Michael Smith’s hopes of a fairy-tale ending to the Unibet Premier Darts League were shattered by Michael van Gerwen in the play-offs at The O2, London on Thursday night.
The 27-year old from St Helens, who had KO’d his friend and mentor Gary Anderson 10-6 in their semi-final earlier in the night, simply had no answer to the Durtchman who more than lived up to his nickname
The Green Machine, winning 11-4 and at the same time producing a mind-boggling average of 112.37.
The world number one had beaten Rob Cross 10-6 in his semi-final to reach a sixth consecutive Premier League final before clinching the £250,000 first prize, on top of a £25,000 league leader’s bonus after topping the regular season’s league table for a sixth straight year.
“I think I played a phenomenal game, one of my best ever,” said Van Gerwen, who hit seven 180s in the final and 11 doubles from 16 attempts.
“I know I had a big job to do to win the game but I was focused on doing something extra – I wanted to break the record average but I fell just short.
I will be back next year, determined to go one better and lift the titleMichael Smith
“There was a lot of pressure on me to perform but I think I coped with it well and ran out a deserved winner.
“I had to be at my best to beat Michael, he is one of the big boys now.
“It means a lot to me to win this tournament, I had to work hard for this over the last 16 weeks and to win it again is amazing.”
Van Gerwen was clinical on the doubles, hitting 11 from 16 attempts, and averaged around 120 for most of an unstoppable display.
Meanwhile, Smith battled hard to keep himself in the tie, producing magnificent finishes of 125 and 104, along with six maximums.
“I want to thank the fans and everyone who supported me,” said Smith, who was making his debut play-offs appearance and picked up £120,000 for his efforts- the biggest cash prize of his career.
“Michael was just too good tonight, I tried my best but it just wasn’t enough,” said Smith.
He said: “Even at 8-2 down I was battling to win legs, which I might not have done before this year and possibly thrown the towel in.
“I will be back next year, determined to go one better and lift the title.”
Van Gerwen got off to a flying start, firing in 12,12 and 11-dart legs to open up a 3-0 lead, before Smith calmed the nerves to register his first leg.
The relentless Dutchman took out 25 after missing the bull for a 170 finish to lead 5-1, and then produced another 11-dart leg to surge into a 6-1 lead.
Smith showed he wasn’t done yet as he took out 125 on tops to trail 8-2 going into the final break of the match.
The world number one resumed normal service after the interval to make it 10-2, before Smith pulled another two legs back to reduce the arrears to 10-4.
Van Gerwen, though, sealed victory with a brilliant 112 finish to make it 11-4 and secure his fourth Premier League title in six years competing in the prestigious event.
On his debut play-offs appearance, Smith smashed in eight maximums and two ton-plus checkouts to defeat Anderson and book his place in the final with Van Gerwen.
The St Helens star settled from the start, hitting a 100 finish to hold in the first leg, then doubling his advantage with another 15-dart leg to break the Anderson throw.
The Scot broke straight back to halve the deficit, and then hit back-to-back maximums but missed chances to hold and the Englishman punished to lead 3-1.
Anderson clawed his way back into the game, finding tops to break the Smith throw and trail 4-3, before finding tops again to level at 4-4.
Smith edged closer to one of the biggest wins of his career, reeling off the next three legs to take a commanding lead, including a 120 checkout in leg 11.
Anderson held to close the gap to two and trail 8-6, before the former World Youth Champion went one leg from glory with a 12-dart leg.
An emotional Smith found tops to wrap up the win and set up a final clash with Van Gerwen, ending Anderson’s hopes of a third Premier League crown in the process.
“Michael played a good game tonight and he deserved to win,” admitted Anderson, who qualified for the play-offs for a fifth successive year.
“The way I’ve played this year it was a bonus for me to reach the semi-finals.
“I’ve had some good games and some bad games, but overall I think I did alright in this year’s Premier League.”
Smith’s success in reaching the final sees him qualify for November’s Bwin Grand Slam of Darts, where he had reached his only previous televised semi-final in the 2015 event.