HUYBRECHTS And WRIGHT ELIMINATED FROM BETWAY PREMIER LEAGUE ON DRAMATIC JUDGEMENT NIGHT
KIM HUYBRECHTS and Peter Wright were eliminated from the Betway Premier League on a dramatic Judgement Night in Manchester, as reigning champion Raymond van Barneveld and Adrian Lewis survived to compete in the second half of the season.
Thursday's ninth league night of the tournament completed the opening set of round-robin fixtures, after which the bottom two players were knocked out.
Five of the ten stars went into Judgement Night facing the prospect of elimination, with Kim Huybrechts needing to take a victory to keep alive his hopes.
However, the Belgian missed three match darts as he drew with Stephen Bunting, a result which saw Huybrechts agonisingly drop out of the event as the St Helens ace survived.
Adrian Lewis then defeated Peter Wright 7-4 as he sealed his status in the tournament, before van Barneveld's draw with Gary Anderson saw Wright eliminated on leg difference.
Reigning champion van Barneveld produced a fine display to hold off a 108 average from World Champion Anderson as they shared the points in a high-quality contest which also featured 12 maximums.
Anderson shared the opening six legs as he posted legs of 13, 12 and 12 darts before van Barneveld took out 122 for a break of throw and double nine to move 5-3 up.
The Dutchman replied to a 71 finish from Anderson with a 91 checkout to secure the draw which preserved his Premier League status, but the Scot hit back to win the final two legs and claim a point.
"I'm happy with the draw," said van Barneveld. "In the last three games I had the top three players in the world - Phil Taylor, Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson - but I got the three points that I needed in the end. There was a lot of pressure because we were the last game on and Adrian did what he had to do earlier. I knew what I had to do, get a draw at least, and it's in your mind. Gary played so well but the 122 was crucial and I thought I was going to win after that, but I missed one or two doubles and he deserved the draw. I didn't want to lose tonight and go out after being the winner last year, but I'm happy to be in the next phase and I can't wait to play the remaining games."
Anderson's point maintains his status in the league's top three, and he said: "I thought I played alright and Raymond had to work for it tonight. I didn't know what the situation was - I thought Raymond needed to win - because I need points for myself and to keep up with Michael van Gerwen because I want to finish in the top four."
Earlier, Lewis had ensured his survival and dealt a killer blow to Wright's hopes with a 7-4 win from their clash.
The two-time World Champion shared the opening six legs - taking out a showpiece 100 with two double tops in leg three - before finding an extra gear in the second half of the match.
He took out 106 and then secured the first break of throw by finishing 88, and double top moved him 6-3 up to secure a minimum of a draw.
Wright took out a stunning 170 finish to bring the 9,000-strong Manchester crowd to its feet, but the fightback was short-lived when he missed double 16 in the next leg, allowing Lewis to take out tops for a huge win.
"I treated it like a first round, knockout match and I got the job done so I'm over the moon," said Lewis. "When Peter took out the 170 I thought it was going to sum up my league, but I managed to get the win. My scoring was a bit hit and miss but my finishing - which has let me down in recent weeks - has come together tonight. I've been putting in six hours a day practising on my finishing and it showed. If I can get a bit of momentum now over the next few weeks I want to push towards the top four."
Belgian star Huybrechts came agonisingly close to extending his own debut Premier League season before he was eliminated by a draw against Bunting in another dramatic contest.
Huybrechts had to win the clash - and hope that Lewis and van Barneveld lost - if he was to avoid the axe and made a brilliant start by winning the opening three legs and taking a 4-1 lead.
Bunting pulled back to trail just 5-4 before Huybrechts edged away on double eight - but he crucially missed one match dart, at the bull, in leg 11 before seeing two darts at doubles go begging in the deciding leg as the St Helens man ended his hopes.
"Kim's a good friend and I feel sorry for him that he's going out because he's done well in the Premier League on his debut this season," said Bunting. "I knew before the game that I only needed two legs but I was going for the win. At the start of the game Kim put the pressure on me and it was always going to be difficult after going 3-0 down. This is my first Premier League and this was something new for me, and I was really nervous, so I'm so happy. The aim tonight was to stay in but also not to lose so this point could be massive going into the rest of the season."
Earlier, league leader Michael van Gerwen extended his unbeaten run to nine matches this season with a 7-4 defeat of James Wade.
Both players averaged just over 100 in the game, but van Gerwen's finishing proved the difference as he took the points.
Wade hit back from 3-0 down to close the gap to 4-3 at one stage, finishing 132 on the bull along the way, but the Dutchman took three of the final four legs to seal victory.
"I wasn't at my best but I got the win, which was the most important thing," said van Gerwen. "When you're feeling comfortable, even 80 or 90 percent of what you can do might be enough and I did enough to win. I hit doubles at the right times and I think I deserved to win the game tonight. I'm enjoying the season so far and I want to stay at the top."
Dave Chisnall strengthened his place inside the top four with a fine comeback from 3-0 and 4-2 down to defeat Phil Taylor 7-4, punishing the 16-time World Champion for uncharacteristically missing 15 darts at a double during the contest.
Taylor took the first three legs under little pressure from Chisnall, who took out 112, on the bull, and 96 to hit back to 3-2.
Double two moved Taylor 4-2 up, but missed doubles let Chisnall in on double 16 before he levelled on double five, and the 2014 Grand Slam runner-up then landed two 11-darters as he took the next three legs to sweep to victory.
"I started very slowly but pulled it out at the end," said Chisnall. "Phil missed a few doubles and I capitalised on it and fortunately I got the win. My scoring wasn't brilliant but I finished well. I've not beaten Phil for a while and even though he wasn't at his best I'll take the win and I'm happy. To be up there in the top four even though I've not been at my best is not bad - people were tipping me to be eliminated so I've proved them wrong so far!"