BRILLIANT BUNTING DENIES NINE-DART STAR VAN GERWEN
STEPHEN BUNTING won his second PDC ranking title at Players Championship Two as he defeated nine-dart star Michael van Gerwen 6-4 in Sunday's final.
Bunting had won his only previous PDC tournament at a UK Open Qualifier in February 2014, but produced a day of outstanding darts as he denied in-form van Gerwen his seventh title of the year and became the first player from outside of the world's top five to win a PDC event so far in 2016.
The St Helens ace overcame Johnny Haines 6-1 in his opening match and then defeated Robbie Green 6-3 before claiming deciding-leg wins over Betway Premier League aces Robert Thornton and Adrian Lewis - where he produced a remarkable comeback from 5-0 down - to reach the quarter-finals.
There, he dropped just one leg against Andrew Gilding before sneaking past Saturday's Players Championship One winner Peter Wright in another 11-leg battle, but he saved his best performance for the final against world number one van Gerwen.
The Dutchman took the opening leg in 16 darts before finishing 141 for a 12-darter to double his lead, only for Bunting to take the next four legs in 15, 12, 14 and 13 darts - landing two 180s in the game's fourth leg - to move into a 4-2 advantage.
Van Gerwen landed a 180 as he hit back in leg seven, only for Bunting to match that as he moved 5-3 up with the aid of a maximum of his own.
A 13-dart finish from van Gerwen kept his hopes alive at 5-4, and the pair both kicked off the tenth leg with scores of 140 and 180 before Bunting fired in a 137 score and took out 44 for a 12-darter to seal victory and secure the £10,000 first prize.
Van Gerwen had to settle for the £6,000 runner-up prize as he ended a PDC tournament weekend without a victory for the first time this year, after previously winning the Unibet Masters, three UK Open Qualifiers, the Dutch Darts Masters and last week's Coral UK Open Televised Finals.
The Dutch ace did, though, achieve perfection for a second successive weekend by landing a nine-darter in the opening leg of his 6-1 quarter-final win over Ian White.
He also defeated Simon Stevenson, David Pallett, Jamie Caven, Steve West and Kyle Anderson on the day, although the Australian paid for missing one match dart at tops in his narrow 6-5 semi-final loss.
Anderson had followed up his run to last weekend's UK Open quarter-finals by reaching his third PDC ProTour semi-final, seeing off Northern Irish duo Daryl Gurney and Mickey Mansell, Dutch ace Benito van de Pas, Kettering's Ricky Evans and tricky Austrian Mensur Suljovic.
Wright also reached the last four as he followed up Saturday's superb Players Championship success with another strong run before he lost out to Bunting.
Joe Cullen suffered his third defeat to Wright inside a week as he lost out in the quarter-finals, having also reached the last eight of the UK Open and the semi-finals of Players Championship One only to lose out to the world number five.
White, Suljovic and Gilding joined Cullen in the quarter-finals on Sunday, while Wes Newton enjoyed a welcome return to form by reaching the last 16 for the first time since April 2015 with wins over Paul Nicholson, Raymond van Barneveld and Kim Huybrechts.
Matt Clark also won through to the last 16 as he enjoyed 6-5 wins over Andy Smith, Brendan Dolan and Phil Taylor, while emerging ace Chris Dobey, Germany's Jyhan Artut and in-form Jelle Klaasen joined him in the fourth round.
The £75,000 tournament concluded the PDC ProTour weekend at the Barnsley Metrodome, with the second-tier PDC Unicorn Challenge Tour set to kick off next weekend with four events in Wigan before the European Tour's Dutch Darts Masters over the Easter weekend is accompanied by the opening PDC Unicorn Development Tour events.