BRILLIANT VAN GERWEN TOPS BETWAY PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE WITH ROTTERDAM TRIUMPH
MICHAEL VAN GERWEN secured the Betway Premier League^s £25,000 League Leader^s Bonus with a 7-5 victory over Phil Taylor in front of a sell-out 10,000 fans at Rotterdam Ahoy on Thursday, as Adrian Lewis claimed the final Play-Off place.
The tournament^s first visit to continental Europe proved a huge success, with tickets having sold out within an hour of going on general sale last October - and the capacity crowd were treated to some thrilling darts by eight top stars.
World number one van Gerwen stole the show as he edged out rival Taylor in their clash to decide who finished at the top of the league table.
Van Gerwen landed a show-stopping 164 checkout as he led 5-4, and though Taylor forced a decider in his bid to claim the win which would see him top the standings, he was unable to prevent the Dutchman taking out 64 before sealing the win with a brilliant 12-dart finish.
The triumph means that van Gerwen has topped the league table for a fourth successive season, earning him a £25,000 bonus ahead of next week^s Play-Offs at The O2 in London.
"It was amazing and it meant a lot to me," said an emotional van Gerwen. "The walk-on was amazing, I nearly couldn^t hold my tears.
"To win in front of a crowd like is amazing for me and the crowd, they^ve waited so long for that and you don^t want to disappoint them. It^s a fantastic night in my darts career.
"The pressure was really, really high but I^m glad I won the game, I^m top of the table and it gives me great confidence for next week. My main goal is to win the title and that^s what I^m going for - I think it^s going to be a great semi-finals and final next week in London and I will be ready for it."
Taylor will now take on reigning Premier League champion Gary Anderson in the semi-finals, with van Gerwen set to face Lewis after the Stoke star claimed fourth spot.
Peter Wright^s draw with Raymond van Barneveld had seen him draw level on points with Lewis, but the two-time World Champion held his nerve to defeat Anderson 7-2 and claim the win which secured his first appearance in the Play-Offs since 2011.
"My mindset tonight was to take no notice of what Peter did and I focused on winning against Gary," said Lewis. "I can^t wait for the Play-Offs and I^m looking forward to playing Michael.
"If I turn up there and play really well I^ve got a great chance of winning the whole tournament. I^m not scared of Michael, I^m not scared of Phil, I^m not scared of anybody, and that^s how I feel."
Wright^s draw meant that Dutch hero van Barneveld was denied a winning homecoming in Rotterdam, despite taking out finishes of 101, 120 and 121 to delight the huge orange contingent.
"The ^Barney Army^ song has never sounded as good as here and it was probably the best moment in my career to be honoured like this," said the five-time World Champion. "I^m disappointed that I^ve not made the Play-Offs but I^m really proud to finish the season in this way."
The night also saw 2009 Premier League champion James Wade end the season on a high with a 7-3 defeat of Robert Thornton, and the left-hander admitted: "I really wanted to come here and play well and though I couldn^t make the Play-Offs it^s as positive as it could be for me.
"The crowd was one of the best I^ve ever played in front of and they really supported both of us. I enjoyed it but it^s a shame I^m going out of the tournament now and not into the Play-Offs."
The Betway Premier League Play-Offs will take place on Thursday May 19 at The O2 in London, with the semi-finals followed by the final as the 16-week season comes to a close. Tickets are still available by calling 0844 856 0202 or online via www.theo2.co.uk.
Betway Premier League
Night 15 - May 12
Robert Thornton 3-7 James Wade
Peter Wright 6-6 Raymond van Barneveld
Adrian Lewis 7-2 Gary Anderson
Phil Taylor 5-7 Michael van Gerwen
Best of 12 legs
The O2, London, May 19
Michael van Gerwen v Adrian Lewis
Phil Taylor v Gary Anderson
(Order of games to be confirmed)
van Gerwen/Lewis v Taylor/Anderson
Robert Thornton v James Wade
1-0 - Both players start superbly in front of a packed Rotterdam Ahoy, each landing a 180 before Thornton finishes 100 for an 11-darter to take the opening leg.
1-1 - Wade brings 10,000 fans to their feet with a sensational 160 checkout to punish two missed doubles from the Scot.
2-1 - Thornton lands double top to edge back ahead.
2-2 - Three further misses from Thornton allow Wade in on double ten.
2-3 - Wade breaks throw by taking out 80 on tops.
2-4 - Wade finishes 44 to claim a third successive leg.
3-4 - Thornton responds by finishing 54 on tops.
3-5 - Wade finishes 60 on tops this time as he regains his two-leg cushion.
3-6 - Thornton is unable to finish 114, and Wade capitalises with a 97 checkout to ensure he will end the season with at least a draw.
3-7 - Wade seals the win by finishing 85 to end his Premier League campaign in style.
Peter Wright v Raymond van Barneveld
1-0 - Wright initially misses six darts at a double before claiming the opening leg, after the pair are given a rapturous welcome to the stage.
1-1 - van Barneveld takes out 101 on tops to level with a crowd-pleasing checkout.
2-1 - Wright finishes 62 on double 16 to edge back ahead.
2-2 - The home favourite finishes 120 to level with another ton-plus checkout.
3-2 - Wright replies with a ton-plus finish of his own by taking out 115.
3-3 - van Barneveld misses the bull to take out a roof-raising 161 checkout, but returns to land double eight for a 14-darter.
4-3 - Both players miss double 18 to finish 156 before Wright returns and lands double seven to edge back ahead.
4-4 - Wright opens the leg with the first 180 of the game but misses seven darts at doubles, allowing van Barneveld back from six misses to hit double 15 and level.
5-4 - Wright adds another maximum before taking out tops to hold throw once more.
6-4 - van Barneveld misses three darts at double ten, and Wright finishes 64 on double 16 to claim at least a point - keeping the Play-Off race with Adrian Lewis alive.
6-5 - The Dutch star claims another big finish, taking out 121 on the bull to break back.
6-6 - Wright misses double 19 and double eight for the win, and van Barneveld hits double eight to claim a point.
PETER WRIGHT MOVES LEVEL ON 17 POINTS WITH ADRIAN LEWIS - WHOSE SUPERIOR LEG DIFFERENCE MEANS THAT HE NEEDS TO WIN TWO LEGS AGAINST GARY ANDERSON TO QUALIFY FOR THE PLAY-OFFS
Adrian Lewis v Gary Anderson
1-0 - Lewis makes the perfect start hitting double tops to take the lead.
1-1 - A few stray darts from the World Champion but Anderson eventually takes out 48 on tops to level.
2-1 - Lewis secures the leg he needs to book his place at the O2 by hitting a 171 to leave 32, which he takes out in one dart.
2-2 - Anderson begins the leg with a 180 before Lewis hits one of his one. Anderson wins the leg taking out 40 with double 20.
3-2 - Lewis moves back in to the league with an important double two.
4-2 - A break of throw for Lewis who doubles his advantage with double five.
5-2 - The Englishman moves three clear of Anderson hitting double ten at the third attempt.
6-2 - Lewis secures a point as Anderson misses three darts to stop the rot.
7-2 - Another missed dart at double from Anderson allows Lewis to steal in with double 10 and secure the two points.
ADRIAN LEWIS QUALIFIES FOR THE PLAY-OFFS IN FOURTH POSITION
Phil Taylor v Michael van Gerwen
1-0 - van Gerwen lands two 180s in his first three visits to the oche, but five missed doubles allow Taylor to follow an earlier maximum by taking the opening leg on tops.
1-1 - The Dutchman strikes back with 90 on tops.
1-2 - The first break of throw sees van Gerwen take out 80 for the lead.
2-2 - Taylor immediately breaks back by finishing 41 on double 16 after van Gerwen misses double top for a two-leg lead.
3-2 - Taylor holds throw to lead once more as he takes out 16 on double four.
3-3 - van Gerwen levels with double 18 at the third attempt.
4-3 - Taylor regains the lead by taking out double nine for a 14-darter.
4-4 - van Gerwen opens the leg with a 180, and though Taylor hit a 177 the Dutchman finishes 60 on tops.
4-5 - van Gerwen raises the roof with a sensational 164 checkout to break throw with a 12-dart finish.
5-5 - van Gerwen misses a dart at tops before Taylor follows another 177 by taking out double ten to level.
5-6 - Double four secures van Gerwen the point which he needs to top the Premier League table for a fourth straight season.
5-7 - The home hero tees up a possible nine-darter with scores of 174 and 180, and though he misses out on a perfect leg, he returns following a maximum from Taylor to claim the victory with double 16 to complete a 12-dart finish.
MICHAEL VAN GERWEN FINISHES TOP OF THE BETWAY PREMIER LEAGUE TABLE