MICHAEL VAN GERWEN claimed top spot in the Unibet Premier League table for a seventh successive season as the league stage of the event concluded in Leeds on Thursday, where James Wade and Daryl Gurney claimed the final Play-Off places.
Dutch star Van Gerwen went into the final league night at the First Direct Arena a point adrift of Rob Cross in the race to top the final standings and claim the £25,000 league leader’s bonus.
World number one Van Gerwen powered past Mensur Suljovic with an 8-5 win, ending the Austrian’s Play-Off chances, and then saw Cross lose 8-6 to Wade.
That result ensured Van Gerwen retained his record of topping the Premier League table in every season since his debut in 2013, despite suffering three defeats during the campaign.
“It’s a great achievement for myself but I know I can do better than this,” said Van Gerwen. “There’s lots of room for improvement because I let myself down in a few games.
“But now I will focus on next week and the most important thing is to win the Play-Offs in London.”
Van Gerwen raced into a 5-0 lead against Suljovic, who hit back with three legs but was unable to stop the Dutchman’s march to a tenth league win of the season.
Van Gerwen now faces a semi-final tie with Gurney – who inflicted two of his three defeats during the regular season – after the Northern Irish ace secured his first Play-Offs appearance with an 8-3 win over Michael Smith.
A high-quality opening saw the pair share the opening four legs shared with three 12-darters and a 13-dart finish, before Gurney pulled clear to lead 5-2.
Smith finished 100 for a second ton-plus checkout of the game, but missed doubles in the next leg allowed Gurney back in before the Northern Irish ace completed victory with an average of almost 102.
“I’m delighted,” said Gurney. “I knew I had to win tonight and I was probably the most focused I’ve ever been and it’s one of my best performances.
“It was a quality game and I took out a couple of importance finishes. Under the circumstances, I think I played beyond my expectations, so I’m happy with that.
“Now I’m in the Play-Offs I’ll do my best to win the title.”
Wade secured a third-placed finish with an 8-6 victory over Cross, and the pair will meet once again in the semi-finals at The O2 in London on Thursday May 23.
A tight opening saw the first eight legs shared before Wade secured a first break of the game to lead 6-4.
Cross – who needed to win to top the final league table – hit back to 6-5 and 7-6, but the 2009 champion took the deciding leg to claim a seventh win of the campaign.
“Rob has been the best player in the Premier League this season but tonight I thought the nerves might get to him,” said Wade.
“Tonight’s result doesn’t mean anything going into the Play-Offs, and if anything it will give Rob a bit of fuel because I just cost him £25,000!
“I’m never someone to be written off though because I’ve been there and done it before.”
The night’s action had begun with Grand Slam of Darts champion Gerwyn Price briefly keeping alive his Play-Off hopes with a fine 8-3 win over Peter Wright.
The pair shared four ton-plus finishes, with Price’s early 106 checkout cancelled out by a 136 combination from Wright in leg four.
Price produced a huge 146 finish in leg five before double one gave him a break to claim breathing space, and he pulled out to 6-2 before defying a 100 checkout from the Scot to complete the win.
“I knew I had to get a win and I did that, but I’ve had a lot of draws and that’s cost me in the end,” said Price, whose six wins were matched by six stalemates.
“I’ve learned a lot during this Premier League and I won’t be disheartened. I’ve bombed a lot of opportunities with draws where I should have won, but I’ve enjoyed the season.”
The destiny of the Unibet Premier League title will be determined next Thursday with the semi-finals and finals at The O2 in London, where a £250,000 top prize is on offer.
Tickets for the Unibet Premier League Play-Offs are still available and can be purchased through www.axs.com or by calling 0844 856 0202.
2019 Unibet Premier League
Night 16 – Thursday May 16
First Direct Arena, Leeds
Gerwyn Price 8-3 Peter Wright
Daryl Gurney 8-3 Michael Smith
Michael van Gerwen 8-5 Mensur Suljovic
James Wade 8-6 Rob Cross
Play-Offs – Thursday May 23
The O2, London
Michael van Gerwen v Daryl Gurney
Rob Cross v James Wade
Van Gerwen/Gurney v Cross/Wade
Tickets: 0844 856 0202 or www.axs.com