheless, Searle stormed back with a sequence of three straight legs to reduce the arrears to 6-5, and while Cross stopped the rot with a timely 14-darter, Searle prolonged proceedings with a clinical 105 kill, only to see the world No 11 wrap up victory with a classy 76 checkout in the following leg.

“It’s great,” said Cross. “It’s so surprising what a bit of confidence does – I’ve played well this week.

“Ryan’s brilliant, I’ve got a lot of admiration for him and for the last three months he’s played great. He’s reaping the benefits and so he should.”

“I feel like I’m never going to miss when I put that first dart in there. That’s a kick-start, and the confidence on top made me a winner today. It’s taken a lot of work. For 18-20 months I’ve been terrible.

“I seem to find that, when things all go wrong, you never enjoy it, and then all of a sudden you start to get a little bit of improvement and enjoy it a little bit more.

“I want to wear my heart on my sleeve, I want to enjoy it and win. We’re going to ride this crest of a wave,” the 31-year-old added.

Searle was denied a second Pro Tour title of 2021 by a ruthless Cross, although ‘Heavy Metal’ celebrated his 34th birthday with a string of sparkling displays at the Barnsley Metrodome.

The Somerset eased past Michael Unterbuchner in his opener, before firing in successive 103 averages to dispatch Robert Thornton and Mike De Decker.

Searle recorded consecutive 6-4 wins over Daryl Gurney and Michael Smith to set up a last four clash against European Championship semi-finalist Nathan Aspinall, who enjoyed his best run at a Pro Tour since February, but Searle ran out a 7-5 winner to trouser the £6,000 runners-up prize.

‘The Asp’ will have been buoyed by his exploits on Thursday, however. He defeated Adam Gawlas, Gary Anderson, Krzysztof Ratajski, Jose De Sousa and Dirk van Duijvenbode to reach his third PDC semi-final of October, landing TWO 170 finishes in the process.

Latvia’s Razma produced his best showing in a ProTour event in 2021, defeating top seed Joe Cullen and Nordic rival Darius Labanauskas en route to the semi-finals, where he achieved his nine-darter in defeat to Cross.

The Dutch duo of Van der Voort and Van Duijvenbode succumbed to Cross and Aspinall respectively in the last eight and five-time major finalist Michael Smith was also among the quarter-finalists, alongside an impressive Luke Woodhouse.

World No 2 Wright was beaten by Cross in the fourth round, whilst an incredulous Michael van Gerwen was beaten by Daryl Gurney in an absorbing third-round encounter, as Van Gerwen lost with a 107 average for a second consecutive afternoon.

Image Credit: Kais Bodensieck/PDC Europe

2021 Players Championship 26
Thursday October 21, Barnsley Metrodome
Last 16

Madars Razma 6-5 Ross Smith
Luke Woodhouse 6-4 Dave Chisnall
Rob Cross 6-3 Peter Wright
Vincent van der Voort 6-2 Brendan Dolan
Nathan Aspinall 6-2 Jose de Sousa
Dirk van Duijvenbode 6-2 Jason Heaver
Michael Smith 6-3 Stephen Bunting
Ryan Searle 6-4 Daryl Gurney

Quarter-Finals
Madars Razma 6-4 Luke Woodhouse
Rob Cross 6-2 Vincent van der Voort
Nathan Aspinall 6-4 Dirk van Duijvenbode
Ryan Searle 6-4 Michael Smith

Semi-Finals
Rob Cross 7-4 Madars Razma
Ryan Searle 7-5 Nathan Aspinall

Final
Rob Cross 8-6 Ryan Searle

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