CROSS & VAN GERWEN CONTINUE UNIBET PREMIER LEAGUE DARTS BATTLE
THE battle to top the Unibet Premier League table will go to the wire after Rob Cross and Michael van Gerwen claimed big wins in Sheffield on Thursday, as the Play-Off battle intensified on a dramatic night.
Cross remains at the top of the table, a point clear of Van Gerwen, heading to next Thursday’s final league night in Leeds as their battle to claim the £25,000 league leader’s bonus continued.
Four other players – James Wade, Mensur Suljovic, Daryl Gurney and Gerwyn Price – are all still in the hunt to claim the final two semi-final places, which will be decided at the First Direct Arena on May 16.
Rob Cross V Mensur Suljovic (8-4)
Cross opened Night 15 at The FlyDSA Arena with yet another top-class display, as the 2018 World Champion saw off Suljovic 8-4.
He took a 3-0 lead and also finished 126 on the bullseye to move clear of the Austrian, before sealing a tenth victory of the season which dents Suljovic’s own top four hopes.
“It feels absolutely brilliant,” said Cross. “Getting into the Play-Offs is the aim for everyone at the start of the season so I’m delighted.
“I’m loving it at the moment and it’s nice to win again. I started the game well but I made myself a bit edgy, and then I pulled myself together and got the win.
“I really enjoyed it and I need to focus on myself now and getting ready for the Play-Offs.”
Michael Van Gerwen v Peter Wright (8-1)
Cross’ performance was bettered, statistically, by reigning Premier League champion Van Gerwen, who produced the season’s highest average of 110.85 in an 8-1 romp against Peter Wright.
Van Gerwen followed an 11-darter with finishes of 102 and 105 as he opened up a 3-0 lead, with Wright replying with an 11-dart finish of his own in leg four.
The Dutchman, though, was relentless as he raced into a 7-1 lead without missing a dart at a double before overcoming three missed match darts in the next to complete a superb win.
“The main thing today was qualifying – I had to play well and I’m glad I did,” said Van Gerwen, who plays Suljovic in Leeds next week.
“I think I can be happy with this display – I didn’t do much wrong. Peter played well and pushed me, and we got the best out of each other.
“I think I played a good game. I believe in my ability and always believe I will make the Play-Offs, but it would mean a lot if I can finish top too.
“I know what it takes but I can only blame myself for being in this position because I’ve lost too many points. I have to put everything together next week and make sure I’m putting pressure on Rob.”
James Wade v Michael Smith (7-7)
Third-placed Wade moved a step closer to securing his first Play-Offs appearance since 2013 with a draw against Michael Smith.
A high-quality opening saw Wade respond to finishes of 76 and 94 from the World Championship finalist with a 144 checkout to level in leg four, only for Smith to then fire in a 128 bull combination.
Double ten in leg six saw Smith claim the first break to move 4-2 up, but his missed doubles in four of the next five allowed Wade back in to move 6-5 up.
A brilliant 161 checkout from Wade saw him secure a point, but Smith took the final two legs to share the spoils.
“It’s a frustrating result,” said Wade, the 2009 Premier League champion. “I got a point, which I guess is quite important at this stage of the season, but I’m not happy with how I played.
“Michael played better than me but I was fortunate he didn’t hit his doubles.”
Daryl Gurney v Gwerwyn Price (7-7)
Gurney and Price also remain in the hunt for Play-Off places following their draw, which ended with the Northern Irish ace exchanging words with the Grand Slam of Darts champion on stage.
Price hit back from a leg down to lead 3-1, while Gurney landed a superb ten-darter as he pulled back to 4-3, before levelling after 12 legs courtesy of a 95 finish – maintaining his superb finishing record on the night.
Price then held his nerve with a 96 finish that featured double 18 and double top as he secured a point – keeping his Play-Off hopes alive – but missed double 13 for the match in a dramatic decider before Gurney took out 64 to claim the draw.
The Unibet Premier League’s regular season will conclude on Thursday, May 16 at the First Direct Arena in Leeds with four matches which will all have a bearing on the Play-Off race. For tickets, visit www.ticketmaster.co.uk or call 0844 248 1585.
2019 Unibet Premier League
Night 15 – Thursday, May 9
The FlyDSA Arena, Sheffield
Michael Smith 7-7 James Wade
Mensur Suljovic 4-8 Rob Cross
Daryl Gurney 7-7 Gerwyn Price
Michael van Gerwen 8-1 Peter Wright
Night 16 – Thursday, May 16
First Direct Arena, Leeds
Gerwyn Price v Peter Wright
James Wade v Rob Cross
Michael van Gerwen v Mensur Suljovic
Daryl Gurney v Michael Smith