BRILLIANT BARNEY'S BETWAY PREMIER LEAGUE DARTS GLORY
Raymond van Barneveld ended nine years of disappointment as he defeated Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen in one glorious night at The O2 in London as he lifted the Betway Premier League Darts title.
The Dutch superstar won past the semi-finals of the tournament for the first time in seven attempts as he also ended his hoodoo against Taylor, who he had never defeated in the tournament in almost a decade.
Taylor had taken an early 4-1 lead in their semi-final as he set out his stall for a seventh Premier League Darts title.
However, the Stoke great missed six darts to move 5-2 up as the Dutchman pounced to win five successive legs in moving 6-4 up, before going on to claim an 8-5 triumph with an 11-dart leg.
He then returned to the stage against reigning champion van Gerwen, and though he trailed after van Gerwen opened the final with two 180s in claiming the opening leg in 13 darts, van Barneveld took command with some superb darts.
The five-time World Champion won three successive legs to move 3-1 up, and though van Gerwen hit two 11-dart finishes as he pulled back to level at five-all, van Barneveld found another gear to pull away.
The 47-year-old took four successive legs to move 9-5 up, including a 12-darter and two 13-dart legs, with a 110 checkout from van Gerwen keeping him in the game briefly before a fifth 180 of the final helped van Barneveld to set up double ten for glory.
"This means the world to me - I can't describe how happy I am," said van Barneveld, who scoops 150,000 pound for the victory. "I've worked really hard this season and every week was tough, but I really enjoyed it. The Premier League is something else because you're playing with the best players in the world every week, in the best venues in the UK and Ireland. Nine years ago I joined the PDC and got a Wildcard to play in the Premier League and I thought this was the best event in the world - but I've never been able to get past the semi-finals!
This year, the PDC and Sky believed in me and gave me a Wildcard, and finally I've got into the final and I've won the whole thing. Beating Phil and Michael in one night is fantastic. In the first five or six legs against Phil I didn't play my best game, but he let me in and gave me some chances, and I hit my doubles. To then beat Michael in the final is great. The first aim was not to be relegated after nine weeks, and then the second target was to make the top four. The third target was then to get into the final, and the fourth target was winning the whole thing.
Maybe in the final I lost all pressure. It felt like a relief beating Phil for the first time in the Premier League, but it's all about faith and belief, and if you never ever believe then you can't achieve anything. Even though I lost against Michael and Gary Anderson in the last two weeks of the season, I still believed I could win this - and I was right. Sometimes you think that maybe you're getting some help from above, and when Phil missed six darts at double 16 you begin to wonder. To be 5-2 or 4-3 was a big difference, but maybe some nights you need some luck."
Van Gerwen had topped the league table following the 15-week league season, and edged out Gary Anderson 8-7 in a thrilling opening semi-final in front of 10,000 fans at The O2 in London.
2011 Premier League Darts champion Anderson shared the opening eight legs before breaking throw to move 5-4 up - but van Gerwen hit back to regain the lead before claiming victory in the deciding leg.
The Dutchman, though, picked up 75,000 pound as runner-up as he saw van Barneveld pull clear in the second half of the final.
"I had a very good Premier League but it wasn't good enough tonight," admitted van Gerwen. "Raymond was the best player tonight and he deserved to win because he produced his best performance in the final. I want to win every tournament that I enter and there are no excuses, so fair play to Raymond. I need to get back on the practice board now because we have a lot of tournaments coming up, and I'll be back."
Taylor had ended the league stage in third place after bouncing back from losing four of his opening five games to power into the Play-Offs with an 11-match unbeaten run, only to be punished for missed doubles against van Barneveld.
"It was a great achievement to make the semi-finals but I had a massive opportunity there to get into the final against Michael and I blew it," said Taylor. "I can't make excuses, I bottled it. I missed six darts at a double and I was gone, and I don't know why. In my head I was thinking that I should be 5-0 up, and the missed doubles did my head in. I missed doubles and it threw me. It made me nervous, and I don't know why - but I'll get myself ready for the next event in Dubai next week. I've experienced something tonight, after 30 years, that I've never experienced before so I'm still learning. It's a matter of putting it right and moving forward"
Anderson was also left to rue missed doubles as his bid to reclaim the title was ended by the narrowest of margins in the semi-finals - although the Scot was proud of his achievement in reaching the Play-Offs in a year which has also seen him return to the world's top 16.
"I hit some silly scores at the wrong time early on but I broke his throw and got ahead and then let him back in," said Anderson. "Michael's the world number one and World Champion and I've taken him to the final leg, so it's not too bad. I've enjoyed the Betway Premier League this year but I've still got probably 20 percent improvement in me. I'll dust myself off now and head to Crawley this weekend, and start again!"
The night also saw Keegan Brown, a 21-year-old from the Isle of Wight, pick up the PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship title as he claimed a 6-4 win over Austria's Rowby-John Rodriguez.
Rodriguez led 3-1 at one stage, but Brown followed up an earlier 121 finish by taking four successive legs as he moved into the lead before going on to claim the 10,000 pound first prize and secure a place in the Grand Slam of Darts and PDC World Championship.
"I'm absolutely speechless," admitted Brown. "I've had ten years of playing darts and it all came down to one night, and then you're World Champion - it's crazy! When he was 3-1 up, I told myself that I knew how to win from 3-1 down and I got myself ahead, and thankfully it went my way. This is what us youth players in the PDC play for, and this is the time to push forward now."
Statistics - Semi-Finals
|92.27||1||8/20||v. Barneveld ||8:5||Taylor||93.43||2||5/19|
Statistics - Final
|101.93||5||10/7||v. Barneveld ||10:6||v. Gerwen||102.98||6||6/12|
Statistics - Final PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship