Littler Bags First Premier Win in Belfast

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Luke Littler clinched his first nightly win in the 2024 BetMGM Premier League by beating Nathan Aspinall 6-4 in Thursday’s Night Nine final in Belfast.

The teenage sensation has had mixed fortunes thus far in the Premier League, but was back to his best as he defeated World Champion Luke Humphries, reigning champion Michael van Gerwen and Aspinall in Northern Ireland.

A beautiful 136 checkout in the opening leg of the final under pressure gave Littler the lead, but Aspinall responded brightly to lead 3-1.

Littler then pulled level at 3-3 with a breathtaking 125 (bull-25-bull) finish against the throw, before the 17-year-old pressed home his advantage and moved to within one of victory at 5-3 with another leg against the darts.

Aspinall responded with a 70 checkout to close the gap to one but then spurned a dart at D18 to force a deciding leg – allowing Littler in to find D5 with his final dart in hand to secure the £10,000 nightly prize.

“I am so happy to win my first night,” reflected Littler, who moves up to second in the table.

“I changed my throw tonight, just taking that little bit of extra time. I practiced a lot more tonight and it has paid off.

“We’re halfway [through the season] and there is still a lot of work to do, but to win one night going into the second half of the season has really got my hopes up and gives me confidence.”

However, the path to victory wasn’t a simple one for Littler in Belfast.

He first had to put an end to Luke Humphries’ run, with the World Champion having won the last three consecutive nights in the Premier League.

Taken to a deciding leg, it was met with a huge roar from Littler as he sunk a 68 finish to inflict Humphries’ first defeat in 10 Premier League matches.

Van Gerwen had impressed in his quarter-final clash against Michael Smith, averaging 105.79 as he recovered from 4-2 down to triumph.

Yet the Dutchman couldn’t replicate that standard against Littler, as the teenager stormed into the final with a 6-3 win, averaging just under the 100 mark and sinking a lovely 110 finish on the way.

It was then another slice of history for Littler as he secured victory over stablemate Aspinall in front of the 8,000 strong crowd at the SSE Arena.

“The crowd were unbelievable tonight, just like they have been in the previous eight weeks,” added Littler.

“Now I am just really looking forward to the big one [in Manchester] next week.”

Having started the night outside the Play-Off places, the victory for Littler lifts him to second place in the table on 18 points – still four behind the leader Humphries.

Despite defeat for Aspinall, it has been a bright season so far for the 32-year-old, as he reached his fourth final in six weeks.

28/3/24: BetMGM Premier League. Night Nine – SSE Arena, Belfast. Picture: Michael Cooper

The Stockport star currently sits fourth in the table on 16 points, three clear of Smith in fifth.

The World Matchplay champion reached the final in Belfast after displaying some expert finishing to see off Gerwyn Price 6-5 in his opener, before blowing away Peter Wright 6-2 in the semi-finals.

Wright reached the last four after beating Rob Cross in his opening game – recording just his second win of the Premier League campaign.

The 2024 BetMGM Premier League continues next Thursday with a visit to Manchester’s AO Arena, as Littler and Van Gerwen renew their rivalry.

Humphries will bid to return to winning ways when he meets Smith, Aspinall and Cross lock horns in the evening’s opener, while Price and Wright will also do battle.

2024 BetMGM Premier League

Night Nine – SSE Arena, Belfast

Thursday March 28

Quarter-Finals

Luke Littler 6-5 Luke Humphries

Michael van Gerwen 6-4 Michael Smith

Nathan Aspinall 6-5 Gerwyn Price

Peter Wright 6-3 Rob Cross

Semi-Finals

Luke Littler 6-3 Michael van Gerwen

Nathan Aspinall 6-2 Peter Wright

Final

Luke Littler 6-4 Nathan Aspinall

Night Ten – AO Arena, Manchester
Thursday April 4
Quarter-Finals
Nathan Aspinall v Rob Cross
Luke Littler v Michael van Gerwen
Michael Smith v Luke Humphries
Gerwyn Price v Peter Wright

—–ENDS—–

Inages: Michael Cooper / PDC

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