By William Hill
Last Updated: 9th April 2020
When it comes to high-pressure sporting situations, few sportsmen have the spotlight on them quite like in darts. With a boisterous crowd behind you and the smallest of margins between success and failure, it’s unsurprising that the bright lights can sometimes get the better of players.
Below, we’ll look through some of the sport’s biggest rivalries and take a look at the times their competitiveness almost spilt over.
Phil Taylor vs Raymond van Barneveld
One of the longest-running rivalries in darts was undoubtedly held between Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld – as is often the case between leading lights and competitors in a sport.
Following a semi-final match between the pair at the 2012 World Darts Championship, though, the rivalry threatened to spill over.
The Power had won the match 6-4 but ironically took grievance with what he felt was a very strong handshake from the big Dutchman afterwards.
Some pushing and shoving ensued with the pair exchanging words as they left the stage, with Taylor visibly rattled by Barney.
The pair kissed and made up via text message after the contest, but Taylor against Van Barneveld remained a tense battle whenever the pair met until The Power’s retirement at the start of 2018.
Peter Wright vs Michael van Gerwen
Showmanship to the crowd can often get opponents’ backs up in darts, and there’s no greater showman in the sport than the colourful Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright.
Wright and van Gerwen had a very public falling out in 2015 Premier League Darts, as the Belgian player took displeasure to Snakebite’s attempts to rally the crowd mid-match ahead of an important shot on the bull.
Wright missed the shot and went on to lose the match, and while there was no obvious confrontation, it was very clear throughout the match that the pair were not keen on each other, with multiple shady looks and comments flying around. The match ended with a very feeble and delayed handshake before Wright left the stage visibly irked.
Currently two of the sport’s star names, Van Gerwen has had the majority of the bragging rights over his rival, but Wright recorded a famous victory in the 2020 World Darts Championship final in January, winning 7-3 to secure his first-ever world title at the age of 49.
Adrian Lewis vs Peter Manley
While we’ve never actually seen players come to blows at the top level of darts, Adrian Lewis and Peter Manley came as close as you can get in a quarter-final match at the 2006 World Darts Championship.
Manley is notorious for his abrasive gamesmanship and really riled Lewis up by trying to slow down the tempo of the match when collecting his darts. Lewis then claimed Manley swore as he was about to throw a shot, which he reported to the match official. But trailing 3-1 at the time, the 20-year-old Lewis was so irate that he needed to leave the stage in order to cool off.
Michael van Gerwen vs Rob Cross
Not content with one rivalry, Van Gerwen was shocked into another in the UK Open in 2016 when faced with the then-amateur Rob Cross, who was working as an electrician by day at the time.
Though MVG eventually won the battle 9-5, it was a game that put Cross on the circuit and less than a year later he was officially a professional darts player.
Both have gone head-to-head since and the Dutchman holds a strong lead over his rival. However, Cross’ 6-5 victory at the 2018 World Darts Championship remains one of the most talked-about matches between the pair.
Not least because he did it on route to becoming world champion in his first season as a pro.
Gary Anderson vs Peter Wright
Professional rivalries are healthy and they don’t come much bigger than the one between Gary Anderson and Wright. Though usually donning bright green hair and the clothes to match, it’s safe to say Wright does have that serious streak when he needs it.
He demonstrated that last year with Wright winning all four of their meetings in Players Championship events, meaning the Flying Scotsman is full steam ahead when it comes to their head-to-head.
Justin Pipe vs Kevin Painter
Nothing annoys a defeated player more than an over-reactive celebration in any sport – so it was no surprise to see Kevin Painter get more than a little riled by Justin Pipe back in 2012. Pipe’s winning double saw him fight the air and display all of his best kickboxing impressions before an angry-looking handshake from the two took place.
The hostility was clear to see. So it didn’t help when Pipe celebrated once again, this time doing the worm on the stage…