Peter Wright produced a sensational display to dispatch reigning champion Jonny Clayton and clinch the spoils on a historic opening night of the 2022 Cazoo Premier League in Cardiff.
Wright defeated Michael Smith, Gary Anderson and Clayton to trouser the £10,000 bonus at the Motorpoint Arena, in the first night of the competition’s radical new format.
This year’s eight-player line-up are set to contest 16 mini-events during the season ahead of the Play-Offs, where the eventual champion will be crowned. Five ranking points will be awarded to the winner of each night, three to the runner-up, and two apiece for the respective semi-finalists.
In a new era for the sport, the Night One final was fittingly contested between the world champion and defending Premier League champion, but it was Wright who ran out a comprehensive victor.
The 2017 finalist posted a majestic 113.02 average, crashed in three 180s and converted 67% of his attempts at double to deny ‘The Ferret’ in a partisan atmosphere on home soil.
Clayton had the advantage of throw in Thursday’s showpiece, although he relinquished that immediately, following a merciless display from ‘Snakebite’ in the opening exchanges.
The world No 2 stormed into a 3-0 cushion with legs of 15, 13 and 15 darts, before threatening a spectacular nine-darter with successive maximums to kick off leg four.
Wright was unable to achieve perfection but extended his lead with a two-dart 77 outshot for an 11-darter, only for Clayton to avoid a potential whitewash; following up his first 180 with a 14-darter in the fifth.
Nevertheless, this only provided the hometown hero with a temporary reprieve. Wright restored his four-leg advantage with a 14-dart hold in leg six, before sealing the deal in style, completing a 121 combination to scoop the £10,000 winner’s bonus with a 12-darter.
The 51-year-old, who landed his second World Championship crown at Alexandra Palace last month, has only featured in the Play-Offs twice in his eight previous appearances, but having outlined his ambitions to claim a maiden Premier League crown in 2022, he signalled his intent from the outset.
Wright opened up his campaign with a dominant 6-3 win over 2018 runner-up Michael Smith, in a repeat of last month’s World Championship final.
‘Bully Boy’ drew first blood with a sublime 12-dart break, yet despite converting all three of his attempts at double, the St Helen’s star failed to register a maximum and averaged a modest 88.57, as Wright prevailed with a 100.13 average and three 180s.
The world champion was pitted against his World Cup partner Gary Anderson in a fascinating semi-final showdown, after ‘The Flying Scotsman’ recorded a 6-4 win over five-time Premier League winner Michael van Gerwen in the evening’s fourth quarter-final clash.
Anderson’s Premier League inclusion caused conjecture in some quarters, but the two-time winner reaffirmed his credentials in Cardiff, claiming the scalp of Van Gerwen before impressing against ‘Snakebite’.
Trailing 5-2, Anderson followed up a sensational 155 finish with a 91 skin-saver on the bullseye, and he pinned tops to force the first deciding-leg of the evening, only for Wright to maintain his composure and advance with a 98.43 average to Anderson’s 99.98.
Clayton was rendered helpless by an inspired Wright in this evening’s finale, though he made a strong start to his title defence, opening up proceedings with a 6-2 success against newly crowned Masters champion Joe Cullen, courtesy of a blistering display of scoring.
‘The Ferret’ received a deafening reception from the capacity crowd at the Motorpoint Arena, and he gave them plenty to cheer against ‘The Rockstar’, averaging 103.61 and firing in five maximums.
Cullen was expecting a baptism of fire on his Premier League bow and he was punished for a profligate start on the outer ring, as Clayton raced into a 3-0 lead. The Yorkshireman responded with a 13-darter and also converted a classy 102 kill, but the home favourite responded to complete an emphatic win.
However, the prospect of an all-Welsh showdown against world No 1 Gerwyn Price was curtailed by 2009 champion James Wade, who produced a professional display to account for the under-par ‘Iceman’, converting 124 and 104 finishes in successive legs to close out a 6-3 victory.
‘The Machine’ appeared poised to complete a Welsh double after establishing a 4-2 cushion against Clayton, but the left-hander spurned opportunities in each of the last three legs, as the 47-year-old reeled off four consecutive legs to book his place in Thursday’s finale.
Next Thursday, the Premier League roadshow roll into Liverpool for Night Two of the league phase, as Wright renews his rivalry with Van Gerwen in the pick of the quarter-final ties.
Elsewhere, Price and Anderson collide in a repeat of their infamous Grand Slam final, Clayton and Smith lock horns following their World Championship epic just weeks ago, while Wade takes on debutant Cullen at the M&S Bank Arena.
Image Credit: Steven Paston/PDC
2022 Cazoo Premier League
Night 1 – Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
Thursday February 3
Jonny Clayton 6-2 Joe Cullen
James Wade 6-3 Gerwyn Price
Peter Wright 6-3 Michael Smith
Gary Anderson 6-4 Michael van Gerwen
Jonny Clayton 6-4 James Wade
Peter Wright 6-5 Gary Anderson
Peter Wright 6-1 Jonny Clayton