In one of the most eagerly anticipated darts events of a generation, first blood fell to Gary Anderson and Phil Taylor as the Champions League made its inaugural bow in the sport.
An astonishing 8663 days since Phil Taylor last appeared playing darts on BBC, the PDC returned to terrestrial television in front of an expectant Cardiff crowd at the Motorpoint Arena.
Gary Anderson 10-5 Michael Smith
Anderson leads from the front
With five major titles and a ranking of second to his name, Gary Anderson was the clear favourite against Michael Smith as the pair were afforded the responsibility of throwing the first darts in this historic event. Anderson raced into a 3-1 lead in the best of ten, before an excellent 62 checkout allowed Smith to break back and draw level. Yet Anderson was quick to restore his two leg advantage, checking out on 103 along the way.
Smith, yet to win a major event, remained in touching distance but the turning point came in leg eleven. Three missed darts at a double allowed Anderson to steal in and take a 7-4 lead. That moment was enough to dampen Smith’s spirits as Anderson sprinted to a 10-5 victory.
Adrian Lewis 3-10 James Wade
Wade explodes into life
Adrian Lewis and James Wade were up next with a tight contest expected to ensue. The pair did not disappoint in the early stages as they exchanged the first six frames with some high quality darts.
Wade took the seventh frame and then turned on the style in the eighth as he secured an important break of throw. That was the moment to inspire the Machine into top gear as he went on to win seven consecutive frames at an average of 104, including a finish of 161, on his way to an astonishing 10-3 victory.
Phil Taylor 10-5 Peter Wright
Taylor shows his finishing class
Then came the man everyone wanted to see. Phil Taylor stepped out to a raucous atmosphere as he looked to add to his 71 major titles, kicking off his quest against Peter Wright. The underdog took the opening leg, only for Taylor to return at the top his game with a finish of 125 to tie the contest.
That high quality checkout was a sign of things to come as Taylor recorded finishes of 154 and 122 on his way to a 6-3 lead. The latter checkout seemed to knock the wind out of Wright’s sails, who had previously remained in touching distance throughout the contest. The Power opened an 8-4 gap after winning four of the previous five legs. A 96 checkout did give Wright hope but Taylor was too strong as he went on to win 10-5.
Michael van Gerwen 10-5 Robert Thornton
Van Gerwen accelerates after the break
It was an important win for Taylor who was able to relax as his main rival in the group, Michael van Gerwen, set about his task against Robert Thornton. The pair exchanged breaks of throw in the opening two legs as a close start to the encounter developed. An excellent 113 checkout allowed Thornton to stay in the contest at 4-4.
Both players missed opportunities to take the match under their spell as the pair still found themselves locked at 5-5 before the interval. Yet van Gerwen returned a different player, recording checkouts of 77, 50 and 74, before finishing the contest with an 11 darter on his way to a 10-5 victory.
Adrian Lewis 10-8 Michael Smith
Lewis keeps his hopes alive
As the evening session began, both Lewis and Smith knew they had to win their second contest of the competition. Yet it was Lewis who hit the jackpot early on as an 11 darter and 12 darter secured the first two legs. However Smith was not ready to give in as he dug deep with a 119 checkout eventually drawing him level at 3-3.
The contest was still evenly poised at 6-5 before five consecutive treble 20s set Lewis up for a finish of 32. Smith continued to struggle on courageously before Lewis edged out a 10-8 victory.
Gary Anderson 10-7 James Wade
Anderson edges away from the Machine
With wins in their opening contests, both Wade and Anderson knew a victory would almost certainly see them qualify for the semi-finals. World Champion Anderson began with an 11 darter but the pair followed the trend of the day’s previous matches as they could not be separated in the opening four legs.
Yet Anderson stole two legs on the trot, before Wade missed two darts at a double to open the door for the Scotsman to extend his advantage to three legs. Anderson was not ready to stop there as he burst into a 7-2 lead, before Wade hit back to make the score 7-4, including a 164 checkout in the eleventh. Anderson responded with a finish of 98 as he went within one leg of victory at 9-5, only to make hard work of eventually securing his second win of the competition at 10-7.
Michael van Gerwen 4-10 Phil Taylor
Dominant Taylor prevents van Gerwen winning a single leg off his throw
The tie of the day was arguably World number one Michael van Gerwen against the previous King of Darts Phil Taylor. The pair exchanged breaks of throw in the opening two legs, before an incredible 167 checkout to complete a 12 dart leg gave Taylor a slender advantage. The Power then extended his lead to 4-1 before van Gerwen hit back with a 122 checkout.
Yet Taylor was continuing to show the form of his opening match as checkouts of 101 and 90 edged him 6-3 ahead as van Gerwen could not buy a win off his throw. An eleven dart leg gave the Dutchman hope, though three missed darts at double top restored Taylor’s three leg advantage. The Power then sent another surge through Cardiff as he hit a 138 checkout to extend his lead to 9-4, before wrapping up the contest with a Shanghai 20 checkout.
Peter Wright 10-6 Robert Thornton
Wright gives himself hope of qualifying
Two Scotsman met in the final game of the opening day as the flamboyant Peter Wright took on the more modest Robert Thornton with both players needing a win. Compared to the entertainment in the match preceding, this one was a bit of a slow burner, though Wright gradually edged 6-1 ahead in a relatively low scoring contest.
Thornton did give himself a minor lifeline with two of the final three legs before the break and then transformed that hope into a chance with the first two legs on return to the oche as the score tightened at 7-5. Yet Wright held his nerve to win the contest 10-6, aided by an eleven dart finish in the fifteenth leg.