Dolan dumps out Van Gerwen in Matchplay shock

By Jethro Bremner-Allison


Brendan Dolan sensationally sent Michael Van Gerwen tumbling out of the World Matchplay, notching a 10-7 victory despite 13/2 odds against before a dart was thrown. 

It was the first time since Colin Lloyd in 2006 that a defending champion was defeated in R1 as the tournament was blown wide open by the History Maker.  

Dolan, speaking on stage afterwards graciously admitted that perhaps he wasn’t facing the “real” Van Gerwen after recent surgery, but he still faced a formidable opponent. “I know he’s suffered and is trying to recover and hasn’t been getting as much practice as he would like but for me to get a win over Michael, I am over the moon”.  

This was far from a poor MvG though, he averaged 99 and a champagne 132 (Bull/Bull/D16) in leg 6 and a 137 in leg 10 were absolutely vintage.  

Dolan had a flying start, leading 4-1 at the first break but MvG responded in the second stanza, levelling it at 5-5. The common consensus was the storm had been weathered and MvG would now stamp his authority but the Northern Irishman would not be denied. Getting himself to 9-7, Dolan threw for the match and swallowing his nerves after misses at D12 and D6, he steeled himself for a match winning D3.  

“I don’t usually back up a good performance” admitted Dolan “but I have a chance, I’m in the next round which is as good as I’ve ever done here in Blackpool. All I want to do is keep improving, I know I’m getting on a bit, but I still want to improve.”   


Luke Humphries declared the only thing missing in his career is a major as he booked a repeat of the recent Trier final with Dirk van Duijvenbode in R2 after a stunning 10-2 demolition of the Jose De Sousa. 

Putting down a marker that he is undoubtedly of the favourites of this tournament, he took his Euro Tour form straight onto the Blackpool stage in a scoring blitz which blew away the unfortunate Portuguese.  

Luke said “It’s the one thing my career needs now, it needs a major title. A lot of people see the potential in my game and I’ve been playing some great darts over the last few years. I’m not putting pressure on myself but a major title is the next thing for me.” 

Cool Hand came out the traps like a champion greyhound and never looked back as he sprinted for the line from the very first leg. Jose’s scoring was strong but his 20% on doubles was no match for Luke as he had the perfect storm of struggling on doubles whilst his opponent was making no errors. 

Averaging 101.78 with consummate ease, Luke surged into a 8-1 including a clinical 114 finish in leg 9. Jose rallied briefly by winning leg 11 but succumbed in leg 12 with a shrug of the shoulders and a warm hug for the likeable Englishman.  

Looking ahead Luke admitted “It would be an amazing feeling (to win) but I have four very tough games to win yet, it won’t be handed to me”  


Nathan Aspinall admitted that being happy in life is the reason he is back challenging for the top honours in the PDC “I’ve had a family problem that’s been eating away at me for the past six or seven months. That’s sorted now and I’m on cloud nine and when Nathan is happy, he’s pretty good at this game.” 

Whilst both players hammered the trebles throughout, 21 missed doubles were the story of the night for Polish Eagle Krzysztof Ratajski as he departed this year’s Matchplay 10-7, no doubt full of regret. “I’ve a poor record against Krzysztof so I knew it would be tough, but I capitalised on his errors. I was struggling at the start and was 3-0 up!”  

Aspinall took the lead in the first leg, clearly being spurred on by the boisterous and partisan crowd and never relinquished it across the 16 legs as Ratajski battled in vain to close the gap throughout the contest. “I was so happy to win it for this crowd and I get to come back on Tuesday night, I always get fantastic support here,” said the Asp.  

Chance after chance was created by Ratajski only for him to falter on the doubles as Aspinall took advantage of errors from his opponent. Aspinall meanwhile showed glimpses of his class, including a sparkling 151 out shot in leg 11, averaging 98 across the match and 48% on doubles.  


Michael Smith “felt sorry for everyone who had to watch that game” as he averaged just 89 but still crushed an out of sorts Steve Beaton 10-2.  

“I won playing ugly, something I couldn’t do a few years ago. I’ll take a win I just didn’t produce”  

A couple of blockbuster out shots of 161, 112 & 100 for Smith were really the only highlight of a game where both men toiled to find any consistency.  

It was a disjointed game for the ever popular and evergreen Bronzed Adonis, who drifted into the 5 far too often for his liking. His only highlight was a clean shanghai take out in leg 3. Overall, he’ll be bitterly disappointed to only average 81 with and a 20% finishing percentage on his return to the big stage.  

Smith denied that his new darts were to blame for the showing “The new darts are going great, I just tried too hard”. He will try to set things right versus Chris Dobey in Round 2.  


Damon Heta has spent the European Tour ingratiating himself with the locals, with a legendary variety of walk-ons and costumes, designed to get the crowd on-side. It’s fair to say he went for the opposite reaction as he strolled onto the stage with a cricket bat and a baggy green on his head to the strains of I don’t like cricket- I love it. To a chorus of boos he laughed and gestured a reminder of the Auzzie’s 2-1 Ashes lead.  

Being a non-seed and supposed favourite last year, he was schooled by seed Joe Cullen and Heta wanted to return the favour to his highly fancied opponent Josh Rock. That’s exactly what he did in a remarkable 10-5 win, frustrating the talented youngster. Speaking on stage afterwards Heta said “The roles were reversed and Josh was favourite but I had Joe’s mindset this year and had momentum. I’m really proud of what I’ve done” 

Rock moves around the stage like he’s on a travelator, seemingly unable to move at any pace except 100mph and uninhibited by the scars of big matches on the stage, oozes confidence. He’s good and he knows it.  

However, a deliberate, relaxed Heta ticked off leg after leg steadily, taking his chances and keeping Rock at arm’s length mainly due to the tremendous finishing percentage of 56%. Rock averaged 95+ with a 45% finish percentage of his own, however the standards he’s set himself at just 22 years old makes it seem like this was a disappointing performance from his point of view, but he has much to offer going forward.  

An ecstatic Heta serenaded the crowd afterwards to a rendition of “Same old Auzzies, always winning” before making sure they knew it was all a bit of fun “I hope you all know this is in jest and a bit of banter, I love you all and I love coming here”  


Dirk Van Duijvenbode joked that he could “at least reach the last 16” in this year’s Matchplay after a sensational first round win in Blackpool. 

Kim Huybrechts missed 2 match darts as DvD progressed 12-10 in a Winter Gardens thriller.  

Anyone who tuned in for the recent World Cup would have anticipated a no holds barred contest between these two and we were treated to exactly that. From 5-5 you could sense this was going all the way, it was just a case of when it would spark into life.  

Huybrechts was the first in Leg 10, not able to resist a walk across the stage to celebrate with his family, aiming a cry of joy and some fist pumps.  

Those expecting the aubergine farmer to be spurred into action were shocked to see him still staring into the middle distance looking listless.  

That wasn’t to remain the case though as we headed into the tiebreak after Dirk had missed a dart for the match. It was Kim’s turn to blow his chance, with 2 @ D16 for an 11-9 win and Dirk screamed his approval.  

He took the 21st leg too and was now in full DvD battle mode. In a sensational 22nd leg, Kim hit a 174 and 180 but sensationally missed another 2 at double to allow the Aubergenius a clear shot at Tops which he pinned first dart.  

When asked afterward what he was thinking in the last leg, DvD simply said “Hit double 12. And I did do, so that was good thinking” Looking forward to the rest of the tournament he said “I think I got a very tough draw, it’ll need to be better than I was today, but let’s see” 


The afternoon started off with last years semi-finalist Danny Noppert seeing off obdurate German Martin Schindler 10-8.  

In truth this was a low-key battle where the watching crowd could concentrate on swigging down their pitchers of lager and thinking of amusing lines for their 180 signs over the action on stage.  

“Some big finishes saved me out there” Noppert admitted “but in general I’m not really happy”   

The first 7 legs were nip and tuck with the lowlight being a 22 dart leg steal from the Wall as both faffed on doubles in this surprising snoozefest.  

This focused Noppert to the extent he started to stretch ahead, to 8-5 including a nice 104 checkout, however it wasn’t overly pretty and it was just as much to do with Schindler’s profligacy than Noppert’s excellence.  

Just as it seemed we had the decisive break, it was Noppert’s turn to mess about and miss 5 darts for a 9-5 lead. He put this set-back behind him and a 112 checkout after Schindler missed 2 darts to tie us at 8-8 was decisive.  

Danny saw out a comfortable winning leg with the Wall flailing miles behind to complete an underwhelming tie.  

The Freeze will need to turn the temperature up in R2 as he will be aware there are bigger tests are in the offing. “I hope to repeat last year, this year I’m not as strong but the last few weeks I’ve found that I’m back”  


Chris Dobey won up on the Winter Gardens stage at the 4th time of asking after a hard fought win over James Wade in the final game of the afternoon session.  

After cruising into a 6-1 lead, Dobey looked relaxed and confident but we all know the 2007 champion can never be overlooked and he dug in to fight back to 9-7. With tops deserting the Machine across the tie, with just 1/12 being hit, he was digging himself out of trouble with 6/6 on D10.  

Dobey was always creating chances though and missed 2 match darts in leg 17 and then another in leg 18 as it seemed the pressure was perhaps too much for him, but he drew on his experience, likely buoyed by his PL debut this season, and closed out an 10-8 win on D10 to his obvious relief and delight.  

We only saw flashes of the James Wade who recently averaged 110 in a semi final LOSS in the Euro Tour recently, such as a smooth 121 finish for a 12 dart leg in the 12th. Dobey was able to get over the line with some big finishing of his own, the highlight being a 141.