On Night Ten of the 2018 Premier League Darts, Sheffield was treated with a chance to see some of the current greats in the game battle it out in the second phase of this year’s competition.
With two nights in Rotterdam coming before matches in Manchester, Birmingham and Aberdeen prior to the final, there is still all to play for with everyone eying up a top four place.
The night began with a rousing minute’s applause for the late Eric Bristow, who sadly passed away last week, with all the players lining the stage to pay their respects to one of the true legends of the game before the evening got underway.
Raymond van Barneveld 3-7 Daryl Gurney
Gurney, who was held to a 6-6 draw on Judgement Night in Liverpool, took the first 180 of the night as he faced Raymond van Barneveld, and went to take the first leg as he broke his throw. His opponent fought back straight away, ending his torrid Premier League run by checking out 158 to win before claiming the next leg too, but soon found himself 6-2 down as Gurney appeared to enjoy his Premier League Darts maiden campaign, looking at ease on the big stage with numerous 180s against Barney, who is a seven-time semi-finalist.
Van Barneveld struggled to gain momentum and, ahead of his match-up against Peter Wright later in the evening, with a third consecutive defeat looming over him.
He temporarily staged a comeback by halving the deficit to 6-3 by finishing on a double 20, but Gurney’s fifth 180 helped set him up for his sixth straight win of the competition with a 7-3 victory.
The Northern Irishman, who recorded 7 out of eleven doubles after becoming a father for the first time recently, said: “This is where it matters. It’s great to get the win.
“He beat me the first time, we drew in Dublin and I should’ve beaten him. This was the right time. I’m happy to be within a shout of the top four. I want to go there to compete.”
Gary Anderson 7-2 Peter Wright
As Phase Two of the competition got underway ahead of the play-offs on May 17 at London’s O2, Gary Anderson was up next as he took on Peter Wright, who was sporting a tribute to Eric Bristow shaved into his wacky hairdo. Last year’s runner-up found himself 3-0 down as The Flying Scotsman took an early 110.33 average.
Wright missed a bullseye as Anderson raced into a 5-0 lead as Snakebite appeared rocked by his opponent. Wright upped his game as a whitewash threatened and managed to pull one back in the all-Scottish encounter, but the comeback was ephemeral with Anderson making it 6-1.
Wright produced a suborn display, however, after being let back into the contest and pulled it back to 6-2 before Anderson capped off his dominating display to win 7-2 with an average of 104.26.
Anderson, who has finished as a semi-finalist two years in a row, said: “I got there in the end. Two points makes a difference.
“Last week I was terrible. The doubles were atrocious.
“[There’s been a] big change this weekend. It’s good to see them going in.”
Simon Whitlock 1-7 Michael van Gerwen
Anyone else may have shirked under the pressure of facing three-time champion and current reigning champion Michael van Gerwen, but the Wizard won the first leg before the Dutchman’s true qualities soon shone and came-back with relative ease.
Whitlock missed a double six in the fifth leg to take the pressure off van Gerwen with Mighty Mike taking advantage and rousing the Sheffield crowd as he went 5-1 up.
Whitlock buckled under the pressure as he missed a double eight with van Gerwen continuing to top the group heading into Rotterdam with a 7-1 victory, leaving him on 18 points after eight consecutive wins.
Van Gerwen, who recorded a 102.37 average and will play in front of a home crowd when the Premier League travels to Rotterdam for a double header on April 18-19, said: “It is going to be brilliant like it was last year.
“There’s more pressure on my shoulders but I have shown I can handle it.
“I would rather be top of the table and confident than just hanging in there. It makes a big difference.”
Michael Smith 5-7 Rob Cross
Rob Cross was up next as he faced Michael Smith, whose last appearance was as a teenage star in 2016. It was Cross – on his PL debut – who took a 2-0 lead with a 104.85 average.
Smith recorded a double five to halve the deficit in what had the potential to be a game changer. A 180 then followed as Voltage was put under pressure and missed a double seven.
Smith cleared up and levelled 2-2 by checking out an 81, but Cross returned to lead 4-3 as he recorded his greatest ever average on the big stage.
He didn’t let-up, either, and steamrolled Bully Boy, although when Smith missed a crucial double 14 Cross also momentarily lost concentration, allowing the former to make it 6-4 overall.
Smith hung in and refused to buckle, and even took it to 6-5, but Cross regained his composure and won with an average of 106.26 in the final leg.
Cross, who is four points off Michael van Gerwen, reflected: “It was massive. I knew coming into it there were two points.
“I really enjoyed the game. I felt like my old self, I was oozing confidence.
“Next week’s massive. The results there could everything change.
“I’m looking forward to it. I remember I watched it a few years ago on TV.”
Raymond van Barneveld 2-7 Peter Wright
This became a do-or-die match with both players enduring a torrid night in the Steel City.
A loss for Wright would surely have put him out of contention for the play-offs while a win, on the other hand, would draw Snakebite level with his opponent, van Barneveld, and thus setting up an intriguing battle.
With an average of around 85, both players struggled and lacked their usual quality with van Barneveld looking deflated and understandably knocked.
Wright then recorded a staggering bull-bull-D16 to check-out a 132 when it mattered to take a 4-1 lead.
Van Barneveld, who faces fellow compatriot MVG in Rotterdam next week, refused to lay down, though, and punished Snakebite for missing a guilt-edged opportunity by clawing it back to 4-2.
Wright, who hasn’t won in the PL since he stunned MVG in Week Two, countered to make it 6-2 immediately after, before finishing the tie off and condemning van Barneveld to his second defeat of the night in a rather uninspiring contest.
Wright, who is now level with Van Barneveld and three points off the play-offs, said: “I got a win in the Premier League!
“Barney was struggling diabetes wise and you could see in the practice room he wasn’t himself. He was struggling.
“I’m stubborn enough to play with these silly flights when people say not to.”
The players will now be preparing themselves for the Rotterdam double header next week as the race to the O2 continues.
The fixtures for the first night (April 18) are:
Michael Smith vs Gary Anderson
Rob Cross vs Daryl Gurney
Raymond van Barneveld vs Simon Whitlock
Peter Wright vs Michael van Gerwen
Rob Cross vs Gary Anderson