James Wade edged out Joe Cullen in front of a UK record 12,000 crowd in Manchester to claim his first Premier League night win of 2022 on a thrilling evening of action on Thursday.
The 2009 Premier League champion had succumbed in three finals during the opening nine weeks of competition, but he went one step better in Manchester to solidify his position in the top four.
The world No 5 has been in terrific form over recent weeks, and he breezed into Thursday’s finale with comprehensive 6-2 wins over Gary Anderson and Gerwyn Price, averaging 100 and 93 in the respective games.
This set up an intriguing showdown against Night Seven winner Joe Cullen, who followed up a routine 6-2 success over a below-par Michael Smith with a clinical 6-3 victory over Jonny Clayton.
However, having lost out to Clayton and Van Gerwen in finals during the last fortnight, The Machine’ avoided an unwanted hat-trick; averaging 105.48 and converting 67% of his attempts at double to claim the £10,000 night bonus.
Cullen made a strong start to Thursday’s showpiece, following up a 14-dart break with a tidy 107 combination to establish an early 2-0 cushion.
Wade responded by reeling off three consecutive legs in 13, 14 and 14 darts, although Cullen stopped the rot in the sixth with a 14-darter of his own, after Wade clipped the bull wire for a 121 checkout.
The next three legs went with throw in 13, 14 and 14 darts as the high-quality continued, before ‘The Rockstar’ maintained his impressive double 16 hitting to force a decider, after Wade was unable to seal the deal with a 100 finish.
Nevertheless, the left-hander wasn’t to be denied, utilising his advantage of throw to complete a 64 outshot on tops, wrapping up proceedings with a nerveless 15-darter.
“I’ve done it at last – I’m super happy!” said Wade, who was the runner-up in Belfast, Birmingham and Leeds.
“You’re playing against, in my opinion, the eight best players in the world every week, and it’s hard work. If you hit a 60 at the wrong time, you get bashed.
“I nearly gave it away on two occasions there but I was fortunate enough and I prevailed. I think I was the better player so it was all good.”
Cullen was unable to add to his Rotterdam triumph on home soil, but having been serenaded to ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ by the capacity AO crowd, the Bradford boy cemented fifth spot, and is just three points adrift of Wade and world No 1 Peter Wright.
‘Snakebite’ was beaten 6-4 by Gerwyn Price in the evening’s curtain-raiser, with the Welshman taking out a crucial 157 checkout midway through the contest to avoid a fourth consecutive quarter-final defeat.
Van Gerwen remains top of the table, despite suffering a narrow 6-5 defeat to Clayton in arguably the game of the tournament thus far.
The Dutchman produced majestic 152, 131 and 112 combination finishes in a contest littered with quality, but Clayton was unflappable, surviving match darts in the latter stages to prevail with a 109 average to MvG’s 105.
Wade’s victory in Manchester moves him up to third above Wright, and the ten-time major winner takes on Michael Smith in Aberdeen next week, with ‘Bully Boy’ now the only player in the field without a night win to their name.
Elsewhere, Scottish duo Wright and Anderson will bid to delight their partisan home support when they face Clayton and Cullen respectively, before Price and Van Gerwen collide in a blockbuster tie.
Image Credit: Simon O’Connor/PDC
2022 Cazoo Premier League
Night Ten – AO Arena, Manchester
Thursday April 14
Peter Wright 4-6 Gerwyn Price
Gary Anderson 2-6 James Wade
Michael van Gerwen 5-6 Jonny Clayton
Joe Cullen 6-2 Michael Smith
Gerwyn Price 2-6 James Wade
Jonny Clayton 3-6 Joe Cullen
James Wade 6-5 Joe Cullen
Night 11 – P&J Live, Aberdeen
Thursday April 21
Jonny Clayton v Gary Anderson
Peter Wright v Joe Cullen
James Wade v Michael Smith
Gerwyn Price v Michael van Gerwen