sport

Power pegs back Mighty Mike

Phil Taylor claimed the final two legs to deny Michael van Gerwen on a thrilling opening night of the new Premier League season in Belfast.

'The Power' showed his intent with 180s on his first two trips to the oche, but troubles on his doubles - including missing eight of his first nine attempts - meant he slipped 3-1 behind.

Double 16 in the 10th leg meant van Gerwen was certain of at least a point, and he seemed set to get both when he started the next with back-to-back 180s, though there was to be no dramatic nine-darter.

Indeed, 'Mighty Mike' made a complete mess of getting over the finishing line, missing five match darts. Taylor made him pay, too, staying alive with double 16 before sneaking a 6-6 result by taking out 104 in the last.

"It's not easy (to beat Taylor) but I also didn't lose and that's important," Van Gerwen told Sky Sports afterwards. "I missed five for the match - that's my own fault. What can I do? More practice for next week.

Taylor admitted that a point apiece was a fair outcome, adding: "It was a scrappy game really. I missed doubles at the beginning and he missed doubles at the end. It's probably a fair result."

Meanwhile, Simon Whitlock opened his campaign with a 7-3 triumph over an out-of-sorts Adrian Lewis, the Australian producing some fine finishing to win the battle of the last two beaten finalists.

'Jackpot' had his chances but struggled on his doubles and never led. His best chance to edge in front came in the third leg, yet he explicably hit treble 20 with his first dart when requiring 60.

Whitlock made him pay with a 108 finish and from then on stayed in front; although Lewis did cut his lead to 4-3 with a break of throw, it proved to the last leg the two-time world champion would win.

Raymond van Barneveld also kicked off his bid for glory in impressive fashion at the Odyssey Arena, rallying from 3-1 after some early issues on the doubles to get the better of Gary Anderson by a 7-4 scoreline.

"Up to the World Championship I practised so hard. Afterwards, I thought I'd have a bit of holiday. But you lose all sharpness," 'Barney, who finished the contest with an average just over 102, told Sky Sports. "Now I'll fly back home and practice all weekend."

James Wade, normally a slow starter in the competition, opened up with a comfortable 7-4 victory over debutant Wes Newton.

There was better news, however, for another fresh face in the opening match, Robert Thornton triumphing 7-5 against Andy Hamilton at the end of a see-saw battle that had at one stage seen the Scotsman hold a 5-1 lead before having to hold off a late rally from 'The Hammer'.