Betfred World Matchplay: Wright & Van den Bergh Breeze Through Round One

Peter 'Snakebite' Wright got his defence of the Phil Taylor Trophy underway with a win.
23:04, 16 Jul 2022

Winter Gardens was rocking for the first night of action of the famous Betfred World Matchplay, as Krzysztof Ratajski, Dimitri Van den Bergh, Peter Wright and Rowby-John Rodriguez all got off to a winning start on the curtain-raising night in Blackpool. 

Before proceedings began, everyone involved on the night paid tribute to the late, great John Gwynne, a legend within the sporting world who commentated over some of the most iconic moments the sport of darts had ever seen in a 20-year career with Sky Sports. Gwynne passed away on July 9th at the age of 77 following a battle with cancer. 

Kicking off the action was ‘The Polish Eagle’ Krzysztof Ratajski against Stephen ‘The Bullet’ Bunting. Play got underway with a 15-dart leg, with Ratajski landing an early blow on Bunting, but it didn’t take long for him to recover with two consecutive legs and the first 180 of the year in Blackpool. 

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The back and forth continued, with each man winning a leg a piece every time until we reached 4-4. The Polish Eagle then applied the pressure, grabbing four more legs in a row and leaving Bunting in the dust, despite the Brit’s best effort at closing out a 167 which would’ve made a mark on his opponent, no doubt. 

A late rise from The Bullet saw him bring his tally up to six, but Ratajski put his foot down and marched on to a 10-6 win. The Pole averaged 98.43, got one 180 and got a checkout success percentage of 45.5%. A stellar start to proceedings.

Next up on the bill was the 2020 Betfred World Matchplay champion and keen dancer, Dimitri ‘The Dreammaker’ Van den Bergh against World Champs quarter-finalist Callan ‘The Riot’ Rydz, who defeated Glen Durrant and Rob Cross to qualify for the event.

The Belgian made sure he got off to a good start and quickly put any idea of an upset to the back of his mind, winning the first three legs with three 180s along the way. Rydz got a leg back before the break, and one just after, but it was a lost cause. 

The Antwerp ace was on fire and proved why he sits ninth in the world rankings. Five maximums, an average of 100.03 and a 71.4% checkout success rate are elite stats that separate the best players from the rest, and ‘Dancing Dimi’ is proving that he’s in that upper echelon. 

Not a minute was wasted in between games, as Peter Wright appeared with his typical outlandish attire. The reigning champion was here and his performance was as brash as his attire. On the other side of the stage is Latvia’s Madars “Razzmatazz” Razma.

‘Snakebite’ wasn’t messing around when it came to his first round affair. Five legs on the trot set the standard before he ended up getting in his own way. Wright wasn’t setting his best average, at around 95 at that point, but was still putting away more legs than a mannequin factory. 

At 5-0, Razma got a point on the board with a 78 checkout, and added a second when Peter reached 6, beating his score last time the pair faced in an 8-1 win for Wright in 2020. Another two legs in a row for Snakebite was looking like the end for Razzmatazz, but he bounced back with two legs of his own, increasing his checkout percentage higher than his opponents. 

At 8-4, Wright had enough of Razma’s fighting spirit. He broke Razma’s throw with a huge 157 checkout, the highest of the night so far. Then a calm checkout on 62 in the final leg saw Wright go through to the next round with a 10-4 win, where he’ll face Krzysztof Ratajski. 

It was another good start for Wright, who is second favourite behind the two-time World Matchplay winner Michael van Gerwen, at 13/2 with Betfred. 

The final game of the night saw Welshman Jonny Clayton facing Austrian debutante Rowby-John Rodriguez. The pair met at the World Cup of Darts which saw ‘Little John’ try and rile the crowd up with a bit of showboating against the Welsh duo of Clayton and Gerwyn Price. The Austrian struck first in the match too, getting a 0-2 lead over ‘The Ferret’ while averaging 100+ in his first five legs, but Clayton’s quality shone through to recover to 3-2 by the break. 

Talks of a blocked tear duct in the right eye of the Welshman were quickly dispatched in the first stint, but following the break it was Rodriguez who was back on top. Three legs in a row for the Austrian, who was throwing arrows with aplomb and breaking the throw of Clayton twice. 

The Ferret pulled a leg back to end the youngster’s streak but he couldn’t prevent another leg going the Austrian’s way before the break, ‘Little John’ ending with a 156 checkout to raise the roof. 

Returning from the break, Rodriguez and Clayton exchanged legs up to 7-9. The intensity grew, with Clayton not even watching his opponent finishing off his ninth leg win. The Austrian remained aggressive and confident, focussing on winning the legs he could control and keeping the pressure on Clayton if he couldn’t break his throw. 

Clayton could’ve saved himself with a 126 checkout but failed to make it count, leaving a 40 checkout for Rodriguez, which he took with ease to complete the upset over the number eight seed. A career best in round one for the Austrian and there’s no doubt he has plenty in the tank for this World Matchplay campaign. 

In the next round, Rodriguez faces Dimitri Van den Bergh and Peter Wright faces Krzysztof Ratajski.

Round One Results:

Krzysztof Ratajski 10-6 Stephen Bunting

Dimitri Van den Bergh 10-2 Callan Rydz

Peter Wright 10-4 Madars Razma

Jonny Clayton 7-10 Rowby-John Rodriguez

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