Michael Smith claimed a weekly Premier League Darts title at the 16th and final time of asking in Newcastle on…
Michael Smith claimed a weekly Premier League Darts title at the 16th and final time of asking in Newcastle on Thursday, while Joe Cullen clinched a place in the play-offs.
Smith was the only player in this year’s event without a night win to his name ahead of the trip to Tyneside, but the World Championship and UK Open runner-up rectified that with victory on the final night of league phase action.
Though he was unable to qualify for the play-offs going into Night 16, Smith bowed out on a high by adding his name to the roll of honour in the revamped format.
The St Helens ace pulled off impressive wins over Michael van Gerwen and Gerwyn Price at the Utilita Arena, before fending off a late fightback from Jonny Clayton to scoop the £10,000 winner’s bonus.
“To finally get that win and get over the line was massive tonight. Sadly I didn’t make the top four, but I ended on a high and a positive,” said Smith.
“It was only me on zero wins in the Premier League, so I was playing for that, and luckily enough I fell over the line against Jonny.
“There was never any doubt. When I got picked I said I’d win four of these and I’ve managed to win the last one! I haven’t played badly, I’ve just not had the luck.”
Smith had seen off Van Gerwen in the Quarter-Finals for a second week in a row, prevailing 6-4, before easing past an out-of-sorts Price 6-3 with a second 96 average.
The world number four saved his best performance of the night until last, averaging 98 and converting 67 per cent of his attempts at double to leapfrog Price and secure a sixth place finish.
The 31-year-old made a blistering start to the Night 16 final, following up an early break of throw with legs of 13 and 12 darts to establish a commanding 3-0 lead.
He reeled off a fourth leg without reply, before Clayton hit back with three consecutive legs of his own to threaten a comeback.
Smith then halted Clayton’s charge with a fourth 180 and a 13-darter to move to the cusp of victory, before sealing the deal with a classy 112 checkout to ensure all eight players ended the campaign with at least one night win to their name.
However, Cullen and Wright’s blockbuster showdown was the headline act in Newcastle, with the winner assured of a coveted play-off place.
The pair were locked on 22 points ahead of Thursday’s clash, but it was Cullen who came out on top in an enthralling affair to continue a memorable debut campaign.
The Masters champion prevailed on Night 15 in London to move above Wright in the table, and he maintained his fine form with a 6-4 success to deny the world number one a third Play-Off appearance.
Both players were imperious on the outer ring, with Cullen converting all six of his attempts at double 16 – including a clinical 105 kill in the penultimate leg, with Wright sat on a double after nine darts.
Despite this, Cullen was forced to settle for a fourth-place finish after succumbing to table-topper Clayton in the Last Four in a repeat of last week’s final.
The Welshman fought back from 4-2 down to defeat Gary Anderson in the evening’s curtain-raiser, defying a 101 average from the spirited Scot to prevail in a deciding leg.
The reigning Premier League champion then recovered from 3-1 adrift to topple Cullen and reach his eighth final of the season.
The Premier League roadshow now heads to the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin for the Play-Offs on June 13, with Clayton bidding to retain his title.
The 47-year-old will face Cullen in the opening Semi-Final, before former champions Van Gerwen and Wade collide – having finished second and third respectively.
Premier League Darts – Night 16 Results
Thursday May 26
Jonny Clayton 6-5 Gary Anderson
Joe Cullen 6-4 Peter Wright
Michael Smith 6-4 Michael van Gerwen
Gerwyn Price 6-4 James Wade
Jonny Clayton 6-4 Joe Cullen
Michael Smith 6-3 Gerwyn Price
Michael Smith 6-3 Jonny Clayton