2018 Unibet Premier League – Play-Offs Round-Up

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC

Michael van Gerwen produced one of the great darting major final performances as he demolished Michael Smith to win the 2018 Unibet Premier League, his fourth Premier League triumph.

With the second highest average in a televised final, Michael van Gerwen was simply irresistible in securing the 102nd trophy of his career as he defeated a game Michael Smith 11-4, scoring extremely highly and never letting up on the doubles.

This, after van Gerwen also made relatively light work of world champion Rob Cross in the first semi-final, beating ‘Voltage’ 10-6 as the former electrician struggled with a cartilage injury in his rib cage. Michael Smith, who should be extremely proud of both his efforts tonight, earned the best victory of his career as he defeated his mentor and great friend Gary Anderson 10-6 in assured style.

 

Michael van Gerwen 10-6 Rob Cross

In the night’s opening semi-final, Michael van Gerwen raced into a commanding advantage and never let go against an injured Rob Cross, the reigning world champion suffering from a cartilage injury in his rib cage.

Right from his very first turn, van Gerwen meant business as his first three darts landed in the treble twenty bed. Despite winning the second leg, Cross was blown away in an opening session where he struggled to find his feet on The 02 stage and where MvG kicked off the relentless form that would see him lift the trophy just a few hours later.

In winning five of the first six legs, van Gerwen registered several legs under 13-darts and hit clutch checkouts including a clean kill of a 61 finish. In the seventh leg, the first chinks in the Dutchman’s armour were discovered as he missed two at double, which Cross capitalised on to break the reigning Premier League champion.

As the two shared the final legs before the interval, Rob Cross went into it trailing by seven legs to three, a bridge that would require an incredible effort if he was to surmount it.

Cross did come out fighting in spite of his struggles in the match as he nailed double 16 in a dramatic eleventh leg. After trying to leave 32, Cross hit a single one leaving himself open to a van Gerwen steal. The Dutchman, though, missed two at tops to take advantage. Two more doubles went by the way side in the next leg as MvG’s missed doubles tally reached 10. This did not effect the leg though as, with Cross missing his attempt at tops, van Gerwen could hit an easy D5 for an 8-4 lead.

With the finishing line in sight MvG managed the best checkout of the game with a brilliant 128. Cross was not done yet, however, as he reeled off two straight legs with lovely finished of 50 and 118. It was all in vein in the end though as van Gerwen, despite staggering over the line somewhat, secured the win with a 70 finish.

 

Michael Smith 10-6 Gary Anderson

World number eight Michael Smith pulled off the biggest win of his career to reach his first major final as he defeated his great friend and mentor Gary Anderson in a show of strength and just how far he has come in 2018.

Confidence came from the start for Smith as he, like van Gerwen, registered a 180 with his first turn of the contest, then hitting a 100 checkout to take he opening leg. Smith then followed up with D10 to break Anderson straight away after the Scot wired a bullseye attempt in leg two.

‘The Flying Scotsman’ respondedly immediately with a 14-dart leg to break but he was then broken back himself after missing three attempts at tops in a leg where he also registered back-to-back 180s! Smith was clinical throughout in taking advantage of any Anderson slip-up though and D18 in leg four before an impressive 74 finish made it 4-1 to Smith.

Three legs in a row for the former winner Anderson followed though as the Scot began to assert himself on the contest. In topsy-turvy fashion, Smith hit back with two straight legs to lead 6-4 at the interval after Anderson blew two chances for 5-5 on his doubles, a recurring theme of the contest.

Ragged and behind, the Scottish thrower returned after the break to yet more leg wins for Smith as ‘Bully Boy’ hit a beautiful 120 finish in leg eleven before hitting D10 to hold a 8-5 lead, two away from the victory.

In leg fifteen three 180s followed in a row as Smith, then Anderson, and then Smith again hit maximums. It was Anderson, just as in the contest as a whole, who blinked first as Smith was rampant – following up the 180s with a 84 checkout before nailing tops with his second dart to gain the best win of his career and condemn his mentor to a third consecutive defeat at the semi-final stage.

 

Michael van Gerwen 11-4 Michael Smith

To start the 2018 Premier League final, Michael van Gerwen hit the third 180 to kick off a match of the night, his second, as he again started as he meant to go on. The opening leg, as many in the match did, came and went quickly as it took just 12-darts for the Dutchman to take the lead.

Another 12-darter followed by an 11 saw van Gerwen win the opening three legs in a ridiculous 35-darts as ‘Mighty Mike’s’ average hit 128! To his credit, and as happened throughout the match, Smith showed heart and played well himself as he hit D10 to get his first leg on the board.

Unfortunately for Smith, van Gerwen was just in another league as he powered away with the next five legs in a supreme show of near darting perfection, with more 11, 12 and 13-dart legs as Smith could simply not get a look in. Illustrating his sheer brilliance, MvG’s stats at the interval read: 122 average, 72 per cent on the doubles and eight 180s. Thrilling scoring and clinical finishing was the order of the day for MvG.

Again, Smith bounced back despite the barrage he had been receiving with a fantastic 125 finish to the approval of the crowd inside The O2. Van Gerwen was back again with another leg before long but Smith bravely intercepted the tide with another ton plus checkout.

In the end though, it was all academic for Smith as he could not fight the dying of the light for long. The world number one rounded out his fourth Premier League success with a 112 checkout, symbolising the fantastic fashion of his win. An average of 112.37, only dropping slightly due to a quieter final few legs, was the highest of the tournament at the very last and the second highest television final average of all time.

Photo: Lawrence Lustig/PDC