Premier League of darts night one 01/02/2024
Premier League 2024 Night 1: Cardiff
Darts’ annual traveling spectacle has finally returned for 2024 and kicked off it’s opening night in Cardiff, Wales this was the seventeenth time that Cardiff has hosted a Premier League night being on the calendar since 2007 and in that time only missing 2021, when all rounds were held in Milton Keynes.
The line-up for this year was confirmed following the World Darts Championship, this year sees both the World Championship finalists Luke Humphries and Luke Littler making their debut although this won’t be the first time Humphries steps onto the Premier League stage as he did feature as a “challenger” back in 2019 and 2020.
Michael van Gerwen is only former winner of the Premier League to be taking part this year although every other participant has at one point, or another reached the Premier League final (other than the debutants). This is van Gerwens’ twelfth appearance in the Premier League, and he comes into it as a seven-time Premier League champion and the defending champion as he starts his campaign for an eighth crown.
Michael Smith will be making his seventh Premier League appearance, while Gerwyn Price will be making his sixth Premier League appearance. Nathan Aspinall will make his fourth Premier League appearance and following on from missing out last year Rob Cross will make his fifth Premier League appearance.
Peter Wright will also be in the event for the eleventh consecutive year only Michael van Gerwen has done more years’ consecutively than Wright. This Premier League is the first in many years to only include one former winner in the line-up with there having been at least two every year since 2009.
Peter Wright 3 – 6 Rob Cross
Peter Wright had been on a tough run of form heading into this tournament and unfortunately for him that did not change heading into opening night of Premier League action as he feel to a 6-3 defeat at the hands of Rob Cross.
Wright averaged just 83.78 as he struggled against Cross. The first six legs of the tie went on throw but at 3-3 the game slipped away from Peter Wright and Cross won out the next three legs to complete his first victory of the year.
Gerwyn Price 6 – 4 Nathan Aspinall
Home hero tonight was Gerwyn Price who returned to his home country to the delight of the Welsh crowd. He kicked off the campaign with a victory over Nathan Aspinall who while not at his best did take the fight to the Welshman.
Price ended up averaging nearly 12 points higher than his opponent but missing thirteen doubles throughout the match added up and allowed Aspinall to claim legs and fight in the game however, a break of thrown from Gerwyn Price to lead the game 5-3 eventually was enough to seal the deal. Aspinall did win one more leg before Price to the delight of the home crowd behind him took out 120 to seal his first victory of the campaign.
Michael van Gerwen 5 – 6 Michael Smith
The defending Premier League champion would have been hoping to get his campaign off to a great start by winning the first week however, not everything went to plan for the green machine who was handed a shock defeat at the hands of former World Champion Michael Smith.
Smith had to overcome a 97 average and 5 180s from his opponent to win the game in a last leg decider after Michael van Gerwen messed up his chance to steal the victory from Smith’s grasp scoring only 21 points when he need 130, it allowed Smith to take out 60 to seal the deciding leg in 17 darts and to go through to the next round.
Luke Littler 6 – 2 Luke Humphries
In yet another repeat of the World Championship Final, we got another battle between the Luke’s as Humphries took on Littler. In this game Luke Littler once again averaged over 100 and cruised to what seemed to be an easy victory over the man who has quickly become one his main adversaries in the sport.
Both players scored well, and Luke Humphries even took out a 108 finish although it was in vain as he went on to miss ten doubles throughout the match and when all was said and done the young superstar marched on took his first points for the Premier League table.
Rob Cross 2 – 6 Gerwyn Price
In the first of the two semi-finals the home hero once again marched to a victory averaging just shy of 102 on the way in a performance that included three maximums and a 117 finish. On the other side Rob Cross missed nine darts at a double and exited the tournament in the semi-finals having never really looked like challenging Price in front of his home crowd.
Michael Smith 6 – 5 Luke Littler
Up next was a game that was contest between two Englishman as former world champion Michael Smith battled Luke Littler for the right to play Gerwyn Price in the nights’ final. Littler again posted a massive average of well over 105.
Despite Littlers’ immense scoring power, it was Smith who found the first break winning the sixth leg in 12 darts before Littler returned the favour a leg later. From here every leg went with throw which saw Michael Smith narrowly prevailing over Littler and moving on to play Gerwyn Price in the final.
Gerwyn Price 2 – 6 Michael Smith
The final likely didn’t go the way many in the crowd would have hoped as Gerwyn Price put in a lacklustre performance in the final, by far his worst of the night, and fell to 6-2 defeat against Michael Smith.
Along the way, Smith threw five maximus while Price managed none, Smiths scoring prowess was what ultimately won him the match and the first Premier League night of the season as Price was afforded just three darts at a double in the entire game.
The win ended a long drought for Michael Smith and likely afforded him some confidence for the weeks ahead as he strives to win his first ever Premier League title.
A big point of contention throughout the night was the behaviour of the crowd, specifically in Luke Littlers’ matches. In both his games against Luke Humphries and Michael Smith the crowd started whistling when his opponents were going for doubles causing visible frustration to his opponents. Whistling has long been the main thing crowds do that annoy the players as the screeching of the whistle easily breaks through the wall of noise they are used to and can distract them. This behaviour from the crowd will hopefully die down following the reaction to it this week as no one in the darting world likes this behaviour and while it appears the crowd are doing what they can to help Luke Littler win his games it is clear from his play alone that he can cope all by himself.
Following this the attention of the darting world will move to the first UK televised event of the year as The Masters tournament takes place starting on Friday, this is followed by another Premier League night on Thursday as the stars head to the continent next week and to the Mercedes-Benz arena in Berlin.