It was matchplay madness this weekend as both the World Seniors Darts Matchplay and the Interwetten European Matchplay took place, with the seniors putting on a show at the Bonus Arena in Hull whereas the European Matchplay was in Trier, Germany.
In Hull, Phil Taylor and Tony O'Shea who were looking to be the first to lift the World Seniors Matchplay trophy. Unfortunately for Tony, he was defeated in the preliminary round by Brian Dawson in a tie breaker leg. Phil began his tournament with an 8-4 victory against the legendary Deta Hedman before reigniting his rivalry with former World Number 1 Peter Manley who he dispatched, once again winning 8-4. 'The Artist' was waiting for Phil in the semi-final, a rematch of the 2004 World Championship Final but this time, unfortunately for Kevin Painter, the result didn't change as 'The Power' was too much and he won 12-10 at the tie break. The final was Phil Taylor vs former World Grand Prix winner Robert Thornton, which went to a tie break. In what was an incredibly close affair, it was Robert Thornton that walked away victorious on this occasion, with Phil falling to a 12-10 defeat despite a very strong tournament.
The Interwetten European Matchplay had a very strong #TeamTarget presence with Gabriel Clemens, Nathan Aspinall, Scott Williams, Rob Cross, Stephen Bunting, Bradley Brooks and #Elite 1's Sebastian Bialecki all competing. It wasn't meant to be for 'Bam Bam' after a first round exit against Germany's Florian Hempel but for Elite1's Sebastian Bialecki it was a day to remember as he recorded his first victory in a ProTour event, knocking out the iconic Mervyn King 6-4. The reigning Players Champs holder Scott Williams also won his first game in an affair fitting of his trousers - tight.
In the last 32 we saw Rob Cross, Stephen Bunting, Nathan Aspinall and Gabriel Clemens all enter the competition, all winning to go through to the last 16. Unfortunately for Sebastian Bialecki he was drawn against a fired up Stephen Bunting and 'the Bullet' edged him out in a narrow 6-5 victory. Scott Williams and his trousers continued their run as well, defeating Jonny Clayton 6-4 to set up a rematch of the previous Players Championships final against Nathan Aspinall. The last 16 was a tough one as the 'German Giant' Gabriel Clemens fell to future finalist Rowby-John Rodriguez 6-4 and Scott Williams was unfortunate to face 'the Asp' who had a point to prove, winning 6-3 against 'Shaggy' averaging 103. Rob Cross secured himself a place in the final 8, beating Luke Woodhouse 6-3 and Stephen Bunting continued his winning ways with a 6-5 win over Martin Lukeman, shutting down a resurgent comeback and taking his spot in the quarter finals.
Nathan Aspinall kicked off the quarter-finals with a defeat against Rowby-John Rodriguez, unable to drag his high averages into this round. Rob Cross also went out at this stage, narrowly missing out on a semi-final spot to Latvian Madars Razma. Stephen Bunting became #TeamTarget's last man standing with an incredibly impressive victory over World Cup star Damon Heta, taking his place in the semi-final against Luke Humphries. 'The Bullet' was unable to make it a first PDC title of the year as he was knocked out at the semi-final stage by eventual winner Luke Humphries, but it was a very reassuring tournament for Stephen, throwing some incredible darts and taking out some huge finishes just before the World Matchplay at the end of July.
As it stands, the World Matchplay will host several members of #TeamTarget including Rob Cross, Nathan Aspinall, Stephen Bunting, Gabriel Clemens and Adrian Lewis. Ricky Evans, Keane Barry and Scott Williams do still have a chance of qualifying with good performances in the upcoming Players Championships 18-20 in Barnsley.
Event photos © Lawrence Lustig/PDC, Chris Sargeant