SMITH STORMS TO THIRD STRAIGHT NIGHTLY WIN IN SHEFFIELD
Michael Smith stormed to a third consecutive nightly win in the Cazoo Premier League with a 6-3 success against Gerwyn Price in Thursday's Sheffield final at the Utilita Arena.
World Champion Smith overcame Michael van Gerwen, Jonny Clayton and Price to triumph on the penultimate night of league phase action and preserve his hopes of topping the final league table.
Price could have guaranteed top spot with victory in the Night 15 showpiece, but St Helens star Smith cut his lead at the summit to just three points after claiming the spoils in the Steel City.
Smith began his campaign with a 6-4 win over reigning champion Van Gerwen, converting a stunning 130 checkout on the bull to defeat the Dutchman for a second week in succession.
The world number one continued his charge to defeat Clayton in a repeat of last Thursday's Night 14 decider, averaging almost 108 and sealing the deal with a superb 11-darter in their semi-final clash.
Smith then capped off a terrific night of action by claiming the 10,000 pound winner's bonus, extending his winning Premier League run to nine matches in the process.
The 2018 runner-up kicked off proceedings with back-to-back 12-dart holds, and although the opening six legs all went with throw, Price was unable to make inroads on the Smith throw.
The Welshman then paid the price for squandering six darts at doubles to level in leg eight, before Smith closed out victory with a third 12-dart hold of the contest moments later.
"Last year I only got one win on the final night, now it's three on the spin," reflected Smith, who has leapfrogged Van Gerwen into second spot.
"I put in as much practice as I can and as you've seen tonight, when the talent has an off-day, the hard work always pulls you through.
"I wasn't at my best today, but it was just grit and determination that helped me to cross the line.
"It would be nice to finish top of the table for the prestige. I qualified for the Play-Offs last week, but I've still got a job to do.
"I've still got to put on a show for the fans and I still need to go to The O2 playing well and winning, and I'm glad to be doing that."
Price - who was victorious in Sheffield 12 months ago - retained his cushion at the top after storming through to his eighth nightly final of 2023 with 6-2 wins over Nathan Aspinall and Chris Dobey.
He kicked off Thursday's action with an imperious 111 average against Aspinall, converting all six of his double attempts to deal a major blow to the Stockport star's Play-Off aspirations.
Price then produced another ton-topping average in his demolition of Dobey, landing a brace of ton-plus finishes and averaging over 105 to record a fifth successive victory over the Bedlington star.
In the evening's other quarter-finals, Clayton moved two points clear of Aspinall ahead of their decisive Night 16 showdown, courtesy of a battling 6-4 victory against Dimitri Van den Bergh.
The 2021 champion conjured up a spectacular 170 checkout midway through the tie, and registered his sixth ton-plus average of the campaign to see off the spirited Belgian.
Meanwhile, Dobey cemented sixth spot in the table with an impressive 6-4 success against Peter Wright, crashing in six 180s and reeling off four straight legs from 4-2 down to advance.
The final league night of the season will be held on Thursday May 18 at Aberdeen's P&J Live, where Clayton and Aspinall collide in a straight shoot-out for fourth spot.
Clayton would confirm his Play-Off qualification with victory, while Aspinall must progress to the Night 16 final to overhaul his Welsh rival, who will qualify via nights won if the pair finish level on points.
Elsewhere, league leader Price meets Wright in his quarter-final tie, knowing that a run to next Thursday's final will see him top the table for the first time in his Premier League career.
Smith will begin his bid for an unprecedented fourth straight nightly win against Van den Bergh, while Van Gerwen and Dobey also collide for a place in the semi-finals at P&J Live.