Bunting and Smith exit World Matchplay

Stephen Bunting

Stephen Bunting

First published in Sport

PHIL TAYLOR hit an incredible nine-dart finish against Michael Smith at the BetVictor World Matchplay on Wednesday as 13-6 victory moved him into the quarter-finals alongside Adrian Lewis, Gary Anderson and Wes Newton.

Taylor had hit the tournament's first nine-dart finish back in 2002, and repeated the feat in amazing fashion against Smith.

Having gone 2-0 down as the former World Youth Champion posted back-to-back 14-dart legs, Taylor took out three 126 checkouts as he won six successive legs to move 6-2 up.

He then opened the ninth leg with 180 and 177 before finishing 144 with two more treble 20s and double 12 as he completed another amazing achievement.

Taylor went on to complete a 13-6 win, ending the game with a brilliant ten-dart leg and posting an average of 105.64 as well as hitting more than half of his darts at a double - but it was the nine-darter which grabbed the headlines.

"It was a phenomenal game," said Taylor. "It's a memorable night for me and for everybody who supports me and I'm pleased as punch.

"I thought that there might be a nine-darter against Michael because he's a really good, up-and-coming player and one to watch for the future - he doesn't give in.

"The three 126 finishes were the killer and the nine-darter was the icing on the cake. Towards the end of the game I relaxed a little bit and that's not like me, and I won't do that again.

"I think I can improve further, especially on my stamina, but I'm improving and I'll get myself ready now for the quarter-finals on Friday."

Earlier in a dramatic night, Wes Newton came from 5-0 down to complete a remarkable comeback for the second successive game, surviving five match darts against Paul Nicholson before winning 15-13.

Newton had come from 8-4 down to win his first round game with Ronnie Baxter in a tie-break, and bettered that fightback to win through to the last eight in Blackpool for the second time, where he now meets Taylor.

Newton was punished for wasting eight darts at doubles in the opening five legs, with Nicholson taking full advantage as he moved clear in a run which included a 142 checkout.

Fleetwood's Newton took the next two to revive his challenge, and after Nicholson recovered to move 8-3 up, the number ten produced an 11-darter to kick-start a run of four successive legs as he pulled back to 8-7.

Nicholson denied him the chance to level as he finished 95 and double eight to move three legs up, only for Newton to then finish 139 in a run of three legs to level.

Nicholson then won the next two legs to move to the brink of victory at 12-10 - but missed the bullseye and double one for the win in the next as Newton powered in a 160 checkout to sensationally keep the game alive.

He then missed three more match darts as Newton levelled at 12-all, and though Nicholson regained the lead, Newton won three successive legs to complete another gutsy comeback win.

"It was unbelievable," admitted Newton. "During the game I knew that most legs I lost I had chances in, and fair play to Paul because he took his chances.

"I always felt that I was scoring better than Paul and I just had to forget the scoreline and concentrate on each leg, and if I took my chances I could claw it back.

"At the minute I'm fighting, I'm battling and hanging in there. It's no secret that I've come into this in not the best of form, but I guess every player goes through that - my confidence is low at the minute and that showed in my doubles early on.

"Winning games breeds confidence and that's what I need at the minute. I'm so happy with myself - the 160 finish, when Paul was on a double, was do or die and I did it, and it's possibly the best shot of my career.

"It's good for me - just what I need. I've got to try and put things right for Friday because deep down inside I know I'm going to come through this bad patch, and I'll give it my all."

Gary Anderson then produced his best performance on the Winter Gardens stage as he overcame Stephen Bunting 13-8, averaging over 104 and hitting ten 180s in a superb display.

The Scot had never previously won past the second round in five previous Winter Gardens appearances, but continued the form which has taken him to five ranking wins so far in 2014 against the PDC newcomer.

Anderson stormed into a 5-0 lead as he dominated the early stages, only for Bunting to reply with three successive legs as he cut the gap to 5-3, hitting a 167 finish in the process.

Anderson restored a five-leg cushion before posting an 11-dart leg, and replied to a 122 finish from Bunting with a 103 checkout as he moved 12-7 up.

Bunting kept his hopes alive briefly with an 11-darter of his own, but Anderson posted his tenth maximum of the game before sealing his last eight berth on double five.

"It's my best display here in the last few years, so maybe I've got a bit of sunstroke!" joked Anderson. "The first five legs were fantastic and throughout the game my scoring was fine and my doubles were fine.

"Stephen's a fast player and I love a fast game. I wanted to see how fast he can play so I sped him up, and it worked!

"I'm not playing as well on stage as I have been doing in the floor tournaments, and it all depends on which Gary Anderson turns up on the day, but I'm enjoying my darts and I can't wait for Friday now."

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