The Price is right as Gerwin KOs Bunting at Winter Gardens
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Day One of the summer's biggest darts event saw Price kick off his bid for a maiden World Matchplay crown in emphatic style, as 2018 champion Anderson continued his resurgence at the Winter Gardens.
Saturday’s opening night also saw Daryl Gurney dump out 2019 champion Rob Cross in a tie-break, with Joe Cullen accounting for Mike De Decker in the evening’s opener.
However, Price took centre stage on an entertaining evening at the Empress Ballroom, winning ten of the last 11 legs of his clash against Bunting to set up a last 16 showdown against Cullen.
Bunting punished a sluggish start from the Welshman to win the opening two legs, but Price soon found his range, firing in seven perfect darts in leg five on his way to a 3-2 lead. The 38-year-old continued his charge with a majestic tops-tops 100 checkout to stretch his advantage to 7-3, and he reeled off the last seven legs without reply to cap off a dominant display.
“I got the job done, and that’s all I wanted to do tonight,” reflected Price, who was beaten by Bunting at the same stage of the 2019 World Matchplay.
“I haven’t played in many ranking events over the last month, but my confidence is there, and I believe I’ll get better round-by-round, so hopefully my A-game will come out.
“Tuesday is a new day and it will be a tough game against Joe Cullen.
" Joe is a great player so I need to put him under pressure, but I’m looking forward to it.”
Meanwhile, Anderson – competing as an unseeded player at this event for the first time since 2010 – won through a scrappy affair against Chisnall to set up an intriguing tie against Gurney.
Chisnall led 3-2 following an inauspicious start to proceedings, but Anderson stole a march in the second session, reeling off five consecutive legs to open up a commanding four-leg cushion.
The Scottish legend wasn’t at his blistering best, but he capitalised on Chisnall’s errors throughout, and a nerveless 115 combination from Anderson in leg 13 catapulted him to a 10-6 success.
“I was a bit nervous, but I’ll take the win,” said the two-time World Champion, making his 15th consecutive appearance in the showpiece Blackpool event.
“Daryl played well tonight, and if I play like I did tonight, I will be going home very quickly, so I need to improve.
“I’m enjoying the game again, and it’s been a long time since I have enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to Tuesday now.”
Earlier in the night, Gurney condemned Cross to his first opening round exit at the Winter Gardens with a dramatic 12-10 victory, avenging his astonishing semi-final defeat to Cross in the 2019 edition.
Cross fought back from 15-9 down to stun Gurney on that occasion, and history appeared to be repeating itself when the fifth seed recovered from 4-0, 6-3 and 9-7 adrift to lead 10-9.
Gurney had produced back-to-back 110 and 111 finishes to lead 4-0, but a three-leg burst of 13, 14 and 13 darts from Cross - followed by a 170 checkout in leg 14 - saw him level at seven apiece.
The pendulum continued to swing as Cross recovered from a 9-7 deficit to lead for the first time, but Gurney regained his poise in the closing stages, winning the last three legs to triumph in a thriller.
“It’s payback for a couple of years ago!” quipped Gurney, a two-time semi-finalist at the Winter Gardens.
“It’s tough because I’m lower down in the rankings, but it just shows that every dog has their day and I can still play this game.
“There’s nobody working harder than me. I’m working so hard to try and get back to where I was, but the standard now is ridiculous, and to beat Rob on this stage, it means a lot.”
Elsewhere, Cullen kicked off this year’s tournament with an impressive 10-7 victory over debutant Mike De Decker, averaging almost 101, landing eight 180s and converting three ton-plus finishes.
The Yorkshireman – aided by a superb 143 checkout in leg two – raced into an early 4-1 lead, before defying a spectacular 164 checkout from De Decker in leg seven to extend his buffer to 7-3.
Cullen added a brilliant 126 on the bull to his highlights reel in leg 11, and then fended off a late rally from the Belgian to seal his progress with an unorthodox 120 combination on double ten.
“I wanted to win that first session, and from there I think I controlled the game,” reflected Cullen, who will now play Price for a place in the quarter-finals.
“It maybe should have been a little bit more comfortable, but it’s all about just getting over the first hurdle, regardless of the performance.
“My game is in a good place at the minute. I’ve been putting in some big performances against some big players, so there’s no reason why I can’t go a long way. We’re all capable of winning it.”
The Betfred World Matchplay continues with a bumper double session on Sunday, as reigning champion Michael van Gerwen, World Champion Michael Smith and 2007 winner James Wade headline on Day Two in Blackpool.
Van Gerwen will open his title defence against Brendan Dolan, Smith faces Steve Beaton – making his 22nd World Matchplay appearance - while Wade plays Masters champion Dobey.