Ross Cools ‘The Heat’ in Title Win

Red Dragon Darts


Ross Smith claimed his second ranking title of 2023 as he landed a nine-dart finish on the way to glory in Saturday’s Players Championship 28 in Barnsley.

Smith warmed up in style for his defence of the Machineseeker European Championship next weekend by scooping the £12,000 top prize to conclude four days of PDC ProTour action.

The Kent star landed a perfect leg during his second round whitewash of Robbie Knops, and completed a memorable day with an 8-6 triumph against Damon Heta in the final.

However, he was made to produce one of his best-ever spells of darts in the decider, reeling off five legs in a row of between 12 and 14 darts to come from 6-3 down and claim the title.

Smith will now travels to Dortmund in confident mood as he prepares to open his European Championship title defence on Friday night against Ricardo Pietreczko.

“I’m going in as a winner!” said Smith. “I’m reigning champion and the winner of this, so I’m really happy.

“I know I’ve got a hard game there, but I’m going to keep working hard on and off the board and do my best. That’s all you can do.

“I’m playing really consistent darts. It’s not often I feel like I drop below a 95 average and this week has been probably more 100-pluses than not.

“I feel nice and relaxed. I’ve played well this week and hopefully I can continue that into the Euros,”

Heta dominated the final’s early exchanges, following a 12-darter with a 13-dart break on his way to a 4-1 advantage.

The next four legs went with throw to leave the Australian 6-3 up, but Smith’s comeback began as he followed a 13-darter to hold with legs of 14, 12, 12 and 13 darts as he sealed the title.

Smith ended the final with a 104.68 average – which he bettered in his second round defeat of Knops, landing a nine-darter in leg five, and his fourth round win over Niels Zonneveld.

The European Champion also averaged over 100 in wins over Robert Owen and Ricky Evans, saw off Nathan Rafferty in round one and came from 5-2 down to win his semi-final with Dom Taylor in a deciding leg.

“I felt like I played really well all day but in the semi-final against Dom I was a bit nervy,” added Smith. “I’m glad to get through that one and I dug deep.

“Damon took quite a bit of a lead [in the final] and maybe I relaxed a little bit instead of thinking about winning and maybe complicating it.

“I just thought about throwing and obviously it paid off there but Damon let me in.”

Heta was bidding to win his third Players Championship of the year and produced a stroing of dominant wins on his way to the final.

The 2022 World Cup winner averaged over 101 in his 6-4 first round win over Alan Soutar in what proved his tightest match during his run to the final – subsequently defeating Karel Sedlacek, Scott Waites, Martin Schindler, Luke Woodhouse and Mickey Mansell.

Northern Ireland’s Mansell defeated Thursday’s Players Championship 26 winner Ryan Joyce, last weekend’s German Darts Champion Ricardo Pietreczko and former World Youth Champion Josh Rock as he enjoyed his best run of 2022 to a first semi-final of the year.

Former Development Tour event winner Taylor, meanwhile, enjoyed his best-ever run on the ProTour in a memorable day at the Barnsley Metrodome.

The 25-year-old from Bristol defeated Simon Whitlock, Darul Gurney, Andrew Gilding, Darren Webster and Raymond van Barneveld to win through to the semi-finals, before seeing Smith deny him a spot in the decider.

Following this week’s four Players Championship events, just two more tournaments remain at the start of November as players bid to secure qualification for the Cazoo Players Championship Finals and Paddy Power World Darts Championship.

Coverage of Players Championships 29-30 on November 1-2 will be shown on PDCTV, with coverage from four boards simultaneously throughout each event.

2023 Players Championship 28

Saturday October 21, Barnsley Metrodome

Last 16

Dom Taylor 6-1 Darren Webster

Raymond van Barneveld 6-5 Radek Szaganski

Ross Smith 6-2 Niels Zonneveld

Ricky Evans 6-3 Florian Hempel

Damon Heta 6-3 Martin Schindler

Luke Woodhouse 6-5 Jeffrey Sparidaans

Mickey Mansell 6-5 Josh Rock

Ricardo Pietreczko 6-5 Matt Campbell


Dom Taylor 6-2 Raymond van Barneveld

Ross Smith 6-2 Ricky Evans

Damon Heta 6-2 Luke Woodhouse

Mickey Mansell 6-1 Ricardo Pietreczko


Ross Smith 7-6 Dom Taylor

Damon Heta 7-2 Mickey Mansell


Ross Smith 8-6 Damon Heta


Images: PDC


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