Welcome to the latest instalment of OpenOdds’ Darts Round Up, which this week previews the semis and final of the Premier League, as well as looking back on the final week of play in the league stage of the competition. After a season with so many twists and turns, a night of thrilling darts in Leeds confirmed the final line-up for the deciding night of action in London this Thursday.
With two players already sure of their play-off places, four pros were left fighting for the remaining two spots at the O2 Arena – although one of them, James Wade, was already more or less assured of qualification. Between this battle, and the contest between Michael van Gerwen and Rob Cross to take top spot in the table – and thus a #1 seeding for the semi-finals – there was a lot to keep track of. Let us take it match by match, before looking at what bookmakers say for this week.
Price delivers first win in four
Gerwyn Price came to the oche for his match with Peter Wright knowing he needed a win, as well as favours from the evening’s other matches, to secure a semi-final berth. As Price vs Wright was the first contest of the evening, the Welshman merely needed to concentrate on winning, thus applying pressure to his rivals for the top four. In the event, he won with plenty to spare, pulling out an 8-3 victory which was all the more impressive given Wright’s vast improvement, throwing like a different player after several weeks of off-colour darts.
The next match up saw Daryl Gurney lock horns with Michael Smith. Like Wright, Smith’s play-off hopes melted away weeks ago, but he remained a dangerous opponent. To retain any hope of staying in the competition, Price needed Smith to defeat the Northern Irishman. It wasn’t to be, as Gurney maintained his fine recent run to see off the World Championship finalist 8-3, moving into third place ahead of James Wade. After a recent set-to between Price and Gurney, the Mallusk man may have taken a sliver of additional satisfaction in knowing that the win eliminated his rival – but he still had to sit in the wings and watch, knowing a win for Mensur Suljovic in the next match could still upset the applecart.
MvG shows composure when it matters
Unfortunately for Suljovic, leg difference meant that he would need a win of 8-3 or better to unseat Gurney, and the Austrian thrower may have seen the writing on the wall at that stage given that his opponent was Michael van Gerwen, himself fighting for top spot, the #1 seeding and the not inconsiderable sum of £25,000 on the table for finishing ahead of the pack. The writing grew clearer as MvG took the first three legs unanswered, and Suljovic’s exit was confirmed as the Dutchman roared to a 5-0 lead. The tie ended 8-5 to the world Number One, guaranteeing not only Gurney’s spot in the semis, but also that of James Wade.
It also took van Gerwen to the top of the table ahead of the night’s final match between Wade and Rob Cross. With both players assured of semi-final spots, the intrigue here came from the scrap for placings in the top four. A win for Cross would earn him that £25,000 and the top berth in the table, while for Wade victory would mean third place. Tangentially, the shape of the top four meant that no matter who won this game – and even in the case of a draw – Cross and Wade would either finish first and fourth or second and third respectively, ensuring that they would meet in the semis. In the event, Wade won on the night by a margin of 8-6 – giving him a boost ahead of next week’s repeat meeting.
Wade and Gurney in, Suljovic and Price out – Now for the knock-outs
This Thursday night, then, will bring the four remaining players together for semi-final action, with the final being played on the same night. This is good news for the winner of the van Gerwen – Gurney clash, which takes the stage at 8:15 pm. The semi-finals are played across the best of 19 legs, and Gurney will come into the night’s first match with some confidence given that he has won 7-5 and 8-5 over the world champion in their two previous meetings in this season’s competition. Nonetheless, the Dutch master is still heftily favoured by bookmakers with Betway pricing him at ⅕ and Gurney at 7/2. Clearly, there’s little point backing MvG without an odds boost in any case, but against someone who has beaten him twice since late March the value is non-existent.
An hour later, Wade and Cross will meet again, with the latter possibly inspired by his opponent having recently deprived him of a five-figure payday. In this season’s tournament, they’ve met twice and each player has won one of those meetings – Cross with a 7-4 triumph in February and Wade with last week’s 8-6. Tournament sponsors Unibet have “Voltage” as favourite, with a price of 8/13 on him gaining immediate revenge. Wade, at 13/10, can’t be ruled out, but we’d be backing the favourite here.
Shortly after the second match has been played, the winning semi-finalists will return to the stage to see who will be crowned this season’s Premier League champion. Ahead of the evening’s play, van Gerwen is odds-on favourite everywhere to win the final. William Hill have him at ½, with the other players priced as follows: Cross (7/2); Wade (7/1); Gurney (11/1). It’s worth a punt on Gurney, who has been in form recently and knows how to beat van Gerwen. Otherwise, it may be worth following the matches in-play and seeing how they go; if either semi-final goes the full 19 legs, it could see the winner impaired ahead of the final and you can make a bet accordingly.