RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD ended nine years of disappointment as he defeated Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen in one glorious night at The O2 in London as he lifted the Betway Premier League Darts title.
The Dutch superstar won past the semi-finals of the tournament for the first time in seven attempts as he also ended his hoodoo against Taylor, who he had never defeated in the tournament in almost a decade.
Taylor had taken an early 4-1 lead in their semi-final as he set out his stall for a seventh Premier League Darts title.
However, the Stoke great missed six darts to move 5-2 up as the Dutchman pounced to win five successive legs in moving 6-4 up, before going on to claim an 8-5 triumph with an 11-dart leg.
He then returned to the stage against reigning champion van Gerwen, and though he trailed after van Gerwen opened the final with two 180s in claiming the opening leg in 13 darts, van Barneveld took command with some superb darts.
The five-time World Champion won three successive legs to move 3-1 up, and though van Gerwen hit two 11-dart finishes as he pulled back to level at five-all, van Barneveld found another gear to pull away.
The 47-year-old took four successive legs to move 9-5 up, including a 12-darter and two 13-dart legs, with a 110 checkout from van Gerwen keeping him in the game briefly before a fifth 180 of the final helped van Barneveld to set up double ten for glory.
“This means the world to me – I can’t describe how happy I am,” said van Barneveld, who scoops £150,000 for the victory. “I’ve worked really hard this season and every week was tough, but I really enjoyed it.
“The Premier League is something else because you’re playing with the best players in the world every week, in the best venues in the UK and Ireland.
“Nine years ago I joined the PDC and got a Wildcard to play in the Premier League and I thought this was the best event in the world – but I’ve never been able to get past the semi-finals!
This year, the PDC and Sky believed in me and gave me a Wildcard, and finally I’ve got into the final and I’ve won the whole thing. Beating Phil and Michael in one night is fantastic.
“In the first five or six legs against Phil I didn’t play my best game, but he let me in and gave me some chances, and I hit my doubles. To then beat Michael in the final is great.
“The first aim was not to be relegated after nine weeks, and then the second target was to make the top four. The third target was then to get into the final, and the fourth target was winning the whole thing.
“Maybe in the final I lost all pressure. It felt like a relief beating Phil for the first time in the Premier League, but it’s all about faith and belief, and if you never ever believe then you can’t achieve anything.
“Even though I lost against Michael and Gary Anderson in the last two weeks of the season, I still believed I could win this – and I was right.
“Sometimes you think that maybe you’re getting some help from above, and when Phil missed six darts at double 16 you begin to wonder. To be 5-2 or 4-3 was a big difference, but maybe some nights you need some luck.”
Van Gerwen had topped the league table following the 15-week league season, and edged out Gary Anderson 8-7 in a thrilling opening semi-final in front of 10,000 fans at The O2 in London.
2011 Premier League Darts champion Anderson shared the opening eight legs before breaking throw to move 5-4 up – but van Gerwen hit back to regain the lead before claiming victory in the deciding leg.
The Dutchman, though, picked up £75,000 as runner-up as he saw van Barneveld pull clear in the second half of the final.
“I had a very good Premier League but it wasn’t good enough tonight,” admitted van Gerwen. “Raymond was the best player tonight and he deserved to win because he produced his best performance in the final.
“I want to win every tournament that I enter and there are no excuses, so fair play to Raymond. I need to get back on the practice board now because we have a lot of tournaments coming up, and I’ll be back.”
Taylor had ended the league stage in third place after bouncing back from losing four of his opening five games to power into the Play-Offs with an 11-match unbeaten run, only to be punished for missed doubles against van Barneveld.
“It was a great achievement to make the semi-finals but I had a massive opportunity there to get into the final against Michael and I blew it,” said Taylor. “I can’t make excuses, I bottled it.
“I missed six darts at a double and I was gone, and I don’t know why. In my head I was thinking that I should be 5-0 up, and the missed doubles did my head in.
“I missed doubles and it threw me. It made me nervous, and I don’t know why – but I’ll get myself ready for the next event in Dubai next week.
“I’ve experienced something tonight, after 30 years, that I’ve never experienced before so I’m still learning. It’s a matter of putting it right and moving forward”
Anderson was also left to rue missed doubles as his bid to reclaim the title was ended by the narrowest of margins in the semi-finals – although the Scot was proud of his achievement in reaching the Play-Offs in a year which has also seen him return to the world’s top 16.
“I hit some silly scores at the wrong time early on but I broke his throw and got ahead and then let him back in,” said Anderson. “Michael’s the world number one and World Champion and I’ve taken him to the final leg, so it’s not too bad.
“I’ve enjoyed the Betway Premier League this year but I’ve still got probably 20 percent improvement in me. I’ll dust myself off now and head to Crawley this weekend, and start again!”
The night also saw Keegan Brown, a 21-year-old from the Isle of Wight, pick up the PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship title as he claimed a 6-4 win over Austria’s Rowby-John Rodriguez.
Rodriguez led 3-1 at one stage, but Brown followed up an earlier 121 finish by taking four successive legs as he moved into the lead before going on to claim the £10,000 first prize and secure a place in the Grand Slam of Darts and PDC World Championship.
“I’m absolutely speechless,” admitted Brown. “I’ve had ten years of playing darts and it all came down to one night, and then you’re World Champion – it’s crazy!
“When he was 3-1 up, I told myself that I knew how to win from 3-1 down and I got myself ahead, and thankfully it went my way. This is what us youth players in the PDC play for, and this is the time to push forward now.”
Betway Premier League Darts
Play-Offs May 22, The O2, London
Michael van Gerwen 8-7 Gary Anderson
Raymond van Barneveld 8-5 Phil Taylor
Best of 15 Legs
PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship Final
Keegan Brown 6-4 Rowby-John Rodriguez
Best of 11 Legs
Betway Premier League Darts Final
Michael van Gerwen 6-10 Raymond van Barneveld
Best of 19 Legs
Michael van Gerwen v Gary Anderson
0-0 – Michael van Gerwen wins the bull and will throw first.
1-0 – Anderson lands a 180, but misses double 11 to punish van Gerwen’s early misses as the Dutchman returns on double four.
1-1 – The 2011 champion takes out 66 to level.
2-1 – van Gerwen pins double 16 to regain his edge.
2-2 – Anderson finishes 68 on tops to hit back.
3-2 – Double 14 moves van Gerwen back ahead.
3-3 – Anderson fires in a second 180 of the game, and lands double ten to hold throw once again.
4-3 – van Gerwen posts his first 180 of the game, and double 11 sees him move back into the lead.
4-4 – Anderson initially misses three darts to win the leg, but van Gerwen is off-target with one dart at double 16 for a 112 finish to break, and the Scot returns on double five to level.
4-5 – van Gerwen scores 171 to leave 88 – but misses the bull and further darts at double eight and four, allowing Anderson in to break throw on double eight.
5-5 – van Gerwen breaks back immediately by finishing 74 on tops.
6-5 – van Gerwen scores 170 to leave 32, and lands double 16 to wrestle back the advantage.
6-6 – van Gerwen lands a 174 to continue his heavy scoring, but Anderson takes out 68 on double eight to level.
7-6 – van Gerwen kicks off the leg with a 180, with Anderson missing double eight for a 136 finish to break to allow the reigning champion in on double 12 to move a leg away from the final.
7-7 – Anderson sends the game into a deciding leg with a superb 11-darter, hitting two 180s before pinning double top.
8-7 – van Gerwen opens the deciding leg with a 171 score, and lands double four to secure his place in the final.
Raymond van Barneveld v Phil Taylor
0-1 – Taylor holds throw thanks to an accurate dart at double ten.
0-2 – The world number two continues his bright as he takes out 41 in two darts on double 16.
0-3 – van Barneveld has yet to fire and Taylor hits double 16 for a 13-dart finish to pull further ahead.
1-3 – A blip from Taylor sees him fail with three attempts at double 16 and van Barneveld finds the same bed to get his first leg on the board.
1-4 – Taylor hits double top with his third dart to convert a 57 finish and restore his three-leg lead.
2-4 – van Barneveld hits double top to stay in the hunt with his opponent waiting on a two-darter.
3-4 – Taylor misses six darts at doubles, and van Barneveld capitalises by hitting double top to reduce the gap to one leg.
4-4 – van Barneveld converts an excellent 116 checkout on double top to level the contest.
5-4 – The five-time World Champion wins his fourth straight leg with a two-dart 86 finish.
6-4 – Both players miss one dart at a double before van Barneveld lands double 12 with a pressure third dart to win his fifth successive leg move two clear of his rival.
6-5 – Taylor stops the rot as takes out a 70 finish on double 16.
7-5 – van Barneveld misses three chances at a double, only for Taylor to miss one dart at double 18 to steal the leg as the Dutchman accepts the reprieve to hit double four.
8-5 – The Dutchman hits scores of 180, 140 and 105 before taking out 76 in two darts for a brilliant 11-darter to claim a place in the Premier League final in his ninth season, and win his first semi-final in seven attempts.
Keegan Brown v Rowby-John Rodriguez
0-1 – Brown wastes four chances to hold throw and the Austrian snatches the opening leg on double 16.
0-2 – Rodriguez takes out 97 on tops to double his lead in style.
1-2 – Brown finishes 121 on the bull to hit back and claim his first leg of the final.
1-3 – Rodriguez restores his two leg advantage with a clinical 64 finish.
2-3 – Brown keeps in the hunt as he hits double 16 to win the fifth leg.
3-3 – Brown misses five chances to level the game only for Rodriguez to waste two chances of his own and the Englishman returns to hit double one.
4-3 – Rodriguez misses two chances to edge ahead and Brown hits double 16 to lead the match for the first time.
5-3 – Brown wins a fourth leg in a row after taking out a 98 finish on double 12.
5-4 – Rodriguez keeps up the fight as he polishes off 71 in just two darts to win the ninth leg.
6-4 – Brown takes out a 45 finish on double 16 to become the 2014 PDC Unicorn World Youth Champion.
Michael van Gerwen v Raymond van Barneveld
1-0 – van Gerwen fires in a 180 with his first three darts of the game and then hits another to raise hopes of a nine-darter. He successfully hits a seventh treble 20 but fails to land treble 19 to continue the 141 combination, although the world number goes on to win the leg in 13 darts on double four.
1-1 – van Barneveld responds to his opponent’s opening blast by holding throw on double eight to level the game.
1-2 – The five-time World Champion produces consistent scoring and breaks van Gerwen’s throw by landing double four.
1-3 – van Barneveld continues his good run by hitting double eight to win a third leg in a row.
2-3 – van Gerwen stops the rot in style with a 56 finish to complete a superb 11-darter.
2-4 – van Barneveld hits double 18 at the first time of asking to move two legs clear.
3-4 – The 25-year-old hits double 18 with an accurate third dart to record an 87 finish.
3-5 – van Barneveld lands double eight at the first attempt to maintain his advantage.
4-5 – van Gerwen hits double six to record an excellent 14-darter.
5-5 – The reigning World Champion improves on his effort in the last leg as he hits an 11-dart finish for the second time in the final to draw level.
5-6 – van Barneveld responds well as he hits double 16 at the first attempt for a 13-darter against the throw.
5-7 – van Barneveld hits double top for a 94 finish with his third dart to move two legs clear after van Gerwen had hit a 171 to leave 36.
5-8 – van Barneveld continues his excellent form on the finishing, this time taking out an 86 finish to move two legs away from the title.
5-9 – One missed dart at double nine from van Gerwen proves expensive as van Barneveld hits his favourite double 18 to edge closer to glory.
6-9 – van Gerwen keeps the game alive with an excellent 110 checkout with his opponent waiting on a two-darter.
6-10 – van Barneveld wins the Betway Premier League for the very first time after landing the middle of the double ten bed with a pressure third dart.