“I should have beaten him.” For the second time in the space of a fortnight, Gerwyn Price was throwing at a double to beat Michael van Gerwen for the first time in his career. And for the second time, he failed to take the opportunity.
Two weeks ago, in Leverkusen, Price missed a dart at tops to knock out the world number one in the quarter-finals of the German Darts Open. Last night, in Belfast, the Welshman went high, and then low, with two darts at tops in their second Premier League meeting of the season.
Van Gerwen, reprieved again, returned to the oche and took out 82 in a couple of darts to preserve his unbeaten record against last year’s Grand Slam champion. Price was left to rue another missed opportunity to record a victory over the man they all want to beat.
Last night, in the final game of last night’s round of Premier League fixtures at the SSE Arena Belfast, Price and van Gerwen met for the 16th time in PDC competition. The previous 15 times had all gone the way of the world number one.
But here was Price, rattling in a flurry of big scores, including a 177 and two 180s, to win five straight legs and open up a commanding 5-1 lead. Within that run, van Gerwen had squandered chances at double in three of those legs, and in the other two he was nowhere near.
Price, with the aid of back-to-back 12 darters, finished off with checkouts of 90 and 128, only need three out of the remaining eight legs to get over the line against van Gerwen for the first time.
With the finishing line coming into sight, Price stuttered as van Gerwen roared back, claiming three legs in a row to close to 5-4 behind. Price was left with the crumbs of a 160 checkout attempt during that spell, but regained focus in the 10th leg, a 13 darter completed on tops helping him hold throw for 6-4.
A comfortable hold followed for van Gerwen to put the pressure back on Price, who blinked first in leg 12. Two missed darts at double handed his opponent the initiative, but van Gerwen, who on 64 with one dart left in his previous visit hit another treble 20 to leave four, blundered on the lowest two doubles. Price made the most of his second chance to move 7-5 up and secure a point at least. It would not be a 16th win in 16 encounters for MVG.
The last leg is always the hardest to win and, after van Gerwen cruised to a 12-dart hold to force a decider, all the attention was on Price as he started the 14th and final leg. The Welshman played the decider immaculately, for the first three visits at least, 140, 135 and 177 to leave 49 after nine.
Van Gerwen, against the darts, was in hot pursuit, 140, 99 and 180, to sit handily on 82 after three visits. Unlike in Germany, Price did not miss the big number this time, hitting single nine with his first dart to give himself two bites at the cherry on his trusted tops. The first went high, the second went low, and Price shook his head almost in acknowledgement that his wait would go on.
And he was right. Bull, double 16, and van Gerwen had salvaged a point. The spotlight will be on Price, who again has missed match darts to end his hoodoo against the world number one. But let us not go without highlighting how van Gerwen finished the match, winning the last two legs in 12 and 11 darts. The sport’s best player proving once again why he is the man to beat. Price may have missed this chance to finally get one over him, but surely that elusive first win is not too far away.
Picture: Michael Cooper/PDC