Taylor & MVG draw in thrilling Premier League Darts Opener
Phil taylor and Michael van Gerwen shared a thrilling draw as the McCoy's Premier League Darts season began at Belfast's Odyssey Arena on Thursday, with Raymond van Barneveld, Simon Whitlock, James Wade and Robert Thornton picking up opening-night victories.
Taylor and van Gerwen's rematch of January's World Championship final lived up to the billing in front of a sell-out 8,000 crowd, with both players setting up possible nine-darters during the contest.
Van Gerwen, on his Premier League Darts debut, led 3-1 and 6-4 but paid for missing five match darts in the 11th leg as Taylor kept his hopes alive with double 16 before finishing 104 in the game's deciding leg.
"It was a tough game and it ended up being a great scrap," said Taylor, the reigning Premier League Darts champion. "A draw was probably a fair result in the end.
"I'm happy to get a point on the board but I missed a few doubles at the start and let Michael in and he let me off the hook a bit later on."
"The league's not won in the first four or five weeks and we'll all start to settle down - even I was a little bit nervous tonight and I'm not usually like that!"
Taylor had earlier opened the contest with back-to back 180s, and landed two more maximums in the fifth leg before a key bullseye finish, for an 89 checkout, levelled at three all.
The Dutch ace, though, took three of the next four to earn a point before Taylor hit back to secure a draw.
"I probably should have got both points but I missed five darts to win it," said van Gerwen. "It hurts when you give a point away, but that happens sometimes and I've got another game next week which I'll prepare for now."
"I think I did well for my first Premier League game and I enjoyed it very much. It was an amazing experience and it felt great - I could even have got a nine-darter tonight, the feeling was there but maybe I wasn't quite concentrated enough on the 141 finish because of the excitement of the night."
Five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld made a fine start as he averaged 102 in a 7-4 victory over Gary Anderson, who led 2-0 and 3-1 before the Dutchman took command by winning five straight legs to set up the win.
"I'm very pleased with that," said van Barneveld. "My scoring was great but I have to sharpen up on my finishing,"
"Other players may have punished me tonight so I know I'll have some work to do on the practice board, but I believe in myself and I know I can win this tournament."
"The crowd were great and I'm looking forward to Aberdeen next week too because I always get a good reception in Scotland too."
Simon Whitlock took out finishes of 121 and 108 as he overcame Adrian Lewis 7-3 in the battle of the Premier League's last two beaten finalists to punish some wayward finishing from the world number two.
"I was hoping to get off with a win tonight and I've managed to do that, so I'm happy," said Whitlock. "The performance probably could have been better, but I hit the doubles at the right time, and a couple of key big finishes, and got the win.
"It's important to get off with a win because nobody wants to be in the relegation places so I'm really happy."
Lewis was left frustrated with his performance, which was typified when he hit a 180 to leave 60 in one leg only to burst his score by hitting the treble 20 - instead of a single 20 to leave tops - when he returned, and he missed 14 darts at a double in the contest.
"I'm very disappointed," said the two-time World Champion. "I missed too many doubles and that's what cost me the match."
"When I hit the treble 20 and burst my score it summed up my night. I had Simon and let him off the hook, and it's frustrating - but I'll get back on the practice board and work hard to get ready for Aberdeen next week."
Debutant Robert Thornton survived Andy Hamilton's fightback from 5-1 down as he edged out the 2012 semi-finalist 7-5.
Thornton took out finishes of 104 and 117 in winning five straight legs before Hamilton, aided by a brace of 80 checkouts, hit back to level.
The UK Open champion, though, won a crucial 11th leg by hitting a 180 and a 120 finish before sealing victory with a fifth 180 in a 12-dart finish.
"Andy has the experience of playing in the Premier League last year and he's one of the toughest opponents in the event, so I'm delighted to get the win," said Thornton.
"He's a street fighter and, like me, he'll never give in so I knew when he started fighting back what could happen. When it went to five-all I just wanted to hold my throw, so to take both points was great."
"It's a good start and the adrenaline rush when I got on stage was unbelievable - it's an amazing atmosphere."
Hamilton, who reached the semi-finals in his debut Premier League season 12 months ago, admitted: "I missed too many doubles early on and that's what lost me the game in the end."
"Robert played the better darts and deserved to win, but the league season's a marathon, not a sprint and this wasn't my night."
2009 champion James Wade capitalised on missed doubles from another debutant, Wes Newton, as he took a 7-4 victory from their opening clash.
Wade took command by moving from two-all to lead 5-2 before retaining his advantage to take the points.
"Getting the two points was the main thing, event if I didn't play as well as I'd wanted to," said Wade. "I've been practising hard, I've got the hunger and I believe in myself.
"Obviously the practise has paid off because I got the win, and I hit the right shots at the right time."
Newton, last year's European Championship finalist who was playing in front of the biggest crowd of his career, admitted: "It was an awesome experience and brilliant to be on stage in that atmosphere, but it would have been better if I'd won!"
"I was a bit nervous, and maybe that showed in my finishing because I missed a lot of doubles."
"I was a bit rusty on my finishing and that cost me the game, but I'll be back."
The McCoy's Premier League Darts will continue next Thursday with the second of 14 league nights being held at the AECC in Aberdeen.
McCoy's Premier League Darts
Night One - Thursday February 7
Odyssey Arena, Belfast
Andy Hamilton 5-7 Robert Thornton
James Wade 7-4 Wes Newton
Raymond van Barneveld 7-4 Gary Anderson
Simon Whitlock 7-3 Adrian Lewis
Phil Taylor 6-6 Michael van Gerwen
Andy Hamilton v Robert Thornton
Andy Hamilton will throw first
1-0 - Hamilton hits a 180 with only his second visit to the board, and lands double eight to win the opening leg.
1-1 - Thornton finishes 60 on tops to win his first leg of the season.
1-2 - The Scot takes out 104 to break throw and move ahead.
1-3 - Thornton opens with a 180 and lands tops for a third successive leg as he pushes two clear.
1-4 - Hamilton lands a 180 and adds a 140 to leave 40 after 12 darts, but misses double top, ten and five to allow Thornton to finish 117 on tops to win a fourth straight leg.
1-5 - Thornton posts a second maximum of the game, but initially misses four darts to win the leg - only for Hamilton to miss double 16 for a 99 finish to allow him back to finish double one.
2-5 - The pair trade 180s before Hamilton wins his second leg of the game by finishing 80 on double ten.
3-5 - Hamilton hits his fourth maximum of the game and then takes out 80 once again, this time on tops, as he hits back to within two legs.
4-5 - The 2012 semi-finalist cuts the gap to one leg by finishing double 16.
5-5 - Hamilton misses double 16, but when Thornton misses two darts at tops to finish 90 - having hit the bed four times in a row earlier in the night - the Stoke ace returns to post double 16 with his third dart to level the game.
5-6 - Thornton posts his fourth maximum and takes out 120 to secure at least a point.
5-7 - Thornton opens with 180 and 140 to take command, and posts tops for a 13-darter to seal the victory.
James Wade v Wes Newton
James Wade will throw first
1-0 - Wade finishes 68 to win the game's opening leg.
1-1 - Newton finishes double 16 to win his first leg in the McCoy's Premier League Darts.
2-1 - Wade moves back ahead by finishing double ten.
2-2 - Newton wins the fourth leg to square the game.
3-2 - Wade misses the bull for a 167 finish and two further darts for the leg, but a missed double top from the debutant allows Wade to move back ahead on double five.
4-2 - Newton powers his second maximum of the game, but missed doubles cost him dear as Wade finishes double ten to break for the first time.
5-2 - Wade wins a third successive leg to push clear.
5-3 - Newton pins double 16 to hit back.
5-4 - Newton capitalises to break throw on double ten as he cuts the gap to one leg.
6-4 - Newton misses three darts to level, and Wade is let off from earlier missed doubles by posting double two to move ahead.
7-4 - Wade seals the win in style, hitting a 177 to leave 24 before hitting double12 for the match.
Raymond van Barneveld v Gary Anderson
Raymond van Barneveld will throw first
0-1 - van Barneveld misses four darts at a double, and Anderson steps in on double 16 to win the opener against the throw.
0-2 - Both players hit 180s, and when van Barneveld misses the bull for a 126 finish the Scot finishes 80 on tops to double his lead.
1-2 - van Barneveld wins his first leg of the season by finishing 68.
1-3 - The Dutchman leaves 24, but Anderson takes out 106 on double 18 to regain his cushion.
2-3 - van Barneveld hits double 16 to hit back again.
3-3 - Anderson wires two darts at double ten, and van Barneveld finishes double four to level.
4-3 - Anderson hits a 180, but misses three darts to win the leg and van Barneveld hits double 16 to move ahead.
5-3 - van Barneveld posts a 180 and double eight to move two leg clear.
6-3 - van Barneveld finishes 68 to ensure at least a point from his opening fixture.
6-4 - van Barneveld lands his fourth maximum of the game, but misses double five for a 90 finish to take victory and Anderson posts double two to keep the game alive.
7-4 - Anderson misses tops to force a deciding leg, and van Barneveld lands double 16 for the win.
Simon Whitlock v Adrian Lewis
Simon Whitlock will throw first
1-0 - Whitlock finishes 89 on double five to win the opening leg.
1-1 - Lewis fires in a 180 as he levels.
2-1 - Lewis lands another maximum as he leaves 60 - only to hit a treble 20 to burst his score and allow Whitlock in to finish 108 to move ahead.
2-2 - Lewis misses two darts at double 18, but Whitlock is off-target on double 13 for a 146 finish to allow the two-time World Champion back in to hit the bed at the third time of asking.
3-2 - Lewis is unable to finish 120, and Whitlock takes out double 16 to regain the lead.
4-2 - Whitlock finishes 121 on the bull to break for the first time.
4-3 - Lewis breaks back by landing a 177 to leave 24 before hitting double 12 to win his third leg.
5-3 - Lewis hits a 180 to leave 57, but misses double top and ten to allow Whitlock in on double ten to regain a two-leg cushion.
6-3 - Lewis misses the bull to finish 94, and Whitlock lands a third-dart double top to secure a point.
7-3 - Lewis posts another 180, but misses six darts to keep his hopes alive Whitlock finishes double eight for the victory.
Phil Taylor v Michael van Gerwen
Phil Taylor will throw first
1-0 - Taylor opens the game with two 180s, and although he misses out on a nine-darter he returns to land double 12 for a 13-dart finish.
1-2 - van Gerwen posts 180, and when Taylor misses four doubles he steps in to break on tops.
1-3 - The young Dutchman punishes two more misses from Taylor to move two legs clear, recovering from his own double trouble to finish double one.
2-3 - Taylor lands two more maximums, and posts double 16 to hit back.
3-3 - van Gerwen hits a third 180 but misses double top, ten and five, and Taylor punishes him by landing the bull to complete an 89 checkout.
3-4 - van Gerwen lands a 180 and hits double four to move back ahead.
3-5 - The Dutchman posts another 180, his fourth, and finishes 41 to move two legs clear.
4-5 - Taylor finishes 70 on double 16 to pull himself back to just one leg behind.
4-6 - van Gerwen opens with a fifth maximum of the game and lands double 16 to ensure a minimum of a draw.
5-6 - van Gerwen opens two with more 180s to set up a possible nine-darter, and although he is unable to achieve that feat he is first to a finish - only to miss five match darts and allow Taylor in to hit double 16 to force a deciding leg.
6-6 - van Gerwen leaves 40 as he cannot finish 99, and Taylor takes out 104 to scramble a draw.
Text supplied by Lawrence Lustig of the PDC.