Joe Cullen is into the last 32 of the PDC World Championship after beating Rapid Ricky Evans 3-1 in a thrilling encounter at Ally Pally.
In the final match before the Christmas break, Cullen took an early lead as he broke Ricky but the underdog broke him straight back. 13th ranked Cullen is 35 places ahead of Evans in the rankings and showed his class to nail D16 to respond with another break of his own.
It was a key moment and he wrapped up the opening set as Rapid Ricky did what he always does. Showed huge talent but a lack of consistency. He followed up a score of less than 20 with a 180, but his speed doesn’t make for smooth visits.
The second set followed the same pattern as the first, as Cullen’s composure paid off and Ricky just couldn’t get on the same level as him. Eventually Cullen landed a D14 to take a two set advantage and from that point it only looked like there was one winner.
In the third however, Evans raised his game. He nailed two 180s as they traded legs and the pendulum swung again. It went to a deciding leg and Rapid Ricky managed to find the darts when he needed, landing a key 180 to give himself a 44 finish, which he cleaned up with ease. All of a sudden he was back in the tie.
Evans was absolutely loving every moment, joking about with the crowd after every other throw in the fourth. You wouldn’t have guessed he was just a couple of legs from being dumped out, as he went 2-1 down despite playing well.
In the end, it was Cullen who made it count in the crucial moment. He landed seven perfect darts before finishing on a D18 to break Rapid Ricky’s resilience and fly into the last 32. Evans provided spectacular drama, but ultimately came up short against the world number 13.
Meanwhile England and Leicester City midfielder James Maddison was in the studio to preview his second love in between games and he tipped Michael van Gerwen to go all the way, even if he has a soft spot for some of the English players.
Here’s how the rest of the night unfolded.
Jonny Clayton 3-0 Danny Van Trijp
The Ferret was on top form tonight as he blitzed through his Dutchman in double quick time. The world number seven looked the business from the first dart and remember, he only lost to eventual finalist Michael Smith this time last year.
His finishing was spot on and in the second set in particular flew past his opponent. Clayton hit five 180s on his way to victories but it was Van Trijp’s 20 trebleless visits that really made the difference between the two. Clayton could go a long way if he shows this sort of form after Christmas.
"I try not to look back at 2021, I know I can play darts, I just have to prove it on this stage, I'd love to pick up this trophy,” he said.
"I want to be one of the best, one of the elite and I want to prove it this week."
Danny Noppert 3-1 David Cameron
World number nine Danny Noppert got off to a flyer as he won the first set with little trouble. The Dutchman held his throw before landing a big 180 in the deciding leg and then clearing up 140 with little bother.
Then in the opening leg of the second he bagged a 115 checkout to break Cameron and didn’t look back. He got himself two sets up without a trouble and then cleared up 68 to win the second set without breaking a sweat.
The third looked to be going the same way but he missed D8 and then D4 when he had the chance to break. With the legs tied at 2-2 Noppert missed his chance at D20, and the Canadian hit it to bring the score back to 2-1. It was a set the Dutchman should have won with ease, but he didn’t.
In the end, it wouldn’t matter. Noppert landed two big 180s to break Cameron and then bagged D20 to secure the set. It was fully deserved but there were moment in this tie that he wasn’t as clinical as he will need to be to go far into this competition.
Martin Schindler 3-1 Martin Lukeman
The crowd billed this one as Germany v England and despite the terrific atmosphere on the last night before the Christmas break, Martin Schindler kept his cool to secure his first Ally Pally win. In the first set, which swung to-and-fro, he managed to take advantage of a slip up from Lukeman to nail a double two and take the opener.
After a second set with several broken legs, it was Lukeman who held his nerve to seal the second set as the German missed his chance to go 2-0 up. Instead, the Englishman levelled the scores to the delight of the crowd, but his joy would be short lived.
Schindler remarkably took out 170 to seal the third set and didn’t look back from there, as he kept his composure in the fourth to seal arguably his most famous win to date. It is his first win on this stage, and one that he will remember for a long, long time.
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