What an opening night of the 2012 Betfair World Matchplay!
And what a comeback from Team Unicorn’s Terry Jenkins, who edged out Kim Huybrechts in a thriller at the Winter Gardens!
And he will now face Raymond van Barneveld in what should be a brilliant all Unicorn 2nd Round clash after an imperious looking Barney brushed aside the challenge of youngster Michael Smith.
But star of Saturday night was Terry Jenkins, who looked down and out when he trailed the Belgian 5-9, and it looked like a third consecutive 1st Round defeat at Blackpool....but not a bit of it!
“I thought I was out to be honest,” admitted Jenkins. “I relaxed and he started to tighten up and feel the pressure. When he started missing all those darts for the match, I knew I could win and I am proud of the way I stayed in there and battled back.”
Huybrechts was playing beautifully.....he banged in finishes of 167 and 152 to lead 3-2 at the break and he took control when he broke the Jenkins throw in the 6th leg.
And when the Belgian ace broke again in the 14th leg to move 9-5 in front, there were no signs of an heroic comeback.
But the 15th leg was a big turning point.....Huybrechts hit a brilliant 174 to leave himself D18 for the match....he didn’t get a shot at it as Jenkins nailed a fantastic 120 to stay in the hunt.
The nerves were clearly getting to Huybrechts who promptly missed three darts to win the match 9-7 and after Jenkins stayed in the hunt, his opponent then blew three more match darts to clinch it 10-8.
He reeled off six legs on the spin to claim a sensational victory on D10....his opponent was inconsolable at the end.
It was a lot simpler for Barneveld though, who looks in great form and full of confidence after his victory in the recent European Darts Open.
He raced 4-1 in front against Michael Smith and was playing some great stuff, looking supremely relaxed.
The St Helens youngster did his best to stay in touch with a 126 finish but Barneveld was relentless and ruthless, hitting five 180s in averaging 98.....
His end average would have been over the 100 mark but for the fact he took five darts to finally hit the winning D8.
Nevertheless, it was job done in impressive style from the Dutchman, who a lot of experts reckon could be a major player here in Blackpool at the Matchplay, as he looks to win his first individual ‘Major’ TV title in five years.
But it was a strangely out-of-sorts Paul Nicholson who slumped to an extremely disappointing defeat in the opening match of the tournament.
Andy Smiths’ 10-6 victory over the Unicorn man gave ‘The Pie Man’ has first ever victory at the Matchplay at the 7th attempt.
Nicholson was broken five times and just couldn’t get going....he managed to battle back to 4-4 and both players were missing key doubles along the way.....crucially ‘The Asset’ missed one at D16 to take the lead and Smith hit the finishes when it mattered.
Nicholson’s last chance went with four more missed chances to get back to 7-8 and Smith closed out his victory on D8 to send the Unicorn star home.
In the other match on Saturday night, World Champion Adrian Lewis fired out a warning as he whitewashed UK Open Champion Robert Thornton.....it was the second consecutive time in Blackpool that Thornton has suffered the humiliation of a whitewash, having suffered the same fate against Gary Anderson two years ago.
Lewis hit 5x180s and averaged 102
World Matchplay results:
Paul Nicholson 6-10 Andy Smith
Terry Jenkins 11-9 Kim Huybrechts
Adrian Lewis 10-0 Robert Thornton
Raymond van Barneveld 10-4 Michael Smith
Sunday 1st Round schedule:
Mark Walsh v Colin Osborne
Kevin Painter v Steve Beaton
James Wade v Richie Burnett
Simon Whitlock v Michael van Gerwen
By STUART PYKE at the World Matchplay
Photos courtesy Chris Sargeant