Premier League Darts returned with a bang for its opening night at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena with a repeat of the 2017 World Championship final, as Gary Anderson faced Michael van Gerwen.
Fresh from last weekend’s encounter in the final of The Masters, ‘Mighty Mike’ would not repeat his victory, as the world’s top two shared the spoils in a high quality 6-6 draw.
The Dutchman raced into a 2-0 lead, taking out an 84 check on the bull, as he reeled off 12 and 13 darters. He couldn’t shake Anderson though and the ‘Flying Scotsman’ was back within a leg of his opponent, capitalising on a poor 168 leave to make it 3-2. Back roared the ‘Green Machine’ who capitalised on a missed dart at bull by Anderson to reinstate a two leg advantage.
The Scottish thrower was not deterred, a solid hold was followed by a 130 finish to level the encounter. A gesture that van Gerwen was in his pocket was followed by a crucial double two, which put Anderson ahead for the first time.
‘MvG’ pegged his opponent straight back but missed the bull for a 128 finish, allowing Anderson to sneak in and secure a point with an impressive 114 finish. The Dutchman was not to leave emptied handed though and a clinical 68 two-dart finish gave him a share of the spoils, in a match of high quality darts. With Anderson posting an average of 103 and van Gerwen 107.94, it is hard to see anyone but the world’s top two taking the Premier League crown this year.
Elsewhere, six-time Premier League champion Phil Taylor began what he claims is his final campaign with victory over Dave Chisnall.
In what was far from a classic encounter, ‘The Power’ limped into a 2-0 lead. An 11-darter from ‘Chizzy’ halved the deficit but back-to-back legs from Taylor put him in a commanding position.
It then began raining ton-plus finishes. Chisnall smashing in a 160 finish before Taylor took out 121 on the bull to make it 5-2. The St Helens man replied with an impressive 134 out but ‘The Power’ came back with a 118 check of his own to all but end the contest.
In fact, the end was just one leg away, as Chisnall’s ongoing trouble on the doubles cost him dearly, missing a dart at tops to stay alive. Taylor returned and killed the game off clinically, finding the double 20 for a 7-3 opening night victory.
Fellow multiple world champion Raymond van Barneveld turned ‘comeback King’ as he overcame a 4-1 deficit to beat Adrian Lewis 7-4.
Double trouble struck ‘Barney’ in the opening stages of the encounter, missing eight darts at double in the first two legs. The big moment came with ‘Jackpot’ needing 60 for a 5-1 lead. A maximum from the Dutchman put Lewis under pressure and it told, with van Barneveld returning to dispatch 65 to keep the contest alive.
4-2 soon became 4-4, with the five-time world champion cleaning up a scrappy leg before breaking Lewis’ throw with an 81 checkout to level the tie. With the Englishman stunned, van Barneveld stole the lead for the first time, only to be pegged back to 5-5 as Lewis regained his composure.
But again ‘Barney’ kicked on, taking out an 84 finish under heavy pressure to earn himself a point. He then almost sealed the match in style with a 170 finish, a missed bull handing Lewis the chance to stay alive. He couldn’t take it, spurning three darts for a draw and allowing van Barneveld to find double eight and complete the comeback.
Also victorious on opening night was Peter Wright, who beat Jelle Klassen 7-4. The Dutchman was making his first Premier League appearance in eight years and will rue his poor finishing, which ultimately cost him the points.
The opening legs were hotly contested, Wright taking the first leg before missing double 16 for a 2-0 lead. It was then Klassen’s turn to miss doubles for a break of throw before taking the fourth leg to level the match at 2-2.
At 3-2 ‘The Cobra’ missed yet another chance to break, seeing his dart plunder into the wrong double, busting his score and allowing Wright to steal the leg. They shared the next two legs and found themselves level again at 4-4, thanks to a clinical 52 checkout from Klassen.
‘The Cobra’s’ finishing would come back to haunt him in the closing stages, as he missed two darts for a 5-4 lead before Wright found double 10 and snatched the lead. Clutch doubles saved ‘Snakebite’ again in the tenth leg and saw him secure at least a point from the tie.
He should have been punished for missing four match darts in the following leg but once again, Klassen was not able to find a double and Wright returned to hit double two for a 7-4 victory.
In the night’s remaining game Kim Huybrechts fell to a 7-5 defeat against James Wade, despite posting a 100.62 average.
Wade led from the start and was not to be surpassed by ‘The Hurricane’ finding himself in an early 3-1 lead. Huybrechts levelled the encounter courtesy of two 15-dart legs but was unable to pull in front of his rival, missing crucial darts at the double to take the lead.
The Belgian did muster a 134 finish to force the game into a deciding leg but the experience of Wade told. A 180 from ‘The Machine’ was followed by a clean kill in 11 darts to secure the victory.