A first-ever win in the World Matchplay. Knocking out the third seed Gerwyn Price. It was a big night in the, still relatively fledgling, PDC career of Danny Noppert last night.
For those who didn’t get to watch his 10-7 win over Price, on night three of the behind-closed-doors World Matchplay, in Milton Keynes, you may be excused for thinking it wasn’t a performance to write home about.
A 90.92 average, the fifth lowest winning average across the 15 first-round games played so far, and 21 missed darts at double – the joint most of any of the 30 players to have appeared on the Marshall Arena stage. Joe Cullen also had 21 misses, but did play eight more legs than Noppert, with his 13-12 victory against the seeded Ian White requiring a sudden-death leg.
But when you delve into Noppert’s win last night, there was plenty to be impressed with. Not least of all, how he closed out the game. After holding throw in 15 darts to extend his lead to 9-5, and move one leg away from victory, the new Dutch number two would get his first chance to get to the finishing line two legs later.
After Price held comfortably with a 12 darter to close to 6-9. Noppert had the throw, and his fourth 180 gave him some breathing space, with Price going treble-less in three consecutive visits.
The first match dart, at tops, at the end of a 72 combination, went high, before a handful of match darts on his next visit failed to find the target. Price broke for 7-9 and you wondered if the Grand Slam champion held in the next leg for 8-9, how much pressure would Noppert then be feeling.
Back-to-back 140s to kick off the leg for Price heaped more pressure on, but a timely 180, his fifth of the contest, left Noppert on 88 after nine darts. Single 20, treble 18 and double seven got the job done, a 12 darter on the Price throw to complete one of the biggest victories of his career.
Many wondered how Price would cope with the lack of crowd this week. In an interview leading up to the tournament, he said he would miss not being booed, as he claimed it helped him concentrate on the stage. Perhaps there was something in that. His average of 90.72 was his lowest on TV since that 6-3 defeat to Peter Wright in the World Championship semi-finals in December, a match in which he made a very slow start.
But take nothing away from Noppert. A clean kill on 80 for a 14-dart break to go 2-1 up, another 14 darter to break for 5-4, and whenever he made a mistake and let Price back in, he almost always recovered quickly in the very next leg.
The 89 finish on the bull, another break of throw, for 8-5, felt like the moment Noppert had his man beaten, and he then put the four missed match darts for 10-6 behind him to produce some magic in the 17th and final leg.
Many regard Noppert as one of the most underrated players in the PDC, myself and my Weekly Dartscast co-host Burton DeWitt included. Just maybe this could be the week where his darts shout louder than the artificial crowd and he makes a deep run in one of the PDC’s biggest events.
Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC