The Great Defender?
By Harry Masterson 27/04/2022
Clayton Leads but Faces Tough Test from World Number One in Ireland:
Jonny Clayton goes into Night 12 as the league leader, as the Premier League returns to Dublin for the first time since 2020 with a high-quality line-up in store for the Irish fans. The league’s top four players all play each other in Quarter Final action as Clayton faces reigning world champion Peter Wright, whilst Michael van Gerwen faces James Wade.
There are now just five weeks of action left before Finals night, scheduled to take place in Berlin for the very first time, and players like former world number one Gerwyn Price and Joe Cullen (who face each other in Dublin) need points desperately with Peter Wright in fourth now five points clear of fifth-placed Cullen, after all the top four came through their Quarter-Finals last week in Aberdeen.
Jonny Clayton beat Michael van Gerwen 6-5 in the final last week to take the top spot and win his third night of the campaign levelling with the Dutchman for most wins in the league so far. The Final saw seven maximums as well as both averaging in three figures across the whole match as Clayton finished 82 to close out the match on his throw.
The Ferret will need similar darts if he is to get past the World Number One in Dublin, with Snakebite averaging 103.22 in his Quarter Final with Joe Cullen last week after changing to the Euro 11 Element Gold PC20 darts last week. The two crossed paths in the Semi-Finals in a match that Clayton won despite averaging three points lower than the World Number One.
Snakebite will want revenge in Dublin and a win on Night 12 could see Wright all but secure his place in the Play-Offs with four nights to spare. Clayton is the reigning champion and league leader so a win would continue his perfect Premier League campaign in a competition that the Welshman really seems to thrive in.
Michael van Gerwen faces James Wade in the opening match of the night. The two faced each other last week in Aberdeen with Mighty Mike prevailing a 6-3 winner with a 99.84 average to reach the Final. Before last week in Aberdeen, The Machine had reached the last three finals of the last three nights, finally prevailing in Manchester after beating Joe Cullen in a last-leg decider to become the seventh different winner.
World number three Van Gerwen is just a point of the top spot, which he had previously held on to after reaching the top on night 5 in Brighton. He beat Michael Smith in the final to record back-to-back night wins and has since added a third beating Night 12 opponent Wade 6-1 in the Final of Night 9 in Leeds.
The next match in Ireland is huge for both in their hopes of making the top four, with two points on the line for the winner as fifth-placed Joe Cullen faces sixth-placed Gerwyn Price with the winner to face either van Gerwen or Wade in the Semi-Finals. Both lost last week at the Quarter Finals stage with Price losing to Michael van Gerwen whilst Cullen lost to Peter Wright in a last-leg decider.
The two have only met twice in this year’s Premier League with Cullen coming out the winner on both occasions, including a Semi-Final victory in Liverpool on Night 2. Both players have won one night in this year’s league campaign with Cullen winning in Rotterdam and The Iceman including two nine-darters in storming to victory in Belfast.
Both players have mountains to climb if they are to make the Play-Offs, so the match between Gary Anderson and Michael Smith is huge, with the loser all but certain to miss out on Berlin on June 13th. Smith is the only player to not win a night in this year’s competition after James Wade became the seventh different winner in Manchester.
Bully Boy sits seventh in the league and 12 points of the Play-Offs, whilst Anderson is bottom with just seven points picked up across the whole league campaign. Since the two met in the Final of Night 6 in Nottingham, neither has won a match since with zero points from five nights accumulated between the pair, resulting in being so far adrift from the rest of the league.
Smith will go into it with more confidence, having reached the Final of the UK Open back in March as well as the Last 16 of the recent Euro Tour Event held in Munich where he lost out to eventual winner Luke Humphries. Anderson reached the Final of Pro Tour Event 5 after winning in Nottingham two days earlier but has yet to rediscover that form since, with the need for points becoming bigger with just five weeks of the league format left.
Night 12 Dublin
James Wade v Michael van Gerwen
Gerwyn Price v Joe Cullen
Michael Smith v Gary Anderson
Jonny Clayton v Peter Wright
Wade/ van Gerwen v Price/ Cullen
Smith/ Anderson v Clayton/ Wright
Winner of SF1 v Winner of SF2
Jonny Clayton: 26pts
Michael van Gerwen: 25 pts
James Wade: 20pts
Peter Wright: 20pts
Joe Cullen: 15pts
Gerwyn Price: 11pts
Michael Smith: 8pts
Gary Anderson: 7pts
Words: Harry Masterson
Images : PDC
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