We are back for more World Matchplay action on Tuesday at the iconic Winter Gardens in Blackpool as the world’s top stars battle it out for the Phil Taylor Trophy – live on Sky Sports Action
Last Updated: 17/07/23 11:51pm
Raymond van Barneveld’s hopes of a fairytale return to the World Matchplay Darts were quickly extinguished by an on-fire Ryan Searle in the first round on Monday.
‘Heavy Metal’ Searle averaged 105.19 in a blitz of Van Barneveld, who was back on the Winter Gardens stage after five years away.
Two former champions also laid down a marker after Michael van Gerwen’s shock defeat on Sunday, with Dimitri Van den Bergh and Peter Wright both recording comfortable 10-4 victories to progress to the second round.
World Matchplay First Round: Monday, July 17
|Dimitri Van den Bergh||10-8||Ross Smith|
|Ryan Searle||10-4||Raymond van Barneveld|
|Peter Wright||10-4||Andrew Gilding|
|Jonny Clayton||10-8||Gabriel Clemens|
But everyone was waiting to see the legendary Dutchman return to the big stage and early on it looked liked some sloppy darts from Searle could give him the chance of a fairytale victory.
Van Barneveld – making his first appearance at the World Matchplay since 2018 – drew first blood with a 14-dart hold, but Searle soon stamped his authority on the contest to move 3-2 ahead.
The Somerset star then won seven of the last nine legs to complete a 10-4 rout, registering winning legs of 13, 12, 11, 16, 13, 13 and 13 darts during this spell to cap off an imperious display.
“I hadn’t won a game here before so there was a little bit of pressure on me,” admitted Searle, who posted his highest televised average to dispatch the five-time World Champion.
“Raymond is a legend. I grew up watching him on TV before I was even playing darts, so it’s weird for me now to be playing him at the World Matchplay.
“He’s the crowd favourite so I tried to feed off the energy that the crowd were giving to him, and it worked tonight! I’m really happy with that performance.”
The opening clash of the night was a cracker as Dimitri Van den Bergh also averaged over 100 (101.24) to come out on top against European champion Ross Smith.
Smith led 3-2 following a highly-charged start to the tie, which saw both players averaging in three figures, but Van den Bergh levelled up the tie with a clinical 117 checkout in leg eight.
Smith was being outscored by the Belgian, but a spectacular tops-tops 134 checkout saw him restore parity at six apiece, and the pair continued to trade holds as the prospect of a tie-break loomed.
However, with the scores locked at 8-8, Van den Bergh raced to the finish line in sensational style, firing in back-to-back 12-dart legs to maintain his magnificent record at the Winter Gardens.
“Wow, what a game,” said Van den Bergh, one of only three former champions left in this year’s tournament.
“I was focused, I was in control. I felt like I was in the zone, but Ross was brilliant. I’m not sure how I managed to win, but I’ve done it!
“I love the Winter Gardens and I love Blackpool. I just focus on what I can do, and I’ve managed to beat the European Champion.”
2021 champion Peter Wright wasn’t happy with his performance but beat UK Open champion Andrew Gilding comfortably.
It was a mixed bag for ‘Snakebite’ who lost the first two legs but then reeled off eight straight, but missed multiple throws at tops in a show of nerves to hand a leg back to Gilding.
His seven 180s though, show that the magic may just be threatening to return properly after what’s been a poor year for the Scot.
“The fans were brilliant. It’s nice to be back on this stage,” reflected Wright, who now plays Searle on Wednesday night, in a repeat of their 2021 Players Championship Finals decider.
“Andrew Gilding is a fantastic darts player. He’s beaten me so many times before so I know what he can do, and thankfully for me he didn’t turn up there.
“I didn’t feel comfortable at all up there, but it’s a new day against Ryan, and I will be a better player on Wednesday night.”
The last match was a pure scrap between two-time World Cup winner Jonny Clayton and Germany’s Gabriel Clemens in what was the final game of the first round.
Neither player threw well until about leg 10 but it was Clayton who took advantage in the key moments to record just his second victory in this tournament.
Clemens spurned opportunities to win each of the first four legs, and Clayton profited to establish an early buffer – with the World Cup winner defying a significant gap in the averages.
Despite taking out 108 and producing legs of 11 and 12 darts to hold, Clemens was unable to make inroads on the Clayton throw, and the Welshman duly cantered into a 9-5 lead.
World Championship semi-finalist Clemens suddenly sparked into life with a run of three straight legs to reduce the deficit to 8-9, only for Clayton to regain his poise and seal the deal with a spectacular 11-darter.
“There were a few nerves, but the crowd were fantastic and I’ve done the job tonight,” insisted Clayton, who dedicated the win to his ill father.
“That was tough. It wasn’t the best version of Gabriel Clemens, but it wasn’t the best of Jonny Clayton either.
“The 11-darter was amazing. Anybody would take that, and I certainly will! This is just my second win here in five years, so it means a lot.”
World Matchplay Second Round: Tuesday, July 18
|Daryl Gurney||vs||Gary Anderson|
|Danny Noppert||vs||Nathan Aspinall|
|Gerwyn Price||vs||Joe Cullen|
|Michael Smith||vs||Chris Dobey|
The second round gets under way at the Winter Gardens on Tuesday, as world champion Michael Smith plays Masters winner Chris Dobey, while 2022 runner-up Gerwyn Price faces Joe Cullen.
Elsewhere, 2018 winner Gary Anderson takes on Daryl Gurney for a place in the quarter-finals, with former UK Open champions Danny Noppert and Nathan Aspinall set to renew their big stage rivalry.
We are back for more World Matchplay action at the iconic Winter Gardens on Tuesday at 7pm as the world’s top stars battle it out for the Phil Taylor Trophy – live on Sky Sports Action.