Peter Wright began his bid for a maiden World Matchplay title with a dominant 10-2 victory over Danny Noppert, before Jose De Sousa defeated Gabriel Clemens by the same scoreline to set up a last-16 showdown against Michael Smith in Blackpool.
Earlier in the afternoon, 2007 champion James Wade and former Premier League winner Glen Durrant became the first seeds to exit this year’s tournament, yet Wright and De Sousa were given no such scares at the Winter Gardens.
World No 2 Wright vowed to complete a World Championship and World Matchplay double ahead of this summer’s showpiece, and he sent out a statement of intent with a comprehensive victory over a beleaguered Noppert.
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The 2017 runner-up averaged 99.75, fired in three maximums and boasted an impressive 53 per cent on the outer ring, although he still offered a scathing assessment of his performance.
“I thought I played absolutely rubbish. The setup I was using before wasn’t that one. It’s a win; I’m through to the next round,” he told Sky Sports.
“I feel so confident. I’m not being a big mouth but if I feel confident, everybody else has got to worry and they’ve got to play their best to beat me.”
Premier League finalist De Sousa continued his sparkling form to set up a fascinating last-16 clash against 2019 runner-up Smith, while Wright will meet Joe Cullen, who defeated Chris Dobey in a high-quality affair.
World Matchplay: Evening Results
Ruthless Snakebite storms past Noppert
Wright has exuded tremendous confidence ahead of the tournament, and that pattern continued when he claimed he was confident of inflicting a whitewash defeat on the former Lakeside finalist in his pre-match interview.
Noppert avoided that particular ignominy after drawing first blood, but the Dutchman was left 4-1 adrift at the first interval, missing five darts across two legs on his own throw.
The Scot posted a multitude of 140’s in the opening exchanges and he continued the procession after the break, stretching his winning sequence to six legs by following up a 13-dart hold with an effortless 105 outshot.
Noppert stopped the rot with a 13-dart break, but this only offered a temporary reprieve. The Dutchman squandered two darts at double to make it back-to-back legs and Wright followed up his third 180 with a delightful 121 finish to extend his lead to 8-2.
‘The Freeze’ was feeling the heat in sweltering conditions and he struggled to replicate the form he’s produced on the Pro Tour in 2021, yet Wright was the epitome of composure, wrapping up a resounding victory with another 13-darter.
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‘Special One’ cruises past off-colour Clemens
Jose De Sousa marked his Blackpool bow with a crushing 10-2 victory over Gabriel Clemens, who was unable to make any impression against the imperious ‘Man O’Scores’ in Sunday’s finale.
‘The Special One’ made his Matchplay debut in Milton Keynes last year, but following a whirlwind 12 months, the Grand Slam champion is among the favourites to lift the coveted Phil Taylor Trophy next weekend.
De Sousa has posted an astonishing 50 ton-plus averages on the PDC circuit in 2021 and although he was unable to extend that tally, he produced an accomplished display to ease past ‘The German Giant’.
The Premier League runner-up signalled his intent with maximums in each of the opening two legs, before capitalising on six missed darts from Clemens in leg four to storm into a seemingly unassailable 5-0 cushion.
De Sousa continued the rout with legs of 13 and 15 darts to lead 7-0, but Clemens opened his account in style, following up a brace of 180’s with a 13-darter to avoid the threat of a whitewash.
The Portuguese star converted a classy 116 finish to move to the cusp of victory at 9-1, and while Clemens doubled his tally after De Sousa missed a match dart at double 12, ‘The Special One’ made no mistake moments later, to cap off a professional performance.
Bully Boy battles past subdued Searle
2019 runner-up Michael Smith defied a spirited fightback from debutant Ryan Searle to set up a mouthwatering last-16 tussle against Grand Slam champion Jose De Sousa, as the world No 7 made a winning return to the Winter Gardens.
Searle shattered his highest average on three separate occasions at the last Super Series courtesy of some blistering performances, although ‘Heavy Metal’ was unable to rock Blackpool on his Matchplay bow.
The Somerset star made a tentative start to proceedings, but a brace of 80 checkouts kept him in contention at the first interval, until a sensational 136 checkout from Smith provided the catalyst for a four-leg burst.
The five-time major finalist appeared in total control at 7-3, although he became embroiled in a scrap after losing his range on the treble 20, which allowed Searle to win three of the next four legs and reduce the deficit to 8-6.
Smith is renowned for his prowess in the scoring department, but he was indebted to his 52 per cent success rate on the outer ring – a clinical 95 combination on the bullseye taking him to the cusp of victory at 9-6.
‘Heavy Metal’ preserved his slender hopes with a classy 12-dart hold, yet it simply delayed the inevitable, as Smith closed out a hard-fought 10-7 success with a 92.46 average.
Cullen clinches cracker against determined Dobey
Joe Cullen was moved to tears after edging out his close friend Chris Dobey in a cracking contest to kick off Sunday evening’s action.
‘The Rockstar’ has scooped two ranking titles in 2021, but he arrived at the Winter Gardens on the back of five consecutive defeats following a nightmare Super Series campaign last week.
By contrast, Dobey was buoyed by sealing his first senior PDC title which confirmed his place at the Empress Ballroom, but it was Cullen who raced out of the blocks, firing in 11 and 10-dart legs to establish a 4-2 cushion.
‘Hollywood’ was unfazed; reeling off three legs on the spin to wrestle back the initiative, but after Cullen restored parity at five apiece, the pair traded 13-dart holds as the relentless quality continued.
The pendulum continued to shift following a sequence of three consecutive breaks, but the crucial moment came in leg 16 – Dobey followed up a maximum by wiring the bull for a spectacular 164, and Cullen responded with a clinical two-dart 92 kill to move 9-7 ahead.
The North-East arrowsmith battled valiantly and fired in an eighth maximum to apply the pressure on Cullen, but the 2018 quarter-finalist kept his nerve to prevail 10-8 and set up a showdown against Snakebite for a place in the last eight.
Watch the World Matchplay from the iconic Winter Gardens all the way through until Sunday, July 25. Check out daily Darts news on skysports.com/darts, our app for mobile devices and our Twitter account @skysportsdarts
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