Five months on from Night Six in Liverpool, after a behind-closed-doors World Matchplay and a PDC Home Tour, Premier League Darts 2020 resumed with a bang as the race for the top four and the battle to avoid relegation were blown wide open.
Daryl Gurney’s victory over Chris Dobey, coupled with defeats for Rob Cross and Gerwyn Price means the three men at the foot of the standings are separated by just one point.
The player bottom after Thursday’s Judgment Night is eliminated for the remainder of the competition, while the jostling for the Play-Offs – still scheduled for October at The O2 – looks like going to the wire.
Peter Wright pinched a point against Glen Durrant to prevent Duzza from holding on to top spot which now belongs to Mr Premier League – Michael van Gerwen – who hammered Rob Cross to return to winning ways and the position he has occupied for most of the last seven years of this competition.
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Premier League – Night Seven Results
Van Gerwen powers past out-of-sort Cross
Almost a month on from his surprise second-round exit at the World Matchplay, Van Gerwen returned to Milton Keynes and resumed normal service to send Cross packing and reclaim top spot in the standings.
The world No 1, winner of the last five Premier League titles and the man who has finished top over the league phase for seven successive years, claimed the last six legs to continue his remarkable record against Cross.
Since losing the World Championship semi-final against Voltage in December 2017, MVG has won 10 of the 11 meetings between the pair and after an early scare, it was more of the same.
Cross struck early to break in the third, but Van Gerwen dug into his box of tricks and with his cover shooting at treble 19 improving, he claimed a 12-dart break for a 4-2 lead thanks to a brilliant bullseye finish.
The Dutchman then punished missed darts from Cross to open up a three-leg advantage and with his trademark roar echoing around the arena, he first secured a point and then victory in double quick time.
Snakebite and Duzza share the spoils
A pair of world champions duked it out in a thriller to end the evening and in the end a 6-6 draw does enough to keep both men’s ambitions alive.
Durrant’s point keeps him level with MVG with the world No 1 taking top spot courtesy of leg difference, while Wright moves level with Gary Anderson who moved into the top four.
A see-saw affair started with Durrant claiming the opening leg with a trademark three-figure finish. He followed up his 101 to break the reigning world champion in the opener with a solid 13-dart hold before Snakebite got himself on the board with a 108 checkout.
Duzza maintained his two-leg advantage only to see Wright turn on the afterburners to level in dramatic style.
A classy two-dart 82 was followed by the biggest finish of all, as Wright reeled in the big fish to take out 170 and then a third leg on the bounce took him into the lead for the first time in the match.
The pair shared the next two, a brilliant 120 from Wright – his third 100+ finish of the match left him within two of the finishing line and he secured a point when Duzza uncharacteristically squandered a couple of darts at double.
But the three-time world champion has proved a tough nut to crack and when Wright lost his way a little when leading 6-4, Duzza was perferctly placed to take the final two legs and a precious point.
Premier League Darts – Night Eight fixtures
Live Premier League Darts
August 26, 2020, 6:30pm
Gurney blows open race to avoid relegation
After Cross and Price had suffered defeats Gurney took to the stage knowing a win would put name his in the mix for survival later this week and he punished Chris Dobey with a 7-2 victory.
Dobey, named as a ‘Challenger’ after a spot as a ‘Contender’ last year, never got going and having missed out on a hero’s welcome in Newcastle he also missed out on becoming just the second invitational player to claim victory.
Luke Humphries remains the only man to do it having beaten Gary Anderson on Night Five, and from the opening exchanges a Dobey win looked unlikely.
It was Hollywood’s first experience of the Marshall Arena with no crowd having missed out on the Matchplay, and Gurney, who was beaten in the second round, settled much quicker.
Superchin eased into a 4-0 advantage before Dobey finally stopped the rot, pinning double two after Gurney missed a dart for a fifth leg on the bounce.
Two more legs followed as Gurney secured an important point, which he turned into a priceless two points after Dobey had pinched a second leg. Gurney climbing to within touching distance of safety thanks to a classy 90 finish that wrapped up the victory.
Vintage Anderson steamrolls Smith
Michael Smith and Gary Anderson met in a repeat of their World Matchplay semi-final, and a vintage display from the Flying Scotsman saw him reel off four legs in succession for a 7-3 victory.
Despite being outscored 6-2 in the 180 count, Anderson averaged 108 to Smith’s 106, with the Scot – Premier League champion in 2011 and 2015 – claiming the last four legs as his opponent’s finishing faltered.
Smith claimed the opener in 17 legs before the next five were all won in 12 darts or fewer, with the pair level at 3-3 amid a barrage of big scoring that included a brilliant 124 from the Scot.
But finishing proved decisive and despite Smith’s recent admission that he has been practising on the doubles, the crucial part of the game deserted him when he needed it most.
Five missed darts from Smith were punished by Anderson to lead 4-3 and there was no letting up as he missed just one more dart at a double as he powered to the finish line.
Aspinall fights back to sink Iceman
Nathan Aspinall’s meteoric rise over the last two years showed no sign of letting up as he maintained his place in the top four with an impressive victory over Gerwyn Price.
The Asp won six of the last seven legs in a high-quality see-saw contest, thanks to an average of 99, a brilliant 108 finish and a near 50 per cent record on his doubles – but more importantly he is adapting to the surroundings.
Price has made no secret of the fact that he thrives on the atmosphere of the crowd and feels the artificial noise doesn’t do the same job – but he looked in the mood early on, moving into an early 3-1 lead.
But Aspinall, winner of the PDC’s innovative Home Tour during lockdown, was undaunted and punished errors from the Welshman on his way to a 5-3 lead. He turned that into a point thanks to double eight.
The pair traded big finishes, Price stopped Aspinall’s five-leg run with a brilliant 132 but Aspinall hit back with a classy 108 to wrap up victory and a fourth Premier League win of the season.
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