Premier League Darts: Five Talking Points!

Jonny Clayton moved top of the 2022 Cazoo Premier League table courtesy of victory in Liverpool on Thursday, sealed with a 6-4 success over Joe Cullen in Thursday’s showpiece.

‘The Ferret’ was beaten by world champion Peter Wright in the Night One finale, but he moved three points clear of Snakebite following his exploits at the M&S Bank Arena, which also earned him the £10,000 winner’s bonus.

As we reflect on another fascinating night of Premier League Darts action, here are five talking points to ponder heading into next week’s trip to Belfast…

Clinical Clayton the man to beat?

The diminutive Welshman is bidding to become just the third player to retain his Premier League Darts crown, alongside the formidable duo of Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen.

The 47-year-old has claimed eight points from a possible ten across the opening two nights, and it was only a staggering 113 average from Wright in last week’s showpiece that denied him glory on home soil in Cardiff.

The reigning champion posted ton-plus averages to account for Michael Smith and Michael van Gerwen earlier in the evening, before coming through a scrappy affair against Cullen to claim the spoils.

‘The Ferret’ has enjoyed a meteoric rise throughout the last 12 months, and as he prepares to take on James Wade in Belfast, he’ll be hoping to extend his lead at the Premier League summit.

‘The Rockstar’ makes his mark

Joe Cullen was visibly frustrated after surrendering a 4-3 advantage against Clayton in the evening’s finale, but the Masters champion can be very satisfied with his evening’s work in Merseyside.

‘The Rockstar’ endured a baptism of fire on his Premier League bow last week, succumbing 6-2 to home hero Clayton in the tournament’s curtain-raiser, but victories over Wade and world No 1 Gerwyn Price have lifted Cullen to third in the table.

The 32-year-old followed up a clinical 115 kill with an 11-darter to dispose of Wade 6-3, before rallying from 5-2 adrift to stun Price in a gripping affair, firing in four 180s and reeling off the final four legs in 11, 12, 14 and 14 darts, featuring a majestic 121 finish in leg nine.

It felt like a significant moment, even so early in Cullen’s Premier League career. It confirmed that he belonged in the big time, and he’ll take huge confidence from that comeback, ahead of his quarter-final clash against a certain Michael van Gerwen on Night Three.

Positive signs for Van Gerwen

Van Gerwen followed up a disappointing opening night defeat to Gary Anderson with an underwhelming start to his Pro Tour campaign last weekend, but the Dutchman produced some vintage darts at the M&S Bank Arena.

He swept aside a highly-fancied Wright in Thursday’s curtain-raiser, and although the Scot was significantly below-par, the three-time world champion was clinical; averaging 102.98 and converting 75% of his attempts at double.

Van Gerwen then upped the ante in an exhilirating semi-final showdown against Clayton, racing into a 4-1 advantage before the Welshman produced an inspired comeback, winning five consecutive legs in 13, 12, 13, 15 and 16 darts to complete the comeback.

‘The Green Machine’ was rendered helpless despite averaging 105.11, landing three 180s and boasting 67% on the outer ring, but he will be buoyed by his performances, which he’ll be looking to replicate at this weekend’s Players Championship double-header, as he bids to ignite his 2022 campaign.

Big night for Bully Boy in Belfast

Michael Smith is the only player yet to open his account in this year’s Premier League, although ‘Bully Boy’ will not be panicking just yet.

The World Championship runner-up has succumbed to the eventual winners on both nights – suffering 6-3 defeats to Wright and Clayton, with 88 and 95 averages respectively.

The St Helen’s star produced glimpses of his brilliant best in both matches, although he’s failed to summon the blistering scoring power he’s renowned for – illustrated by the fact he’s only registered eight darts at double across the event thus far.

The fixtures haven’t fallen kindly for the 2018 finalist in the early stages, and it doesn’t get any easier in Belfast, as he opens proceedings against world No 1 Price, who sits in sixth spot on two points.

The new format – so far, so good!

This year’s Premier League has undergone the most radical change since the tournament’s inception in 2005, with the eight players competing in 16 mini-events across the campaign.

The initial reaction from players and fans alike has been overwhelmingly positive. It adds an extra element of jeopardy and incentive to each night – every match is meaningful, and that can only enhance the product.

The obvious concern is that it becomes a little monotonous during the latter stages, particularly if the same two or three faces are contesting every final, but I think it’s breathed new life into an event that needed freshening up.

Additionally, Clayton is the only player to have featured in the semi-finals across both nights, and with the eight players so evenly matched, it promises to be a fascinating few months of darting drama!

Image Credits: Taylor Lanning/PDC

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