After a toughly contested group stage, the Premier League Darts enters its knockout stages on Thursday. Phil Taylor was the dominant force throughout the Premier League and will face the current world champion Adrian “Jackpot” Lewis. Raymond van Barneveld and Gary “Flying Scotsman” Anderson will face off in the other semi final.
Last year’s final produced some sensational darts. James Wade played brilliantly but was undone by two Taylor nine darters as The Power won 10-8.
Taylor has been exemplary during the Premier League and is the clear favourite, having won thirteen matches in a row after losing in his first outing against Lewis. Jackpot will be hoping to repeat that performance, but will find it hard to beat a player who has lost a mere 49 legs throughout the whole tournament.
The Power has cruised to the final, only dropping two points for the second season in a row. The last time Taylor lost more than three legs was in week six against Simon Whitlock and The Power has averaged 102.82 over the 14 weeks, with Anderson’s 97.54 second best. His leg difference is +57, which dwarves Barney’s +18.
Lewis’ Premier League has been more erratic. His 8-2 thumping of Taylor in week one seemed to carry on his superb World Championship form, but Jackpot immediately dropped three matches to James Wade, Van Barneveld and Mark Webster. Lewis then racked up four matches without defeat before again losing three on the bounce.
His playoff hopes seemed to be dwindling, but Lewis finished the group stages with aplomb. Lewis crucially beat fellow playoff hopeful Simon Whitlock 8-5 in week 12, before comfortably defeating Terry Jenkins 8-3. He then grabbed the crucial 7-7 draw with Gary Anderson last week in Newcastle to give him the point he needed to qualify.
Lewis has the quality to score highly and hit impressive out shots, but he cannot match Taylor’s consistency. The Power, apart from his extraordinary ability, has the best work ethic of any darts player. He also has the knack of hitting crucial 180s and 100+ out shots in crucial situations. Lewis will battle hard but Taylor should see off his fellow Stokeman with legs to spare.
A closer match is expected in the Anderson and Barneveld encounter. The pair are two of the world’s most talented, fluid throwing and highest scoring darts players. The issue for Anderson is his prolificacy at doubles, while Barneveld can wilt under pressure on occasion. If both players can play close to their potential and avoid any mental doubts, we might be in for a classic.
Despite failing to win since week 11, Anderson has been one of the stars of the Premier League. The Flying Scotsman set a record for 180s in one match earlier in the tournament and has hit a sensational 68 180s over 14 weeks.
Barneveld seemed to be locked in a battle for one of the final playoff places, but pulled away in the final weeks, winning three and drawing two of his final five matches. Barney’s confidence will be boosted as he twice defeated Anderson in the group stages, 8-5 in week 7 and 8-4 in the penultimate week.
Anderson’s and Barneveld’s scoring patterns have been considerably different throughout the Premier League. Anderson has accumulated an impressive 35 more 180s during the tournament, but Barney has struck 38 more 100+ and 26 more 140+.
This match promises to be eventful, high scoring and filled with quality. Either player could outscore or outmanoeuvre the other, but Anderson will have vengeance in mind. His unmatched ability to regularly hit maximums could be enough to send him through to the final.
The third place play-off and the final will also be played Thursday. The final, however, will be a best of 19 affair.
Barneveld would be favourite against Lewis, while Anderson would have to be exemplary to defeat the indomitable Taylor.
A great night of darts is in store, with all signs pointing towards yet another Phil Taylor title.