It was always likely to be a tense affair at Manchester last night, as week nine of the enthralling Premier League of #Darts rolled into the city, with any two from five men to be eliminated from this year's top quality competition. Despite brave efforts from both Kim Huybrechts and Peter Wright on the night, both men will take no further part in the event this time around. It meant that reigning champion Raymond van Barneveld, Adrian Lewis and Stephen Bunting were spared the ignominy of bowing out at this early stage and continue on into the second stage. At the top of the table, Michael van Gerwen maintained his perfect record with a 9th straight win, this time against James Wade by 7 legs to 4.
Week nine marked the conclusion of the initial set of round-robin matches, with all ten men having now played each other at the various venues around the country that the players have visited. In that sense, every player has had a fair chance of success or failure, and no one has been able to duck the challenge of playing the best players as can occur in other sports. The crowds get to see the match-ups that they want to see, with the best man winning (or drawing) on the night.
The Belgian Huybrechts was the first man to confirm his elimination, as he failed to claim the victory that he needed to give himself any chance of escaping the 'axe'. It was agonisingly close though, as he did manage a draw with St Helens' star Bunting after failing to hit his checkout when on match point, ending up tying at six legs apiece instead.
With both Bunting and Huybrechts in the shake-up at the wrong end of the table, after disappointing campaigns in the main in the Super League, there was an air of tension to the match throughout. The Belgian made a classy start, establishing a 4-1 lead over the Englishman, a former BDO World Champion. Bunting's survival instincts kicked in though as he narrowed the gap to just 5-4 behind. Despite taking the next leg to ensure at least a point from the fixture, Huybrechts missed three darts over the next two legs that would have won him the match, leaving him frustrated at the end.