Michael van Gerwen will play Michael Smith in the Premier League Darts final after the pair battled through very different semi-finals on Thursday evening.
After 15 weeks of the regular season, Van Gerwen and Smith were the last men standing after MvG beat a below-par Rob Cross in routine fashion and Bully Boy saw off his great friend and mentor Gary Anderson with a sensational display.
It means the top two in the regular season will contest the final, with Van Gerwen maintaining his record of reaching the final in every year he has been in the competition and Smith ending a memorable season with a place in his first major televised final.
Premier League Play Offs – Semi-Final Michael van Gerwen 10-6 Rob Cross Michael Smith 10-6 Gary Anderson
Van Gerwen and Cross were first up, in a repeat of their World Championship semi-final epic. MvG has had the better of things since and punished Cross who looked to be struggling with the sternum injury that kept him out of the Dutch Darts Masters at the weekend – although he refused to use the injury as an excuse.
Van Gerwen took the opener with a pair of maximums for a blistering 12-darter and the Dutchman struck in the fourth leg for the first break after piling the pressure on Cross who wobbled. An 11-darter consolidated MvG’s break and on he ploughed, punishing slack darts from the world champion while pushing his own average north of 110 for a 5-1 lead.
Despite Cross seeming to struggle with his follow through, the debutant broke in the seventh leg courtesy of a clinical 80 but Van Gerwen hit back immediately to lead 7-2 at the break before his doubling went awry and kept Cross interested, especially when Voltage took the first two legs after the interval.
Cross missed a dart to cut the deficit to two which was punished by MvG who then pinned a brilliant 128 finish to move within a leg of the final. A 118 check out raised Cross hopes but they were quickly extinguished as Van Gerwen took out 70 to seal a sixth consecutive final appearance.
In contrast, Smith reaches his first final, on his O2 debut and ends his return to the Premier League stage with fitting reward for a memorable season.
Like Cross, Smith had been battling illness with pleurisy troubling him for the last few weeks but he showed no ill effects to sweep aside the man who has helped him find his way as a professional.
After taking out the opening leg thanks to a clinical 100 finish via double 10, Smith returned to take out the same double for a break and a 2-0 lead.
Spurred into life, Anderson began to find his range and took out a 14-darter to break back. But with his trebles finding the target, Anderson couldn’t follow suit with his doubles as five darts for the leg went begging for the Scot despite hitting three 180s.
Smith pinched the leg and opened up a 4-1 lead but Anderson roared back, a barrage of big scores gave him parity after 13 and 15-dart legs but Smith is a different player these days.
He took the next couple of legs to hold a 6-4 lead at the break and he returned with a brilliant 120 to open up a three-leg advantage once again and he was never troubled down the stretch by Anderson, Bully Boy showing the clinical finishing that have been a hallmark of his memorable season.
Darts is back on your Sky Sports screens at the end of this month with the World Cup of Darts, live from Frankfurt – four days of live coverage get underway from 6pm on Sky Sports Action on Thursday May 31
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