Price And Smith Produce Sparks
The crowd poured into the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff with the prospect of some exhilarating games to be witnessed. Questions were going to be answered this evening.
Could Rob Cross overcome the previous thrashings from Michael van Gerwen?
On the back of his Players Championship form, could James Wade replicate those performances?
Could Suljovic, Wright and Smith stop it from being two defeats in a row?
What darts would Peter Wright use?
The first match of the evening would be the start of answers to these questions as Mensur Suljovic and Daryl Gurney took to the stage. It was a nervy start for both players but Gurney hit a 180 in the first leg to force an error from Suljovic but was unable to capitalise and it would be the Austrian who would go 1-0 up. Gurney hit back in the second leg and just missed a 170 check-out in the third, only to see his opponent to win the leg. It would be a match of missed opportunities from both players and as the game moved into the fifth leg with the match 2-2 the check-out percentages told the story. Suljovic had a 29% check-out rate with Gurney on 18%. Each player was holding their throw, just about, but it would be Suljovic who would have the first break of throw in the eighth leg to go 4-3 up, but not wanting to be upstage Gurney broke back in the next leg. Both players began to settle down and the scores started to come but with a 6-4 lead after the tenth, Suljovic knew that all he had to do was hold his throw in the eleventh and he was certain of not losing. He did just that and after Gurney won the twelfth leg it would be Suljovic who would take the honours in this nervy, scrappy affair for the first game of the night.
As both players left the stage the crowd atmosphere bubbled with the anticipation of what was to follow.
Cross vs MVG.
Rob Cross came out of the blocks with all guns blazing, looking relaxed and confident to put himself into a 2-0 lead. Cross looked focused, determined to keep the top spot and entered the third leg in much the same way he had approached the first two. Van Gerwen stood at the back of the stage and by the expression on his face it appeared that he knew he needed to dig deep and pull Cross back. The averages told a different story. Cross was averaging at this point a 98 with Michael van Gerwen on 113. There was a chance for van Gerwen but he missed a single 18 for the bull, but left tops. Cross replied, eyeing a 3-0 gap. The dart pinged into the 25, he hit the treble twenty and a gasp went up from the crowd. He looked up to the top of the board but just missed double twenty. Van Gerwen stepped up and made no mistake on the double top to pull a leg back. It would be from this moment the tide of the match would change, as though that miss to make it 3-0 had affected Rob Cross. The next leg started off with three ton plus throws from both players, a sloppy 57 score from Cross allowed van Gerwen to edge ahead and ultimately the Dutchman would claw back another leg to make it 2-2. Cross looked flustered and could be seen looking up towards the roof of the arena, whereas Michael van Gerwen was changing gears, the rhythm was flowing and he was the one who now looked in control. The next three legs were close affairs, the scoring tight, but anybody watching felt that Michael van Gerwen was fully in control. Heading into the eighth leg the finishing double percentages showed that Cross was on 33% and van Gerwen on 63% which told the story of the match. The Dutchman stepped up even further to move ahead 6-2. Rob Cross was now struggling further and van Gerwen dispatched the last two legs to take the match in convincing style to continue his big wins over the Sussex man.
Michael van Gerwen would be top of the Premier League table heading to Liverpool.
Leading up to the night in Cardiff most people had been citing the previous match as the one to watch, but they were about to be surprised with an absolute thriller of a match.
Gerwyn Price entered the arena and for once he was greeted with cheers not jeers as his home crowd welcomed him. Michael Smith, undeservedly, received some boos from the Welsh fans but the crowd would have their minds turned to more entertaining business as both players set about producing an electrifying match. It would be Smith who took the first, yet cagey, leg. Price would bounce back to make it 1-1. That is when the sparks flew in a darting sense. Smith took a 12 dart third leg with a 170 check-out to go 2-1 up and send the Cardiff crowd wild. Not to be upstaged, Price hit back in the fourth and he matched Smith with a back-to-back 170 finish. Price roared with delight and as he walked back from retrieving his winning darts, Smith sportingly put a congratulatory fist out to recognise what both players were producing. They would then go toe-to-toe over the few legs, each holding their throw, each producing great darting entertainment. There was no time to catch your breath and the Cardiff crowd were on the edge of their seats. The first break of the game would come in the ninth leg. It was an amazing leg. Smith hit a ton, Price replied with a 180, Smith hit back with his own 180 only to see his Welsh opponent hit another 180 to set up a nine dart finish. Price, unfortunately for him and the crowd, was unable to deliver the nine-darter and with Smith missing 41 it would be Price who would break the throw. The crowd were now in overdrive and the atmosphere was electric. Smith would extend his lead further and deny a victory for Smith by taking the next two legs. Smith hit back in the twelfth leg but Price was able to secure victory in what was a stunning and great match to witness.
Both players embraced after the match, the crowd stood on their feet and anybody watching at home, I can only guess, slumped back in their seats and drew breath. What a match!
The last match of the night would be the in-form James Wade against the out-of-sorts Peter Wright. Wade looked totally focused on the stage, even with Snakebite jumping around and walking up to him and jokingly poking his tongue out. It did cause a slight smile from Wade but you had the feeling he had his business head on in Cardiff. It was evident straight away that Wright had yet again changed his darts. The reason I say evident is not because of the way the first dart landed in the board and shook. Peter Wright was using spring-loaded darts. He would take the first leg only for Wade to hit back in the send. As with the first game of the night the opening legs were a quiet affair for both players, but after the fourth leg Wade had done enough to take a 3-1 lead. Wright, who was not firing on all cylinders and had actually dipped into an average in the late 70s, hit back in the fifth but Wade kept his two leg advantage in the sixth, even after two misses from The Machine. It was a case that Peter Wright was just not bringing the match to him. Wade would win the next two legs, Wright was looking unsettled and frustrated at this point. Heading into the ninth Wright opened with a 140, Wade hit back with a 140, Wright hit two tons and Wade had replied with 120 and 100. It would be the finishing which would elude Wright again and Wade took a 7-2 lead to guarantee at least a point. In the last leg of the night Wright had chances to claw back a third, but missed doubles meant that Wade was able to step up and win the match 8-2.
The Premier League moves on to Liverpool on 25th April with two play-off spots being fiercely fought for, though Wright and Smith are now being left behind at the bottom of the table.
Mensur Suljovic 8 – 5 Daryl Gurney
Rob Cross 2 – 8 Michael van Gerwen
Michael Smith 5 – 8 Gerwyn Price
Peter Wright 2 – 8 James Wade
Michael van Gerwen – 107.87
Michael Smith – 99.11
Gerwyn Price – 98.43
Rob Cross – 94.49
James Wade – 94.32
Mensur Suljovic – 92.45
Daryl Gurney – 91.42
Peter Wright – 85.48