After the first ten weeks of Premier League action, analyst Carl Fletcher reflects on the highs and the lows of the players involved.
Ten weeks into the 2018 Unibet Premier League and we have a double header of fixtures to look forward to this week in Rotterdam. Before that I take a look back at some high, lows and best moments from this year’s event thus far.
Commencing with the positives, the best moment has got to be Daryl Gurney’s homecoming at Belfast in week 8. He certainly used the home support to galvanise and lead him to victory. Trailing 4-2 he produced some power scoring to hit a record equalling – at the time – nine maximums and producing a critical 119 checkout in Leg 9, with his opponent sat on just 44. The crowd’s spine-tingling rendition of Sweet Caroline was equally as memorable and helped spur Superchin on to victory.
The best performance was surely the 7-0 whitewash of RVB by Michael Smith in Week 9. He produced his highest 3DA so far (103.15) but it was his finishing that was more impressive. Clinically, he took out all six checkout opportunities of 99 or less on the night and only missed one dart a double, bullseye for a 170 finish in leg 4. This result has set him up perfectly for a place at the Play-Offs and typifies how well he’s taken his opportunities so far. He remains the only player to be able to claim a Top 2 league standing throughout.
That was good but the match with the highest standard was MVG v Anderson in Week 3. Both players averaged 110+. MVG who came out victorious with a 3DA of 110.62, whereas Anderson had a slightly higher 3DA at just 110.79 despite losing. There were three legs – legs three to five – that were simply outstanding. During those legs they threw 65 darts between them hitting the actual target (treble or double) an amazing 42 times (62.6%). This included: 5 x 180’s, a 174, a 120 (with a bounce out) and arguably the best checkout of the tournament so far from Anderson who took out a 170 for a 12 darter after MVG had got the first 7 darts in search of a 9 darter. Incidentally those three legs were all won by the Flying Scotsman. MVG however went on to win 7-3 having trailed 3-2.
It was the margin of that victory that stopped me picking that as the best match so far. That accolade I’ve awarded to another MVG match, his defeat to Peter Wright 7-5 in the second week. The reason I opted for this match is that it went all the way, was very evenly contested and played to a high standard throughout. Both players registered a 3DA of 101 and took out finishes of 100+. Wright 116, MVG 170. Snakebite ultimately held his throw and his nerve in Leg 12 to produce a 13 dart leg. Remarkably, that victory for Wright was his only win prior to and including Judgement night, where he just about avoided elimination.
On the flip side the worst match without doubt was Whitlock vs Price in Week 9 and the stats certainly back it up. They produced the two lowest averages of the tournament so far. The Wizard registered a 3DA of 81.94 and the Iceman a mere 76.94. The match included winning legs of 23 (twice) and 26 darts – the latter of which included 17 missed darts at a double. In total the match had 38 missed doubles and will not live long in the memory.
On a final note, it’s been mentioned numerous time how debilitating a struggle in the Premier League can be on a players confidence. Smith may be playing well now but his setback in this tournament a few years back took a while for him to bounce back from. It’s fair to say Gerwyn Price has not found the process enthralling either, in fact he tweeted he hated the experience after his confirmed elimination in Week 8. He certainly performed like the worst player this year. He finished bottom on just 2 points (2 draws), had the lowest tournament average at 89.67, the only player below 90 after 9 weeks and the only player not to register a match 3DA of 100+ in the same period. The Welshman almost gave us something to remember in Week 8 however when he attempted an exhibition finish of three double tops to check out 120, narrowly missing out with his last dart.
I don’t envisage seeing a match as bad as Whitlock vs Price and you currently can’t 100% rule anyone out although both RVB and Snakebite need a few favours and a big upturn in fortune. As yet no one has managed to throw 8 consecutive perfect darts, let alone 9 but hopefully someone will produce the perfect leg soon.
Follow Carl on Twitter for more insights and statistics! @carlyfletch