Report by Jethro Bremner-Allison.
Debut defeat for De Decker as Rockstar romps into Round 2.
Joe Cullen stated a “big win” was close after he averaged over 100 for the first time to notch his best ever Matchplay performance, securing a 10-7 win over Belgian debutant Mike De Decker. “I don’t think a big win is far away. I’ve had a couple of semis on the tour. Hopefully this can be my first big ranking TV event title. Everyone who reaches the last 16 of the Matchplay has got the game to go on and win it in my opinion. If you don’t turn up, you get beat, simple as that.”
Leading 8-3 it seemed as if Cullen had complete control of the match, asserting his dominance with 143 and 126 outshots along the way. But a surge from De Decker who looked like he wouldn’t break sweat if the Matchplay was held in Southern Europe during their heatwave, came roaring back to 8-6.
Cullen nicked the 15th and looked back in control when he had 3 clear darts at D16 for a 10-6 win. All 3 were wide and De Decker mopped up his own 32 to ask questions of Cullen. But the Rockstar is used to winning these days and completed the win 10-7, pinning 120 to book his place in R2.
De Decker can be proud of his debut, running Cullen close and his 164 finish in leg 7 was a thing of beauty, but the heavy scoring + 48% on his finishes versus Mike’s 35% proved too much for the debutant.
Cullen admitted ““The 164 from Mike was class. That might have been a turning point in his head but he wasn’t the best in the next leg. The tenth leg was massive for me to go 7-3 up. The Matchplay is all about winning sessions and nicking a few legs here and there.”
PAYBACK FOR GOOD
It was a case of “payback” for Daryl Gurney as he stunned 2019 champion Rob Cross 12-10 in a typical Matchplay classic.
When asked after the game to sum up his feelings, a relieved Daryl admitted “payback for a couple of years ago, where I should have beat him and got into the final. It’s harder now that I’m down the rankings, but it shows every dog has their day. There’s no-one working harder than me to get back to where I was, but the standard now is ridiculous.”
Buoyed by a recent upturn in form, Superchin conducted the swaying Blackpool crowd in a throaty rendition of Sweet Caroline, before turning his attention to 2019 champion Rob Cross in a monumental tungsten tussle.
After storming into a 4-0 lead, including a 110 & 111 finish Gurney looked every inch the player of a few years ago. Cross was up against it and seemed tense as he guzzled water behind Gurney. However, drinking like a fish inspired Cross to land a big fish in leg 14 to complete a fightback after his slow start, bringing the game to 7-7.
If it looked like Gurney had missed his chance and Cross would cement his superiority, this was not the case as Super Chin fist pumped his D18 to steal leg 15. Once more though, he couldn’t shake off a resolute number 5 seed who took us into a tie break when breaking again in leg 18.
Cross led for the first time at 10-9, but breathed too early as Gurney took 3 in a row to complete a stunning 12-10 success. An elated Gurney said “I still haven’t given up on winners majors yet.”
THE ICE IS RIGHT
Number 4 seed Gerwyn Price cruised through to R2 by dismantling shellshocked Stephen Bunting.
Sharing the first 6 legs and aware that the Bullet had in the past dispatched Price at this stage of the tournament, the Iceman remarkably steamrollered his way to 7 legs in a row to claim a 10-3 win, without ever reaching his brilliant best.
“It was a slow start, I didn’t play brilliant, but I did what I had to do. There were some 1st round jitters but I’ll be better next round” said the Welshman as he reflected on his 96 average win.
In an uncharacteristic departure from his often bullish manner, Price admitted “I’ve never won here but if it’s not this year hopefully it’ll be sometime soon”.
Quizzed on his upcoming R2 tie with Joe Cullen, Price said “Joe is another one who has beat me on this stage, we’re both big scorers, so it’ll be whoever takes their chances”.
Bunting averaging 92 and 33% on his doubles, will be disappointed he couldn’t put Price under any pressure, he seemed powerless to stop the match turning into a procession.
NEARLY FLYING SCOTSMAN
The final match of the night didn’t ignite as expected but now unseeded Gary Anderson secured a vital win over number 12 seed Dave Chisnall.
The nightmare draw for any of the 16 seeds, Gary admitted “I got there in the end”.
Whilst the anticipated blizzard of 180’s never materialised as both players searched for consistency in their throws, Gary did have bursts of form that gave him a definite advantage over a stuttering Chisnall.
Gary said “Everything needs to be better, the 1st dart is dropping low so I’ll need to work on that but I’m enjoying it again.”
At 3-2 up Chizzy missed 3 darts at tops to let Gary steal in to level the match. That seemed to affect the Englishman as he fell to a 7-3 deficit at the second break. Fighting back to 7-5, Anderson took out a critical 115 to snuff out the impending danger and turn the tide definitively.
Talking about the perfect 20, T19, D19 finish afterwards which finally broke Chizzy’s spirit, Gary merely stated “It’s probably the first time I got my counting right”.
When Chizzy had double trouble again in leg 16 missing two at D18, Gary stepped in to wrap up a 10-6 and take his finishing to 43% and book a date with Daryl Gurney in R2.