Cross and Van Gerwen move closer to Play-Offs in Liverpool
Rob Cross and Michael van Gerwen both won comfortably on Night 11 of the Unibet Premier League in Liverpool to move ever closer to sealing a top four spot while the battle for the other two places remains too tight to call.
Four top-quality games were in store at the M & S Bank Arena on the banks of the Mersey, and proceedings got underway with an unwell Rob Cross taking on an out of sorts Peter Wright. The 2018 World Champion had pulled out of Players Championship 10 on Sunday with an ulcer in his mouth which turned out to be tonsillitis, while the out of form ‘Snakebite’ changed his darts four times during the first of his pair of first round losses at the weekend.
However, it was easy to forget those issues in the early stages of their meeting in Liverpool as world number two fired in a 13-dart hold in the opening leg and backed it up with his world title-winning shot of 162 followed by 140-out. A 14-darter stretched his lead to three, but Wright was unfazed and found six perfect darts on his way to gaining an 11-dart foothold in the match. The brilliant standard continued into the middle part of the match as Cross followed three more five-visit legs with a 105 finish for a 6-2 advantage.
The 2017 UK Open champion took out 106 to keep himself in the contest at 6-4, but a slightly scrappier spell was put to bed by ‘Voltage’ as he pinned an 11-darter to win 8-5 despite his illness to ensure he’d be top of the standings going into his meeting with Michael van Gerwen with Cardiff. Cross hopes the tonsillitis will relent after withdrawing from the ProTour weekend in Barnsley, while there are encouraging signs for Wright who may need to win all of his remaining games to finish in the top four.
Gerwyn Price and Mensur Suljović had contrasting receptions as they took to the stage in a vital game which could have seen the Austrian go level on points with MVG. He wasn’t playing like it in the early stages, though, ‘The Iceman’ easing into a 3-0 lead with Suljović averaging in the 70s. However, he managed to haul himself back into contention with four legs on the spin before the Welshman re-took control of a topsy-turvy contest with the next four. It wasn’t pretty but a 13-darter for Price put him back in the top four despite an average of below 90.
Another crucial encounter was up next as James Wade and Daryl Gurney faced off with more vital points at stake. The two-time major champion took the initiative at 3-1, but world number nine Wade broke back soon enough and levelled up at 5-5. It was an archetypal ‘Machine’ performance from the Aldershot man as he was doing just enough to hold throw despite Gurney holding comfortably, specifically with an 11-darter to make it 6-6 and a 10-darter to seal the draw.
The Northern Irishman finished with an average 14 points higher than Wade, but it finished in a draw. Another great Premier League match up left the pair on twelve points alongside Price and Suljović, with another classic expected to round off the night as Michael van Gerwen and Michael Smith renewed rivalries. Premier League meetings between these two have seen record breaking performances from the world number one, and he was on that form again in winning the opening four legs with just 50 darts.
‘The Bullyboy’ still managed to get darts to win two of those legs despite a 121 average from MVG, and that was to be the pattern of the game as 4-0 became 6-1 in double quick time. It ended 8-3 to the reigning champion, who finished with the second highest average of the season so far, 109.11, but still remains behind Rob Cross in his quest to win the league phase for the seventh consecutive year.
It was the highest quality Premier League night in terms of averages since Aberdeen, and the play-off race still looks incredibly tight with more crucial games to come in Cardiff next week after more ProTour action this weekend in Barnsley, with the qualifiers for European Tours 5 and 6 and Players Championship 11 and 12 to look forward to.
2019 Unibet Premier League
Night 11 – Thursday April 11
M&S Bank Arena, Liverpool
Rob Cross 8-5 Peter Wright
Gerwyn Price 8-5 Mensur Suljović
James Wade 7-7 Daryl Gurney
Michael Smith 3-8 Michael van Gerwen
2019 Unibet Premier League
Night 12 – Thursday April 18
Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff
Mensur Suljović v Daryl Gurney
Rob Cross v Michael van Gerwen
Michael Smith v Gerwyn Price
Peter Wright v James Wade