‘The Bullet’ Fires Warning Shot

Red Dragon Darts


Former Lakeside champion Stephen Bunting defeated Ryan Joyce 3-0 in a brisk and impressive opening performance.

Two 14 darters helped Bunting to an early advantage, ‘The Bullet’ looking comfortable on a stage which has gifted him so much. A 180 followed by a 140 proved a pressure hard to withstand in leg 3, quickly tied up in an 11 darter.

A break put little dent in Bunting’s confidence, as an 11 darter was forthcoming in leg 1, before Joyce managed to claw his way into the set and the match with a leg of his own. ‘The Bullet’ regained the lead in leg 3, the St Helens man truly firing on all cylinders.

A 14 darter proved just the ticket for Joyce to keep alive his hopes of a set win, but Bunting avoided too much trouble in the decider.

‘The Bullet’ may have had half an eye on the finish line, but conceded leg 1 despite a string of strong opening visits. A set average just south of 110, the former BDO World Champion was some distance apart from Joyce, and a 12 darter to level only added to Joyce’s woes.

A break would arrive for Bunting in leg 3, the ferocity of his scoring swallowing Joyce up on the Ally Pally stage. And a breathless 13 darts later, it would be all over, Stephen the man through to the last 32 and Joyce consigned to an early Christmas break.

“When you walk on to this stage and the whole crowd is singing ‘Let’s go Bunting mental!’, I have never been so nervous in my life!” Bunting told Sky’s Abigail Davies after the match. “I was so happy to be able to play like that and to my true potential.”

“I have come here with a lot of confidence from my last two events but I have put a lot of ground work in and thankfully the wasp stayed away!”

The tenth seed of the tournament to fall, Josh Rock, was defeated by Berry van Peer 3-1 in one of the round’s most impressive matches.

Rock returned to Ally Pally facing less of a furore of anticipation than in 2022, but remained the favourite in his bout with the Dutchman, But despite taking the opening leg of their encounter, he quickly fell 1-0 down in sets, excellent scoring failing to compensate for scrappy doubling.

Set 2 followed a similar trend, despite Rock forcing a 2-2 decider, the Northern Irishman once again left to rue what may have been the outcome had more checkouts been nailed. An overall percentage of 43% masked what was an inability to seal legs up at crucial moments. A 12 darter capped off on 121 from van Peer left Rock in a perilous state.

‘Rapid’ by name, rapid by nature however, and Evans was on fire in set 2. A superb 11 darter was followed up by two very steady 17 and 15 dart leg follow-ups. The Matchplay champion was on the ropes and he had little response. 3-0 in the second it was, delivered on 104.

Memories of winning darts’s second biggest major back in July must have seemed distant for Aspinall, who by this point was in a real fight for his life. Another 11 darter to open the set, despite two 140s to open from ‘The Asp’, painted a bleak picture.

Nathan looked all too resigned to defeat after this, despite taking the third leg, but it was Evans who ultimately took the set 3-1 to book his spot in the last 32. An incredible showing from ‘Rapid’, who poses a huge threat for Daryl Gurney in the next round.

The World Championship now takes a pause until the 27th December when the third round begins. Clashes to look forward to include Ross Smith v Chris Dobey, Michael van Gerwen v. Richard Veenstra and Gerwyn Price v Brendan Dolan.

The tournament is being broadcast live on Sky Sports in the UK, through the PDC’s worldwide broadcast partners including DAZN and Viaplay, and on PDCTV (excluding UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria & Switzerland based subscribers).

2023/24 Paddy Power World Darts Championship
Saturday December 23
Evening Session (1900 GMT)
4x Second Round
Ryan Searle 3-1 Tomoya Goto (3-0, 3-2, 2-3, 3-0)
Berry van Peer 3-1 Josh Rock (3-1, 3-2, 2-3, 3-1)
Stephen Bunting 3-0 Ryan Joyce (3-0, 3-2, 3-1)
Ricky Evans 3-0 Nathan Aspinall (3-0, 3-1, 3-1)

Wednesday December 27
Afternoon Session (1230 GMT)

3x Third Round

Evening Session (1900 GMT)
3x Second Round


Images: PDC

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