Joe Cullen denied Michael van Gerwen a dream homecoming in Rotterdam on Thursday, defeating the Dutchman in a dramatic decider to seal his first Premier League night win.
‘The Rockstar’ came into the evening bottom of the table and without a victory since Night Two, but he followed up victories over Scottish duo Gary Anderson and Peter Wright by edging out ‘The Green Machine’ to become the sixth different winner across seven Premier League nights.
Van Gerwen dominated Thursday’s showpiece for large periods, but Cullen produced magnificent 118 and 97 finishes under considerable pressure to consolidate his throw in the opening exchanges.
Nevertheless, following six successive holds of throw, the Dutchman struck the first decisive blow; defying a maximum from the Masters champion to convert a 76 kill on tops and establish a 4-3 cushion.
Van Gerwen was unable to capitalise on his advantage however, spurning three darts for a 5-3 buffer, and Cullen followed up a fourth 180 with a two-dart 66 outshot to restore parity at four apiece, before produced a stunning 114 checkout on tops to move a leg away from victory.
Roared on by the partisan Dutch crowd, five-time Premier League winner Van Gerwen fired in a 13-dart hold to force a deciding leg, but Cullen was unfazed, opening up the leg with back-to-back 180s and eventually sealing the deal with a 14-darter via double four.
“It’s great to get the win, there’s nothing better than playing a Dutchman in their backyard,” reflected the Yorkshireman.
“The crowd was unbelievable. I thought playing Jonny Clayton in Cardiff was special but this tops it.
“It’s a special night for me, especially to get the five points because I was struggling a bit at the bottom of the table but now I’m back.
“I don’t think I played much better than I did last week, the Premier League is tough every week.
“I think the new format has helped me out, winning five points tonight keeps me right in the hunt for the Play-Offs.”
Earlier in the evening, the 32-year-old survived four match darts as he fought back from 5-3 adrift to defeat Night Six winner Gary Anderson in an ill-tempered affair.
‘The Flying Scotsman’ conjured up a majestic 164 finish in leg seven to seize the initiative, yet the 51-year-old lost his composure in the latter stages, and the pair exchanged words post-match, with Cullen reeling off three consecutive legs to halt his five-match losing run in the competition.
World No 1 Peter Wright awaited ‘The Rockstar’ in the semi-finals, although having accounted for James Wade in the evening’s curtain-raiser, the reigning world champion struggled for consistency throughout, changing his darts on multiple occasions and succumbing 6-4 with a modest 87 average.
The sport’s biggest roadshow made its return to Rotterdam for the first time since 2019, and while they were unable to celebrate another Van Gerwen victory, they certainly enjoyed value for money, with all four quarter-final contests going the distance.
Remarkably, all four losing quarter-finalists missed match darts, with MvG surviving two against World Championship runner-up Michael Smith in his opener, while world No 2 Gerwyn Price squandered a dart at tops to dump out his compatriot Jonny Clayton.
‘The Ferret’ landed three magnificent ton-plus finishes to prevail in a thrilling all-Welsh affair, and he appeared poised to claim the scalp of Van Gerwen midway through their semi-final showdown.
However, ‘Mighty Mike’ came roaring back from 3-2 adrift to defeat the reigning Premier League champion, raising the roof with a sublime 138 checkout to triumph with a 103.28 average – the only ton-plus average of the evening.
Van Gerwen retains top spot heading into Night Eight in Birmingham, therefore he will play James Wade in next week’s opener, with ‘The Machine’ slipping to eighth position following a third consecutive quarter-final defeat.
Cullen begins his bid for a second consecutive triumph against fifth-place Price, while the remaining two quarter-finals feature an all-Scottish tie between Wright and Anderson, before Clayton takes on Smith.
Image Credit: Kelly Deckers/PDC
Cazoo Premier League
Night 7 – Rotterdam Ahoy
Thursday March 24
Peter Wright 6-5 James Wade
Joe Cullen 6-5 Gary Anderson
Jonny Clayton 6-5 Gerwyn Price
Michael van Gerwen 6-5 Michael Smith
Joe Cullen 6-4 Peter Wright
Michael van Gerwen 6-3 Jonny Clayton
Joe Cullen 6-5 Michael van Gerwen