Kiwi qualifier Robb celebrates (credit:Photosport/PDC)
Ben Robb ensured home representation in the Quarter-Finals of the 2019 New Zealand Masters as he knocked out Simon Whitlock in Hamilton on Friday, while Michael van Gerwen, James Wade and Raymond van Barneveld all came through last-leg deciders.
Robb, the DPA number two, had lost 6-5 to Whitlock in last year’s Auckland Masters but gained revenge 12 months on to secure his first win in the World Series.
The 30-year-old recovered from 2-0 down to reel off four consecutive legs before Whitlock produced a stunning 127 checkout on the bull to level.
Robb, though, regained the upper-hand with double eight before taking out 80 in leg ten to seal the biggest win of his career to date.
“That was unreal, it was a lot of fun!” said Robb. “He got me lost year with that one dart but I felt comfortable tonight, it showed on the stage.
“I like putting on a show for everybody, it shows the hard work I’m doing behind the scenes is paying off.”
Elsewhere, Van Gerwen had to survive four match-darts from Kyle Anderson in the deciding leg before snatching victory to keep his quest for back-to-back titles on track.
Anderson took advantage of a slow start from the Melbourne Masters champion by establishing a 2-0 lead, but crucially missed darts to extend his lead, allowing the Dutchman to restore parity.
The duo traded legs before Anderson took out 88 to move 4-3 up, but more missed doubles blighted MVG as he watched the Aussie move to the brink at 5-4.
Van Gerwen, however, rallied with a sensational 164 checkout to force a decider – in which Anderson squandered four match darts and let the World Champion off the hook to seal the win on double ten.
“This was absolute crap, it was a bad game from both of us,” blasted Van Gerwen. “I think this crowd deserved more and I didn’t do what I had to do.
“I’m still ok because I won this game but I could have done a lot better than this.”
Van Gerwen will now face Gary Anderson in a repeat of their Quarter-Final encounter a week earlier in Melbourne after the Scot overcame a bout of toothache to defeat home hopeful Haupai Puha 6-3 with an average of just 84.
James Wade produced a fine comeback as he recovered from 5-3 down to defeat Kiwi veteran Craig Caldwell 6-5.
Caldwell, who was beaten by Wade in the 2015 Sydney Masters, set the early pace and took out 142 in the second leg to delight the Hamilton crowd.
The first break came in the fifth leg with Caldwell punishing Wade for some poor scoring and missing a dart at double.
However, at 5-3 and with the New Zealander sat on 96, Wade took out 116 to hold throw.
A break followed in the next leg with the Englishman pinning double ten for a 140 checkout to level, before going on to find tops to move through to face Peter Wright – who convincingly defeated Brisbane Masters champion Damon Heta 6-1.
“I’ve got to be better tomorrow against Peter but I feel like I’ve been a little unlucky with the qualifiers this trip,” said Wade. “They keep hitting big checkouts against me at the right times.
“Fair play to Damon over the last couple of weeks he deserved to win and today I had to dig deep to get the win. The guys over here are improving every year.”
Despite the convincing scoreline against Heta which included a 130 checkout, Wright was unhappy with his performance, admitting: “I struggled, I wasn’t playing Damon, I was playing myself.
“I was trying a new set of darts out but I felt confident taking a new set of darts up on stage but for some reason the trebles looked really small.
“I probably need to play someone who is hitting lots of 180s and doubles to get the best out of me. I just kept saying to myself why are you playing this bad?”
Meanwhile, world number two Rob Cross averaged 99.84 and landed a high checkout of 132 in a convincing 6-2 victory over Warren Parry.
Dutch legend Raymond van Barneveld began his final competitive tournament in New Zealand with a 6-5 victory over home favourite Cody Harris, surviving a match-dart at the bull to progress.
Poor finishing was the story in the first half of the match but two moments of quality took the game all the way to the deciding leg.
Van Barneveld took out 161 to move 5-4 up and seemingly looked on his way to the Last Eight, but Harris then produced a moment of magic of his own, checking out 150 to level at 5-5.
The New Zealander began the deciding leg with a 180 but was unable to capitalise, missing a dart at the bull before Van Barneveld pinned double 16 for a dramatic win.
“Wow, that was tough,” said Van Barneveld. “After going up 3-1 I just kept missing and missing and gave him a chance.
“After the 161 I felt good and thought I had the match but he hit the amazing 150 finish. I am just very happy to get the win and come back tomorrow.
“I want to give the crowd a lot more against Daryl on Saturday, they have been amazing to me this year.”
The Dutch ace will now take on Daryl Gurney after the world number three raced in to a 5-0 lead against former World Championship qualifier David Platt before eventually getting over the line in a 6-2 win.
New Zealand Darts Masters 2019 Results
Friday August 23
James Wade 6-5 Craig Caldwell
Simon Whitlock 4-6 Ben Robb
Daryl Gurney 6-2 David Platt
Rob Cross 6-2 Warren Parry
Gary Anderson 6-3 Haupai Puha
Peter Wright 6-1 Damon Heta
Michael van Gerwen 6-5 Kyle Anderson
Raymond van Barneveld 6-5 Cody Harris