Ronnie Baxter claimed victory in the 7th Players Championship tournament of the year – on a day that was certainly a case of what might have been for Unicorn ace Wes Newton.
‘The Rocket’ took his first ranking title for almost a year with a 6-3 victory over World Champion Adrian Lewis, and the £6,000 prize money will guarantee Baxter a qualifying spot at next month’s prestigious World Matchplay through the Pro Tour Order of Merit.
But Newton will be kicking himself!
A quarter-finalist of course in last weekend’s UK Open, he looked on course for a spot in the final in Birmingham on Saturday.
‘The Warrior’ had battled to a series of impressive victories, including a last leg win over Simon Whitlock.
And in the semi-finals, he raced to a 4-1 lead against Baxter, before he was pegged back. The match went all the way to a decider and the Unicorn man paid the price for missing two darts to win, as Baxter won it 6-5.
In the final, Lewis averaged nearly 106 and Baxter 101….it was impressive stuff, but a crucial win for Baxter to secure his spot at the World Matchplay.
Gary Anderson enjoyed a decent run to the quarter-finals, where he came up against Colin Lloyd and was beaten 6-1.
Lloyd had beaten another Unicorn star in the shape of Raymond van Barneveld in the last 16….Barney had won three last leg deciders already against John Bowles, Mark Jones and Brendan Dolan, but his luck ran out as Lloyd pinched it 6-5 with a 101 finish in that deciding leg.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Jamie Caven was also a last 16 loser as he went down 6-4 to Anderson, while in the last 32, Joe Cullen was beaten 6-3 by Baxter and Andy Hamilton lost 6-1 to Whitlock.
In round two, Terry Jenkins lost 6-4 to Stuart Kellett and Paul Nicholson was a 6-4 loser against Andrew Gilding.
Well surprisingly, five Team Unicorn players were fallers at the first hurdle in Birmingham on Saturday.
They were: Kevin Painter (5-6 Terry Temple), Keegan Brown (2-6 Simon Whitlock), Colin Osborne (2-6 Ted Hankey), Arron Monk (5-6 Jeff Smith) and Devon Petersen (4-6 Brendan Dolan).
• Well, there may have been disappointment for Team Unicorn’s trio of young guns on Saturday, but on Friday night in Birmingham, all three qualified for the big European Tour event in Germany next month.
• The European Tour 3 takes place in Dusseldorf and Davon Petersen, Arron Monk and Joe Cullen all successfully came through the qualifiers.
• Cullen beat Tony West (6-3) and Peter Hudson (6-5), while Petersen saw off Darren Webster (6-3) and Gareth Cousins (6-0), and Monk beeat Jack Hill (6-2) and Chris Mason (6-3)
Unicorn’s World No.1 and No.3 Phil Taylor and James Wade both opted out of the weekend’s action in Birmingham.
Results Players Championship 7:
Adrian Lewis 6-4 Mark Walsh
Colin Lloyd 6-1 Gary Anderson
Wes Newton 6-5 Simon Whitlock
Ronnie Baxter 6-1 Peter Hudson
Losers - £1,000
Adrian Lewis 6-3 Colin Lloyd
Ronnie Baxter 6-5 Wes Newton
Losers - £2,000
Ronnie Baxter 6-3 Adrian Lewis
Winner - £6,000
Runner-up - £3,000
By STUART PYKE
Photo courtesy Lawrence Lustig / PDC