eric-bristow

Eric Bristow Tribute – The Game’s Greatest Son.

Eccentric. Arrogant. Genius. There will never be another Eric Bristow.

The following article appeared in the June 2018 Edition of Darts World magazine (Print):

Darts said goodbye to “The Crafty Cockney” last month after one of the sports greatest players died, aged 60, (it is poignant that he had reached treble twenty years) while attending the Premier League event that evening.

It tells you all you need to know about Bristow that news of his passing spread so widely with the tributes and warm messages flooding in from all parts. The darts on show in Liverpool took an understandably sombre but, nevertheless, celebratory and almost thankful tone. Tears were shed in sadness but also happiness at a life lived, and a career forged, to the fullest.

Eric was all of us, the good and the bad. Born in Hackney, he embodied the idea of “man of the peope”.The ultimate showman, eric not only beat his opponents but did so with cheeky frowns and grins.

Darts was not just a sport but a form of entertainment to the great man, showcasing the brazen side in all of us. He was outspoken, brash and often controversial. However, show me a man claimed to be perfect and I will show you a liar. geniuses are often flawed but often that endears them to us even more. Eric was as to the point with words as he was with his arrows, you can truly say you always knew where you stood with this larger than life character.

In an incredible career, Bristow was darts first superstar, ushering in the first golden age of sponsorship deals, terrestrial tv coverage and all that razzmatazz. Without him, darts may never have reached the dizzy heights that it managed during the 1980s. As a mainstay of our TV sets, he set up the game, both through his own performance and in setting up the PDC, for the high level of professionalism seen today.

“The Crafty Cockney” was five times during the 1980s, he also reached five other finals. In addition, he claimed five World Masters titles as well as every other available major title. The son of a plasterer, Bristow reigned supreme, he topped the ranking for seven years in a row as world No.1. It all started in the world final of 1980, against Bobby George. His win established him as the best in the world. Many will always think of him that way.

Even Eric’s defeats were extraordinary. The 1983 loss to Kieth Deller still rates as one of the games iconic moments.

More World Titles followed as he collected the title in 1981,1984,1985 and 1986. This was the first period of sustained dominance in the sport which had a massively expanding reach. Even defeats were not run of the mill. The crushing defeat, to Kieth Deller, in the 1983 final, saw the underdog triumph in one of the biggest upsets in darting history to date. Despite confirmation that the Eric was not invincible, he showed grit and character in re-establishing himself as the undisputed champion by winning the title for the next three years.

It genuinely seemed that Eric had the world at his feet. The famous Sid Waddell quote ” When Alexander of Macedonia was 33 years old, he cried salt tears. For there were no more world to conquer”. “Eric Bristow’s only 27!” did not seem exaggerated.

Like many a great emporer however, just as he rose and conquered he subsequently fell from grace. The sudden, and severe, the onset of dartitis effectively ended his time at the peak of his powers and the very top of the sport.

Eric rose once more though, vicariously through his darting prodigy. A fellow by the name of Phil Taylor. Bristow was the 16-time world champion’s mentor/coach in his early days and in his own words “created a monster”.

Taylor, reacting to the news of Eric’s death, said the he “owed everything” to Bristow. This complete praise owes not just to the fact that Eric provided Taylor with the financial and professional means to reach the highest level, but also the psychological/mental strength to believe in his winning ability.

Taylor famously recounted how he would ring Eric to tell him he had reached the Qtr or Semi-final of some event or other. ” Only ring when you have won” would be the shouted reply. The great man’s will to win almost transcended his normal self. Taylor commented that “that mentality is his legacy”.

Bristow was also a major player in the foundation of the PDC as the game split in two in 1993. In 2005 he was inducted into the PDC Hall of Fame alongside old friend and rival John Lowe. He finally called time on a storied playing career in 2007.

The stories about Bristow would continue to pile up. Exploits on the exhibition circuit being as legendary as his professional success. The Hackney-born lad’s warm heart was also related by many. From VIPs to members of the general public, reports were of him being a complete gentleman to the last.

The sport of darts owes an awful lot to Eric Bristow. The game will remember him as one of it’s greatest sons. The world, however, will also be a worse place for the loss of such a kind, funny and competitive soul.

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Bradley West – For Darts World (Print) June 2018

(DW Staff – Slight abridgement and hindsight editing.)

Pics; PDC

2018 Unibet Premier League – Play-Offs Round-Up

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Michael van Gerwen produced one of the great darting major final performances as he demolished Michael Smith to win the 2018 Unibet Premier League, his fourth Premier League triumph.

With the second highest average in a televised final, Michael van Gerwen was simply irresistible in securing the 102nd trophy of his career as he defeated a game Michael Smith 11-4, scoring extremely highly and never letting up on the doubles.

This, after van Gerwen also made relatively light work of world champion Rob Cross in the first semi-final, beating ‘Voltage’ 10-6 as the former electrician struggled with a cartilage injury in his rib cage. Michael Smith, who should be extremely proud of both his efforts tonight, earned the best victory of his career as he defeated his mentor and great friend Gary Anderson 10-6 in assured style.

 

Michael van Gerwen 10-6 Rob Cross

In the night’s opening semi-final, Michael van Gerwen raced into a commanding advantage and never let go against an injured Rob Cross, the reigning world champion suffering from a cartilage injury in his rib cage.

Right from his very first turn, van Gerwen meant business as his first three darts landed in the treble twenty bed. Despite winning the second leg, Cross was blown away in an opening session where he struggled to find his feet on The 02 stage and where MvG kicked off the relentless form that would see him lift the trophy just a few hours later.

In winning five of the first six legs, van Gerwen registered several legs under 13-darts and hit clutch checkouts including a clean kill of a 61 finish. In the seventh leg, the first chinks in the Dutchman’s armour were discovered as he missed two at double, which Cross capitalised on to break the reigning Premier League champion.

As the two shared the final legs before the interval, Rob Cross went into it trailing by seven legs to three, a bridge that would require an incredible effort if he was to surmount it.

Cross did come out fighting in spite of his struggles in the match as he nailed double 16 in a dramatic eleventh leg. After trying to leave 32, Cross hit a single one leaving himself open to a van Gerwen steal. The Dutchman, though, missed two at tops to take advantage. Two more doubles went by the way side in the next leg as MvG’s missed doubles tally reached 10. This did not effect the leg though as, with Cross missing his attempt at tops, van Gerwen could hit an easy D5 for an 8-4 lead.

With the finishing line in sight MvG managed the best checkout of the game with a brilliant 128. Cross was not done yet, however, as he reeled off two straight legs with lovely finished of 50 and 118. It was all in vein in the end though as van Gerwen, despite staggering over the line somewhat, secured the win with a 70 finish.

 

Michael Smith 10-6 Gary Anderson

World number eight Michael Smith pulled off the biggest win of his career to reach his first major final as he defeated his great friend and mentor Gary Anderson in a show of strength and just how far he has come in 2018.

Confidence came from the start for Smith as he, like van Gerwen, registered a 180 with his first turn of the contest, then hitting a 100 checkout to take he opening leg. Smith then followed up with D10 to break Anderson straight away after the Scot wired a bullseye attempt in leg two.

‘The Flying Scotsman’ respondedly immediately with a 14-dart leg to break but he was then broken back himself after missing three attempts at tops in a leg where he also registered back-to-back 180s! Smith was clinical throughout in taking advantage of any Anderson slip-up though and D18 in leg four before an impressive 74 finish made it 4-1 to Smith.

Three legs in a row for the former winner Anderson followed though as the Scot began to assert himself on the contest. In topsy-turvy fashion, Smith hit back with two straight legs to lead 6-4 at the interval after Anderson blew two chances for 5-5 on his doubles, a recurring theme of the contest.

Ragged and behind, the Scottish thrower returned after the break to yet more leg wins for Smith as ‘Bully Boy’ hit a beautiful 120 finish in leg eleven before hitting D10 to hold a 8-5 lead, two away from the victory.

In leg fifteen three 180s followed in a row as Smith, then Anderson, and then Smith again hit maximums. It was Anderson, just as in the contest as a whole, who blinked first as Smith was rampant – following up the 180s with a 84 checkout before nailing tops with his second dart to gain the best win of his career and condemn his mentor to a third consecutive defeat at the semi-final stage.

 

Michael van Gerwen 11-4 Michael Smith

To start the 2018 Premier League final, Michael van Gerwen hit the third 180 to kick off a match of the night, his second, as he again started as he meant to go on. The opening leg, as many in the match did, came and went quickly as it took just 12-darts for the Dutchman to take the lead.

Another 12-darter followed by an 11 saw van Gerwen win the opening three legs in a ridiculous 35-darts as ‘Mighty Mike’s’ average hit 128! To his credit, and as happened throughout the match, Smith showed heart and played well himself as he hit D10 to get his first leg on the board.

Unfortunately for Smith, van Gerwen was just in another league as he powered away with the next five legs in a supreme show of near darting perfection, with more 11, 12 and 13-dart legs as Smith could simply not get a look in. Illustrating his sheer brilliance, MvG’s stats at the interval read: 122 average, 72 per cent on the doubles and eight 180s. Thrilling scoring and clinical finishing was the order of the day for MvG.

Again, Smith bounced back despite the barrage he had been receiving with a fantastic 125 finish to the approval of the crowd inside The O2. Van Gerwen was back again with another leg before long but Smith bravely intercepted the tide with another ton plus checkout.

In the end though, it was all academic for Smith as he could not fight the dying of the light for long. The world number one rounded out his fourth Premier League success with a 112 checkout, symbolising the fantastic fashion of his win. An average of 112.37, only dropping slightly due to a quieter final few legs, was the highest of the tournament at the very last and the second highest television final average of all time.

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

2018 Unibet Premier League – Night Fifteen Round-Up

Photo: Steve Walsh/PDC

The line-up for Finals Night at The O2 Arena next Thursday was confirmed on a remarkable night of Premier League Darts where three out of the four matches ended in draws.

Gary Anderson defeated Michael van Gerwen by seven legs to five in an entertaining encounter while Daryl Gurney and Peter Wright played out a nervy 6-6 draw to ensure that Anderson qualified for the play-offs at the expense of ‘SuperChin’ and his very slim hopes.

In the night’s opening two matches, Michael Smith and Raymond van Barneveld played out a high-quality contest in another 6-6 draw while Simon Whitlock fought back against Rob Cross to also earn a point.

Michael Smith 6 – 6 Raymond van Barneveld

The opener proved to be a fierce and exciting contest as Michael Smith and Raymond van Barneveld went tit for tat in a contest that featured a remarkable FIVE ton plus checkouts, three from the Dutchman and two from the Englishman.

The standard was set from the off as van Barneveld registered a delightful 122 checkout, started on the bull, in the second leg before following up in the fourth and sixth with finishes of 126 and 121 respectively, all brilliant efforts. All the while, ‘Bully Boy’ plugged away as well as hitting a 124 checkout of his own in leg five.

Up until the ninth leg the match went with throw as both men were exceptional on their doubles, giving their opponent no quarter to break. This changed in leg nine though as van Barneveld hit D9 after missing three attempts at D18 and D9 beforehand to break the throw of Smith.

Smith took advantage of missed chances in leg ten before turning on the style with a 107 checkout, the fifth ton plus finish of the match, to take a potentially decisive 6-5 lead. It was not over yet for the Dutchman however as ‘Barney’ held his nerve with a 91 checkout in two darts for the draw. All of which was still a good effort from a poorly ‘Bully Boy’ who was suffering with pleurisy.

 

Simon Whitlock 6 – 6 Rob Cross

Simon Whitlock fought back in a topsy turvy battle against world champion Rob Cross to register the second draw of the night. ‘Voltage’ was quick out of the blocks, registering checkouts of 112 and 16 to hold a 2-0 advantage.

As would develop as the match went on though, Cross found it difficult to wrap leg three up and his missed chances at doubles gave rise to Whitlock nailing D10 for leg three. The Aussie was powerless to prevent two of the next three legs going the way of the reigning world champion however as Cross extended his lead with solid holds of throw.

Somehow, leg seven, Whitlock fought back to within one despite busting D8 and a single 16 and Cross having four chances to capitalise. As it was, he could not and this, alongside a D7 in the next leg, levelled things at four apiece.

Two breaks followed as Cross nailed a 90 checkout before Whitlock hit D8, D8 for a 32 finish and 5-5. As Cross followed up with yet more missed doubles in leg eleven Whitlock ensured a point but he could not stop ‘Voltage’ hitting a 94 checkout in the final leg to ensure the match ended level.

 

Peter Wright 6 – 6 Daryl Gurney

Daryl Gurney’s slim top four hopes were ended in an entertaining draw as Peter Wright registered more than the two legs Gurney could afford him to win in order to give him a chance of leapfrogging Gary Anderson in the standings at the last.

Despite clearly looking nervy and struggling, it was Gurney who did take the early lead that he needed as he stole legs away from Peter Wright, with ‘Snakebite’ missing several chances on his doubles. Averaging only a mere 80, Gurney managed to contrive a 3-1 advantage for himself to keep his play-off hopes alive.

These hopes began to burn brighter as the Northern Irishman turned it on with consecutive finishes of 60 and 81 alongside top-quality scoring in legs six and seven for a 5-2 lead. From here however, Wright put paid to ‘SuperChin’s’ Finals Night dream. Leg eight, with a single dart at D19, officially ended Gurney’s Premier League hopes.

Demoralised, Gurney’s form dropped off and allowed Wright to fight back into proceedings. Continuing to plug away, ‘Snakebite’ hit finishes of 82, 32 and 20 to make sure he did not just leave his home country with nothing.  The result also ensured that all three matches had so far ended as draws.

 

Michael van Gerwen 5 – 7 Gary Anderson

The draw pattern was, though, finally broken in the final leg of the night in Aberdeen. Despite the match lacking the 110+ averages of previous encounters between the pair, this contest was still entertaining as Anderson attempted to distance himself on the scoreline, being the better man, but van Gerwen repeatedly clawed away at his advantage.

After the opening four legs were shared, to the delight of the crowd, Anderson broke the Dutchman’s throw as he won the next two legs with a brilliant 121 checkout and a finish on D4. Van Gerwen, in typical fashion, was brutal in wiping out the deficit with an efficient response that began to silence the crowd.

Another pair of legs followed suit once more as Anderson reignited the passions of his adoring native fans with a 112 finish securing a point for ‘The Flying Scotsman’ as he made it 6-4. Despite pulling one back, ‘Mighty Mike’ could not prevent Anderson from hitting tops and handing him his fourth defeat of the 2018 campaign as the league phase was brought to a close with an Anderson win.

The result confirms the line-up for The O2 in the semi-finals on Finals Night where Michael van Gerwen will face Rob Cross in a repeat of their epic World Championship semi-final while Gary Anderson will meet Michael Smith.

2018 Unibet Premier League – Night Fourteen Round-Up

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Michael van Gerwen secured top spot in the league phase of the Premier League for a remarkable sixth year running with a 7-2 demolition job over Rob Cross in Birmingham, delivering his best performance of the campaign to follow his worst Premier League display in three years last week.

Elsewhere, Daryl Gurney’s faint hopes of reaching Finals Night became even fainter, but still remotely alive, as the Northern Irishman secured a hard-fought draw with Michael Smith while Raymond van Barneveld defeated Gary Anderson 7-3 in the final game of the evening. Gurney needs Anderson to lose 7-0 while also winning 7-0 himself in Aberdeen in order to reach The O2.

Van Gerwen, Michael Smith and Rob Cross are all confirmed for the final four shootout now.

Peter Wright 7-4 Simon Whitlock

Peter Wright moved off of bottom spot, in the second phase of the tournament, with victory over Simon Whitlock in a less than spectacular opener at Arena Birmingham.

‘Snakebite’ took a 2-0 lead with consecutive tidy finishes of 76 and 68 as Whitlock started off a theme that would continue for him throughout the match, continued missed doubles.

While the Australian hit D10 for leg three he would lose three of the next four legs to trail 5-2 after seven through a mix of clinical finishing from Wright but also wasteful errors on the double from himself. ‘The Wizard’ though, fought back with a 56 checkout and then D4, capitalising on sloppy doubles from Wright himself.

Leg ten put paid to Whitlock’s comeback however as a wonderful 118 finish from ‘Snakebite’ sapped the life out of the Australian. To confirm the result, Wright followed up with a 50 checkout in leg eleven for a 7-4 win to swap places in the table with his opponent.

 

Rob Cross 2-7 Michael van Gerwen

Michael van Gerwen responded to his lacklustre showing last week with a simply stunning, best performance of the campaign in demolishing world champion Rob Cross. The victory confirmed ‘Mighty Mike’ tops the table for the sixth year in a row, gaining a £25,000 bonus for doing so.

The world number one was on brilliant form, averaging over 120 as he raced into a 4-0 win in double quick time. The Dutchman’s outrageous scoring for far too much for ‘Voltage’, this despite the reigning world champion not playing badly himself at all in averaging 101.

Indeed, Cross was very game in taking two legs off of MvG, in leg five with a 78 checkout and leg seven, but he was ultimately powerless to prevent the end result. Van Gerwen’s highlight of a montage reel of a match from him came in leg six when he delivered a typically showstopping 144 checkout to the delight of the watching crowd.

An 86 checkout ended on the bull rounded off a sensational victory confirming that MvG will certainly be the man to beat on May 17.

 

Daryl Gurney 6-6 Michael Smith

Daryl Gurney fought back from 4-2 behind to secure a hard-fought draw against Michael Smith which keeps his extremely slim hopes of reaching Finals Night alive.

It was Smith though who was the quickest out of the gates, despite losing the opening leg, as he broke in the third leg on D19 before consolidating his break with D10 to take a 3-1 advantage. In doing so, ‘Bully Boy’ confirmed his play-off place for The O2, much deserved a brilliant second Premier League campaign.

Gurney began to show his fight in leg five however with an incredible 147 finish that stunned his English opponent. ‘SuperChin’ would continue on the charge, winning leg seven on D18 before registering the night’s best checkout with an outrageous 167 checkout that displayed plenty of guts and skill.

For the first time since the opening leg Gurney was now in the lead after leg nine as the Northern Irishman made hay with a 11-darter. Smith would peg him back with D10 in leg ten but Gurney was able to secure at least a point with tops in leg eleven.

Unfortunately for Gurney’s play-off hopes, Smith fought back with an 81 checkout on the bull to complete a 12-darter, denying ‘SuperChin’ an invaluable second point.

 

Gary Anderson 3-7 Raymond van Barneveld

Gary Anderson failed to confirm his place at The O2 on May 17 in Birmingham as he was soundly beaten by a very game performance from Raymond van Barneveld, who averaged 100 and hit 7/13 attempts on the doubles.

‘Barney’ started as he meant to carry on with his trademark fluid action in full flow during an opening three leg purple patch where the Dutchman broke twice to take a 3-0 leg lead.

‘The Flying Scotsman’ fought back with a break in leg four but the Scot would lose two of the next three legs as van Barneveld asserted his stranglehold on the contest with clinical two dart combinations of 59 and 90.

Anderson took his final leg of the match with a 95 checkout in leg nine but it was Raymond van Barneveld who would seal the deal with D8 to leave Anderson needing a single leg, mathematically, in Aberdeen to confirm his Finals Night place. Daryl Gurney still has the smallest bit of hope left but needs the most remarkable of turnarounds to reach The O2.

2018 Unibet Premier League – Night Thirteen Round-Up

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Simon Whitlock pulled off the result of the night in Manchester as he defeated the in-form Gary Anderson to give Daryl Gurney hope in the race for the final play-off spot and a place at the 02 on Finals Night.

Elsewhere, Raymond van Barneveld’s chances of reaching the final four shootout ended as he failed to defeat world champion Rob Cross while Michael van Gerwen suffered his third straight Premier League winless match before recovering with a big victory in the second of his two matches on the night.

Michael Smith demolished Peter Wright by seven legs to one in the night’s opening game before suffering defeat by the same margin to round off matters at Manchester Arena.

Peter Wright 1-7 Michael Smith

Peter Wright was yet again on the receiving end of a 7-1 demolishing as Michael Smith kicked off the night in scintillating form.

Five perfect darts in his first two turns set the tone for ‘Bully Boy’ as he launched an immediate assault on his opponent and the dartboard with a 12-dart break in the opening leg. The St Helens man then followed this up with a 13-dart hold, another break on tops and then a brilliant 128 checkout to hold a commanding 4-0 advantage.

Wright may have been able to then fight back with a 100 checkout but this was academic as Smith then reeled off three more consecutive legs for the victory, including hitting another fantastic ton plus checkout, 126, in leg seven. The victory all but confirms Smith’s place at the 02 in May.

 

Daryl Gurney 6-6 Michael van Gerwen

In the face of a 105 average from Michael van Gerwen, Daryl Girney delivered a brilliant performance to earn a draw and put the Dutchman’s winless Premier League streak up to three.

Van Gerwen started frighteningly quickly with checkouts of 130 and 74 back-to-back in taking a 2-0 lead. Gurney, in what would prove a theme, showed grit and determination to claw his way back in leg three with a 107 checkout.

In fact, the Northern Irishman worked his way back to take the lead with consecutive 76 checkouts in legs six and seven, much to the dismay of a van Gerwen who was far outscoring his opponent.

Leg nine appeared to be a crucial turning point as MvG broke Gurney’s throw on tops after ‘SuperChin’ hit single one when going for one dart at double top. Immediately though, an outrageously good response came from Gurney as he hit a sensational 156 checkout to level once more at 5-5.

Next, Gurney piled the pressure on his opponent with a superbly timed double 16 but it was not enough to earn the win as D8 secured a share of the spoils from van Gerwen. Gurney produced great timing and clutch doubles to earn a draw in the face of super high scoring though.

 

Simon Whitlock 7-5 Gary Anderson

In the big surprise of the night, Australian Simon Whitlock defeated the in-form man, Gary Anderson, who was error strewn and outplayed in the end.

From the off, ‘The Flying Scotsman’ was out of sorts and ‘The Wizard’ took advantage with a solid showing. In leg two, poor counting cost Anderson as he hit 16 second dart with 58 left leaving the door open to Whitlock, who hit 88 to take a 2-0 lead.

Anderson would win the next two legs before losing the following two and then winning the two after that as the game ebbed and flowed in cyclical nature. Whitlock then carried the trend on by winning the next two legs to secure a draw, the best of the action in leg ten as the Aussie went double double, hitting D18, D18 to complete a wonderful 92 checkout.

There was time for one final bit of Anderson resistance as he went 25, 60, bull for a 135 checkout but, after missing a dart for the draw in the final leg, Whitlock rounded off a great win with a 70 finish. The result opens up the race for fourth a little, giving Daryl Gurney the chance to sneak his way in.

 

Raymond van Barneveld 6-6 Rob Cross

Raymond van Barneveld’s quest for a top four place ended with a draw against world champion Rob Cross, having needed to win all of his last three games to stand any chance of reaching Finals Night at the O2.

The match started in sluggish fashion as both players were slow to get going. The first real spark of the match came in leg three as Cross took out a 72 checkout on the bullseye. The very next leg, van Barneveld messed up six darts from 132 to let Cross in to take a 3-1 lead.

Through the middle stages of the match, the authority switched this way and that as Barney fought his way back in before losing ground to Cross again and then pegging it back once more. From 4-2 behind, the Dutchman worked his way to 5-5 and two deciding legs.

In the first, van Barneveld capped three legs in a row with D16 after a 112 finish was narrowly missed by Cross. The final leg saw ‘Voltage’ take out the very same checkout to secure a point.

 

Michael Smith 1-7 Michael van Gerwen

After winning 7-1 in the night’s opening match, ‘Bully Boy’ Michael Smith came out on the receiving end of a 7-1 defeat against table topping Michael van Gerwen.

The match, in truth, was a lacklustre way to end the night as van Gerwen secured victory with a less than impressive 94.76 average and 39 per cent on the doubles. In a match where the highest checkout was tops, van Gerwen took an utterly commanding 6-0 lead although the score could not reflect the fact that both players were edgy and nervy.

‘Mighty Mike’ managed to gather some sort of control as the match wore on but he was still far from his best, nevertheless it was good enough to defeat a Michael Smith who, in a complete contrast with his first match of the night, lacked all composure.

2018 Unibet Premier League – Night Twelve Round-Up

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Premier League Darts’ Dutch excursion ended in spectacular fashion as Raymond van Barneveld defeated reigning Premier League champion Michael van Gerwen by seven legs to five in front of a raucous home crowd who were hugely in favour of Barney.

Elsewhere, Gary Anderson made it three wins out of three in the Netherlands with another superb performance in defeating Daryl Gurney 7-3 while Simon Whitlock’s hopes of reaching the O2 effectively ended with two demoralising 7-1 defeats on the night.

Simon Whitlock 1-7 Michael Smith

The first of which, came in the opening match of the night as ‘Bully Boy’ ran riot against the Aussie.

Despite winning the opening leg after Smith blew two opportunities at double, ‘The Wizard’ never appeared at the races and it showed. Seven consecutive legs came the way of Smith which included the highlights of a sensational 160 checkout in leg three and a 13-dart break in the fifth.

The in-form surprise package of the tournament, Smith rounded out the win on the bullseye.

 

Daryl Gurney 3-7 Gary Anderson

Gary Anderson made it three wins out of three in Rotterdam over the two nights of darting spectacle as he demolished Daryl Gurney with another amazing near 100 average performance to cement his place in the Premier League’s play-off places.

To kick off the contest, Anderson hit six perfect darts in a way reminiscent of his eight-perfect darts the night before at the Ahoy, however, this proved to be in vain as Gurney hit a 56 checkout for the leg.

Anderson’s superb recent form really came to the fore following this, though, as three consecutive legs went the way of ‘The Flying Scotsman’. In the third leg, the Scot hit an unbelievable 170 finish before capitalising on missed doubles from Gurney in the very next to make it 3-1.

Despite being comprehensively outscored, this established a trend whereby ‘SuperChin’ was not without chances however he failed to take them and was consistently immediately punished by Anderson.

After conceding a leg to Gurney, Anderson went on to take another three on the spin to lead 6-2 before he wrapped the match up in leg ten with a 180 followed by D4 in consecutive turns.

 

Rob Cross 6-6 Peter Wright

‘Snakebite’ Peter Wright engineered a superb escape to grab a point from 4-1 and 5-2 behind against world champion Rob Cross which keeps him still within a faint sniff of reaching the O2 in May.

‘Voltage’ was brilliant in starting quickly and racing into a 4-1 lead with checkouts of 81, 58, 97 and 88 along the way. Wright, though, began to chip away at Cross’ advantage, symbolised by his winning of a tight leg six.

Three more legs on the bounce went the way of Wright as he began to turn up the gas while Cross’ game began to fell away.

In a crucial leg eleven, with the scores at five apiece, Cross ensured himself a point but only after missing six leg darts before Wright wired 97 to steal it from under his grasp. Wright made up for this in the deciding leg to cap a fair result for both players. With averages of 96 for Cross and 92 for Wright the draw was a deserved result in the end.

 

Michael van Gerwen 5-7 Raymond van Barneveld

The big all-Dutch clash went the way of legend Raymond van Barneveld as he performed amazingly in defeating world number one Michael van Gerwen in front of a wild home crowd.

Van Barneveld began strongly, winning the opening two legs as van Gerwen started slowly on the doubles. ‘Mighty Mike’ responded straight away with D16 before Barney registered a clutch D9 last dart while MvG waited to pounce.

Barney continued to pile the pressure on against a rattled MvG, this despite conceding eight points in the averages to the world’s best player. Despite hitting a roof-raising 145 checkout using T19, T16 and D20, van Barneveld rattled off two more legs including hitting an excellent 81 finish on bull to secure a famous point with three legs to go.

Van Gerwen fought back with two consecutive legs to take the match to a fitting last leg decider but he was no match for RvB in it with Barney taking out 68 to condemn ‘Mighty Mike’ to two straight defeats despite averaging 107 and 104 in the matches respectively.

 

Daryl Gurney 7-1 Simon Whitlock

In the night’s final match, Daryl Gurney was impressive, averaging nearly 100, in destroying Simon Whitlock as the Australian suffered another 7-1 defeat on the night.

Gurney hit six perfect darts in leg two as he raced into a 2-0 advantage before then doubling it with checkouts of D10 and an unconventional 28 finish, going 11, 1 and then D8.

Despite wiring a 130 attempt in the next leg Whitlock was able to get his first leg on the board in the madhouse. This proved academic though as Gurney wrapped up the next three legs for a victory that moves him up to fifth in the standings.

2018 Unibet Premier League – Night Eleven Round-Up

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Peter Wright made it a Premier League double over Michael van Gerwen with a thrilling 7-5 victory at the Rotterdam Ahoy to ruin the world number one’s homecoming. However, Raymond van Barneveld enjoyed a much better opening night to the Dutch double header this week as he defeated Simon Whitlock 7-5, spurred on by a partisan home support.

Elsewhere, Gary Anderson had a wonderful night, winning both of his matches while Rob Cross won one of his two matches in Rotterdam.

Michael Smith 2-7 Gary Anderson

Two-time world champion Gary Anderson started the night with a wonderful showing to comprehensively defeat in-form Premier League star Michael Smith.

The Scot got off to the quickest possible start with a 15-dart break in leg one before holding with a 62 checkout in the following leg.

Despite Smith pulling a clutch D10 out to win leg three, Anderson continued in a relentless vein, hitting almost all of his doubles while smashing the big treble beds into submission.

Three more legs consecutively fell the way of ‘The Flying Scotsman’ as Anderson’s power scoring proved all too much for ‘Bully Boy’. Averaging 109, the Scottish thrower finally powered to victory, by seven legs to two, with a magnificent 138 checkout using T20, T20 and D9.

 

Rob Cross 7-4 Daryl Gurney

Rob Cross did the damage early in his contest with Daryl Gurney before surviving a spirited comeback from the Northern Irishman to earn victory.

In a highly clinical display, the reigning world champion moved into a 5-0 lead after a combination of ton plus finishes and capitalisations on double misses from his opponent.

It looked as if a whitewash was on the cards as Gurney’s head seemed to drop, affected by wiring a 170 checkout on the bull before seeing Cross take advantage with a 107 checkout in leg three.

Gurney, though, responded by winning four of the next five legs to pile the pressure back on Cross at 6-4 behind. Cross began to miss doubles as ‘SuperChin’ continued to chip away at ‘Voltage’, refusing to submit.

Even as the match came to a conclusion in leg eleven Gurney missed a dart at bull to take the game into a final leg decider. Cross, though, finally wrapped up the match with D12 to move into second in the standings.

 

Raymond van Barneveld 7-3 Simon Whitlock

The fanatical Dutch crowd inside the Rotterdam Ahoy spurred Barney onto a solid performance in victory over Simon Whitlock on night one of this week’s darts double header.

Averaging 100.96 and with four 180s, van Barneveld proved too much to handle despite Whitlock fighting bravely against his opponent and the 10,000 strong crowd.

RvB started well with a 14-dart hold in leg one before hitting doubles with his first dart in the next two legs to take a 3-0 lead.

Whitlock did well to respond with leg four on D7 amid strong jeers from the crowd but he was powerless a few legs later as van Barneveld romped to leg seven, wiring a 160 checkout before finishing off with tops.

Despite winning another leg, ‘The Wizard’ could not gather any meaningful momentum and van Barneveld finished a solid victory off with a T18, D18 combination for a 90 checkout.

Peter Wright 7-5 Michael van Gerwen

By far the night’s best, most engaging match came in the meeting of the world’s top two though as Peter Wright sensationally beat Michael van Gerwen to register a Premier League double over the defending Premier League champion.

Despite being outscored throughout the match, ‘Snakebite’ was extremely efficient on his doubling and his timing was superb in taking advantage of any slight error from his Dutch opponent.

Wright silenced the crowd from the off as took a 3-1 lead, crucially putting MvG on the backfoot early with a break in leg four thanks to a cool, calm and collected 98 finish.

Two out of the next three legs also went the way of the Scot as Wright continued his clinical doubling, not missing a double in the opening seven legs.

The insanely high standard of the match was emphasised by the fact that, in winning leg eight, van Gerwen’s average reached 110 and he was still losing by five legs to three!

The comeback continued from the Dutchman the very next leg as he went double double to complete a 94 finish before hitting a spectacular 148 checkout to level the scores at five apiece.

With two legs to go Wright grabbed the initiative with a gutsy D4 under pressure before sealing a spectacular win over a very game MvG in the world number one’s own backyard with D12.

 

Rob Cross 3-7 Gary Anderson

Gary Anderson firmly consolidated his position in the top four with a second win on the night, averaging just shy of 100 in a solid victory over Rob Cross.

Cross kicked off the match in spectacular style, hitting a 144 checkout, but he was immediately checked back by a 14-dart hold from ‘The Flying Scotsman’. The next two legs were also shared before Anderson accelerated away in great fashion.

Five consecutive legs went the way of the Scot as he rallied from 2-1 behind into a 6-2 lead. Three ton-plus checkouts provided the backbone of this assault while Anderson came within a matter of millimetres of hitting the first nine-darter of the campaign, wiring D12 in leg eight.

Cross was able to curtail Anderson’s run of legs with a 63 checkout in leg nine however this would prove to be his last leg won as the Scottish thrower capitalised on missed darts from the world champion in leg ten to win with a 56 finish.

2018 Unibet Premier League – Night Ten Round-Up

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Rob Cross defeated Michael Smith in an enthralling match of the night on Night 10 of Premier League Darts 2018 from FlyDSA Arena in Sheffield.

Elsewhere, there were wins for table topping Michael van Gerwen, Daryl Gurney, Gary Anderson and Peter Wright, who won one of his two matches. Dutchman Raymond van Barneveld suffered defeat in both legs of his double header to seriously dampen his play-off hopes.

As the night kicked off, Sky and the PDC paid tribute to the late, great Eric Bristow with special video packages followed by a minute’s applause, observed by all in attendance alongside all the players, commentators and Keith Deller and Bobby George, whom all stood before the crowd onstage.

Raymond van Barneveld 3 – 7 Daryl Gurney

In the first of his two matches, ‘Barney’ struggled and could not cope with an impressive performance from Daryl Gurney, who moved into the top four momentarily with victory.

With Gurney taking the first leg, van Barneveld lost his 13th straight leg in the tournament, an unwanted statistic but one that he superbly put right in the following leg as he hit T20, T20, T19 for a sensational 158 checkout.

The following two legs were shared before ‘SuperChin’ registered a brilliant 11-darter to break the Dutchman’s throw. With RvB visibly struggling, the Northern Irishman turned on the gas in winning the next two legs too on tops and the bullseye to finish a 121 checkout in legs six and seven respectively.

From 2-1 behind, Gurney made it five straight legs in the eighth before he wrapped up the victory in leg ten to make it six matches without defeat in the tournament. 102.76 average and 64% on the doubles summed up the impressive performance from Daryl Gurney.

 

Peter Wright 2-7 Gary Anderson

For Peter Wright, he too suffered defeat in the first of his two matches on the night. The win was commanding for Gary Anderson who delivered a high standard with a 104 average evidencing the way ‘The Flying Scotsman’ outmuscled his opponent.

The beginning of the match proved pivotal as Anderson opened up a massive 5-0 lead in double quick time. Wright had a few chances on the doubles to prevent this chasm developing but, ultimately, ‘Snakebite’ just could not live with Anderson’s powerful performance.

Despite registering two out of the next three legs, Wright could still do very little to prevent Anderson taking the win in leg nine on D16.

The result left Wright with one win in 10 and desperately needing to beat van Barneveld in the night’s final game.

 

Michael van Gerwen 7-1 Simon Whitlock

Table-topping Michael van Gerwen continued his dominance at the top of the standings with a comprehensive victory over Simon Whitlock, his biggest of the 2018 Premier League.

It all started so differently too as Whitlock took the opening leg with a 50 checkout before missing a chance at an 81 finish for 2-0. From there, the game rapidly slipped away from the Australian as van Gerwen moved up through the gears in trademark fashion, winning seven legs on the spin to victory.

Along the way, ‘Mighty Mike’ delivered some fantastic feats of darting skill, pulling off sublime checkouts of 106, 126 and 121. Of particular note was the outrageous 121 checkout hit in leg six where the Dutchman hit bullseye by mistake before nonchalantly proceeding to reel off the remaining treble 13 and double 16 needed for the checkout in rapid fashion.

 

Rob Cross 7-5 Michael Smith

The night’s best match was an enthralling contest, high on both drama and quality. Rob Cross, the far superior power scorer throughout the contest, struggled to shrug off a determined effort from Michael Smith throughout.

The opening leg of the match set the tone as Smith hit five perfect darts but failed to take the leg when Cross took out a 107 checkout to steal it from under his nose. In a role reversal, Smith had the opportunity to take the second leg from Cross’ grasp but failed to do so.

Despite being comprehensively outscored, Smith fought back with three legs on the spin to the surprise of the reigning world champion.

As ever though, Cross dug in and remained calm as he continued in his fine fettle to win four straight legs of his own in the highest possible standard. ‘Voltage’ hit legs of 13, 12 and 13 darts before then taking out an 82 checkout as his average reached 111.

Smith failed to let this get the better of him, though, as he reeled off legs ten and eleven to take the match to a deciding leg.

At the most crucial of times, ‘Bully Boy’ cracked, however, with turns of 43 and 46. Cross took advantage and sealed the win with 16, D16.

 

Peter Wright 7-2 Raymond van Barneveld

Peter Wright secured only his second win of the campaign as he defeated Raymond van Barneveld, condemning the Dutchman to a double defeat in Sheffield.

For most of a low-quality contest Barney, it has to be said, looked disinterested and ‘Snakebite’, with an average of 95 to RvB’s extremely poor 86, took full advantage.

The quality of the match is perhaps best summed up by the fact that Barney sealed the opening leg in 21 darts. Wright then reeled off four consecutive leg which included a sensational 132 checkout in leg five as the Scot hit two bulls and D16 in an exhibition-style shot.

Van Barneveld was able to win his second and final leg with 76 in leg six but then fell victim to another run of legs lost as he slid to his second defeat on the night.

Wright, who almost bust a 60 checkout attempt as he narrowly avoided missing the treble 20, was nowhere near his glittering best but confidence will still be taken from a win nonetheless which could perhaps kickstart his play-off push.

2018 Unibet Premier League – Night Nine Round-Up

Photo: PDC

Judgement Night from Liverpool was rightly overshadowed by the devastating news of the passing of darting pioneer and legend, Eric Bristow, at the age of 60 after suffering a heart attack.

In an incredible career, darts first superstar, Bristow, was five times world champion in the 1980s alongside winning five World Masters titles too. In 2005, the East London native was inducted in the PDC Hall of Fame alongside long time rival John Lowe.

Bristow was a major player in the foundation of the Professional Darts Corporation as the game split into the two factions of the PDC and British Darts Organisation while he also played a massive part in the development of 16-time world champion Phil Taylor, serving as a sponsor and mentor of his in the early days of his career.

PDC Chairman Barry Hearn led the tributes to Bristow, stating: “Eric will always be a legend in the world of darts and British sport. He was a tremendous player and a huge character and even after his retirement fans would travel for miles to meet him and see him play.

“Eric was never afraid of controversy, but he spoke as he found and was honest and straightforward which is what people admired about him. The PDC, and the sport of darts, will miss him.”

Sky spotter and long-time friend and rival of Bristow’s, Keith Deller, paid tribute to the great man in Liverpool as an emotional night of Premier League Darts was brought to a close as a packed Echo Arena chanted his name.

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Ultimately, Bristow’s impact helped develop the sport into the evolving juggernaut it is today. Without him, the game of darts simply would not be in such good health. It is with great sadness that this report is brought to you. RIP Eric.

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

 

Simon Whitlock 7-3 Gerwyn Price

In the night’s opener, an extremely scrappy affair, low on quality, Simon Whitlock bested Gerwyn Price. Defeat for the Welshman sees him bow out of the competition with the lowest points tally in Premier League history (since the format changed to 10 players in 2013).

The match began in extremely scrappy fashion as Whitlock missed thirteen darts at double in leg three, something that ‘The Iceman’ could not even capitalise on! Extremely low on confidence, Price fell 4-1 behind as he made repeated mistakes on his doubles.

Despite a mini-fightback, taking the score to 4-3 in errears, a sensational 164 checkout from the Australian knocked the rest of the wind out of Price as Whitlock went on to claim the next two legs for victory.

 

Raymond van Barneveld 0-7 Michael Smith

Michael Smith inflicted the ninth ever whitewash in the history of the Premier League as the man from St.Helens demolished Raymond van Barneveld with a wonderful display of scoring and, especially, double hitting.

The tone was set from ‘Bully Boy’ in the opening leg as Smith broke the throw for the 24th time in this year’s tournament, the most of anyone.

Ninth ever PL whitewash! Outrageous performance from Smith who demolished RvB! From there, Smith was ruthless, scoring heavily while acting clinically on the doubles as Barney’s chances, including wiring attempts at D16, D8, D4 and D2 in leg three, fell apart.

In continuing to pile more and more misery on van Barneveld, Smith was machine-like – hitting 7/8 on the doubles and with an average of 103 against a Barney who, while not on top form, still averaged 97.

 

Gary Anderson 5-7 Rob Cross

The clash between former world champions Gary Anderson and Rob Cross was no classic, proving especially below-par in the scoring department for these two men, but it was Rob Cross who, nonetheless, prevailed.

The difference, despite Anderson proving a much higher scorer throughout much of the match, was in the doubles as Cross ruthlessly took out far more of his chances (39 per cent) than that of Anderson (28 per cent).

In a topsy turvy mactch, Anderson will rue several legs, including leg three and five, where his doubling badly let him down, costing him at least a certain point. Cross’ victory solidifies his standing in the top four as the tournament now whittles itself down to eight men and a final set of fixtures before the 02 in May.

 

Mensur Suljovic 4-7 Michael van Gerwen

Mensur Suljovic showed lots of fight but it was ultimately not enough as the Austrian was eliminated from the 2018 Premier League with defeat to a phenomenal MvG performance.

Averaging 106 and with a staggering TEN 180s, the Dutch world number one held off a brave charge from ‘The Gentle’, who was rarely trailing by more than a single leg.

In a exceptionally fast start to the match, both players registered legs with six perfect darts in them in the opening two legs itself. The crucial point in the match proved to be leg five where Suljovic missed a dart at D12 and then D6 for a 3-2 lead. As it turned out, MvG stepped up and claimed a massive break which he then consolidated.

Despite nagging at his heels, Suljovic could not live with van Gerwen’s power in the end as he accelerated away with three of the last four legs of the match.

 

Daryl Gurney 6-6 Peter Wright

An emotional final match of the night made the events on stage very much secondary as news of Eric Bristow’s death spread around the area.

The match itself was a topsy turvy affair where neither played held a lead in excess of one leg throughout the entire contest.

Several high checkouts including a 121 from Gurney in leg two and a 100 from Wright in leg five punctuated the match as it headed for a nervy finish.

Wright, put under extreme pressure in the game’s final leg, hit six perfect darts once more before then hitting a 93 checkout to share the spoils. The sad news had clearly got to ‘Snakebite’ however as he left the stage in tears following the match.

2018 Unibet Premier League – Night Eight Round-Up

Photo: Michael Cooper/PDC

Northern Irish native Daryl Gurney was the man of the moment at The SSE Arena in Belfast as ‘SuperChin’ delivered an outstanding performance to defeat world champion Rob Cross in front of a partisan home crowd willing him on.

In a hugely entertaining night full of quality matches, Gary Anderson also defeated Mensur Suljovic in a wonderful opener, Michael van Gerwen consolidated his position at the top of the table with a hugely impressive win over Dutch rival Raymond van Barneveld while Michael Smith reeled off five consecutive legs in ensuring elimination for Gerwyn Price come Judgement Night in Liverpool next week.

Mensur Suljovic 5-7 Gary Anderson

In a wonderful opener, Mensur Suljovic and Gary Anderson fought a back and forth contest high on tension in front of a highly energetic crowd that got really into the match.

‘The Flying Scotsman’ made a good start, racing into a 2-0 lead before Suljovic registered his first leg with a 77 checkout on tops. The Austrian then wasted a golden opportunity to level at 2-2 in leg four with four missed doubles, something Anderson took advantage of.

The game, topsy turvy for the most part, took a decisive turn in leg seven when Anderson stopped his relative dip in form with two straight legs, taking out 237 in five darts and a 124 checkout on bull to take a 5-3 lead.

From here, despite constantly nipping away at the Scot’s advantage, Suljovic could not erase the advantage Anderson had earned earlier in the game and D9 sealed it for the two time world champion.

 

Michael Smith 7 – 2 Gerwyn Price

Michael Smith bounced back from last week’s defeat at the hands of table-topping Michael van Gerwen by demolishing Gerwyn Price to seal the Welshman’s elimination from the competition come Judgement Night in Liverpool next week.

An encouraging start from Price kicked the match off with ‘The Iceman’ taking the opening leg albeit Price really should have made it 2-0 in leg two as he missed two double attempts which was pounced upon by a lovely 180 followed by an 82 checkout.

Six missed darts at double came in an immensely nervy third leg which Smith won before Price bounced back in the following leg.

Things were never to pick up from there for Price though as Smith claimed five consecutive to run away with the match. As clinically as ever, ‘Bully Boy’ cleanly dealt with tops as his favoured double while a fantastic 160 checkout in leg seven proved the standout moment of the match.

Raymond van Barneveld 2-7 Michael van Gerwen

Table-topping Michael van Gerwen defeated Dutch rival Raymond van Barneveld with his trademark acceleration up the gears, impressively out-doubling and outscoring his compatriot.

Barney started well, winning two of the opening three legs before van Gerwen beautifully squeezed his final dart in hand into bullseye for a 132 checkout in leg four.

The crucial turning point in the match proved to be leg five where the first break of the match was obtained by MvG. Van Barneveld had chances, five of them for the leg, but missed all of them in a theme that continued as the match went on.

Barney, with 20 per cent on the doubles, could not turn any opportunities into legs and ‘Mighty Mike’, as he powered through the gears, gave his opponent no let up.

In the end, van Gerwen sealed the win with his sixth consecutive leg in a strong performance illustrated by his 104 average. Doubles though, ultimately proved the great disparity between the pair.

 

Daryl Gurney 7-5 Rob Cross

Northern Irish native Daryl Gurney was he man of the night as he earned a superb victory over Rob Cross in a game of wonderfully high quality that engrossed the crowd at The SSE Arena.

It was the world champion who started the better, as both players hit maximums in their opening turns to the delight of the packed Belfast crowd. Cross won three of the opening four legs through clinical checkouts on 84 and 82.

Cross continued to consolidate his lead at 4-2 when capitalising on missed doubles from Gurney however ‘SuperChin’ managed to turn things around mid-match.

Crucially, with Cross well placed on 44 after hitting a well-timed 180, Gurney took out a 119 checkout brilliantly under big pressure to lead for the first time at 5-4 ahead. Cross responded like the champion he is with an 11-dart leg but this still proved to be in vein.

Gurney secured his survival ahead of Judgement Night next week in leg eleven before hitting further 180s, something he did superbly in the match and has done all campaign, to seal victory by seven legs to five.

 

Simon Whitlock 6-6 Peter Wright

In the night’s final match, Peter Wright snatched a point from 6-3 behind.

The opening four legs were shared with four consecutive holds of throw before Whitlock nudged ahead with a lovely 116 checkout in leg five.

Leg six looked like it would prove the turning point in the match as the first break was achieved by the Australian but he could not fashion the lead into victory. ‘The Wizard’ made the cardinal sin of busting on a double in leg seven scuppering his chances of a three-leg advantage, something ‘Snakebite’ was able to capitalise on.

Still, Whitlock broke in leg eight and then nailed a 124 checkout on the bull to guarantee a point. However, missed match darts would haunt the Aussie in leg eleven as Wright would hit a 120 checkout to force a deciding leg that he would emerge with a point from.