It was the last day at the World Championship before the Christmas break.
Team Unicorn youngster Keegan Brown was celebrating after beating Austrian Zoran Lerchbacher 4-2, but for Michael Smith and Kyle Anderson it was the end of the road in contrasting circumstances.
Well, you have to feel for Smith. He played superbly but lost a thriller to Rob Cross in a match which featured an incredible 29 x 180s. The Unicorn star missed match darts to win 4-2 and ended up losing 4-3.
In one of the best ever 2nd Round matches at the World Championship, Smith will always wonder just how he managed to lose.
It was a thriller!
Smith raced through the first set without reply. But he lost set two after missing three darts for a crucial break of throw. Cross took out 164 on his way to levelling.
Smith should have taken set three after going two legs clear. He did miss D13 for a 146 in a deciding leg and Cross hit the front.
But the St Helens star stormed back with a golden run of six straight legs to move three sets to two ahead. He took his 180 tally to 10 and was averaging 101. But then came the drama and the heartbreak.
The pair were hitting 180s for fun. It went to a deciding leg. The match was there for the taking for Smith. He needed 96 to seal the deal. He hit T20 but missed darts at D18 and D9 to win it and Cross took it into a 7th set.
And what a set it was with no fewer than seven 180s. Crucially though, Michael missed three darts at ‘tops’ and D10 to hold throw in the third leg. Cross broke and then hit two 180s as he won it on d4.
Both players average 103 but unfortunately Smith fell at the final hurdle.
It was a real struggle for Keegan Brown, but what a result! A place in the last 16 at the World Championship for the first time, the biggest prize cheque of his career guaranteed at £27,000 and the Unicorn ace has also catapulted himself back into the top 50 in the world rankings. He will play Phil Taylor after Christmas.
“It really is an amazing feeling,” he said. “I know it wasn’t the best of games but to win means the world to me after all the struggles of the last 18 months. I will just go up there and enjoy myself now.”
It was nip and tuck for a while....1-0 to Brown, 1-1, 2-1, 2-2. In truth it was a scrappy affair throughout but it was all about the win.
The fifth set went with throw as Brown edged ahead again. He won the opening two legs of set six before Lerchbacher hit back to level. But Brown saved the best for last with a nerveless 108 finish to win the match.
Kyle Anderson’s World Championship ended at the hands of Raymond van Barneveld. 4-1 the score as the Team Unicorn Aussie was always behind the eight ball.
Barney won an incredible first set in just 37 darts! He averaged 122 and hit four 180s. He then doubled his lead before Anderson took the third set without reply, including a 114 finish and an 11 darter. But he couldn’t maintain that standard and Van Barneveld sealed the win at the Ally Pally.
Saturday 2nd Round results:
Keegan Brown 4-2 Zoran Lerchbacher
Rob Cross 4-3 Michael Smith
Steve West 4-1 Jermaine Wattimena
John Henderson 4-2 Daryl Gurney
Phil Taylor 4-0 Justin Pipe
Raymond van Barneveld 4-1 Kyle Anderson
Report from STUART PYKE
Photo courtesy Lawrence Lustig / PDC