World Champion Peter Wright was sensationally dumped out of the Grand Slam of Darts by Nathan Aspinall while Josh Rock set up a blockbuster clash against Michael van Gerwen in Wolverhampton.
On a spectacular night, Aspinall produced a stirring comeback to knock out Wright, while Ross Smith delivered a record-breaking display in his victory over Van Gerwen.
‘The Asp’ reeled off four straight legs from 2-1 down to eliminate World Champion Wright, as Groups E-H concluded on a dramatic Day Four at the Aldersley Leisure Village.
“I’m so happy to get through and I can’t believe I’ve topped the group,” admitted Aspinall, who will meet Jermaine Wattimena for a place in the quarter-finals.
“Peter is going through a tough time at the moment. I don’t think his head was in the game and I give my best wishes to Jo, but I had to go up there and do my job.”
Tuesday, November 15 – Results
|Group F||Jermaine Wattimena||5-1||Leonard Gates|
|Group F||Jonny Clayton||2-5||Damon Heta|
|Group G||Luke Woodhouse||4-5||Nathan Rafferty|
|Group G||Michael van Gerwen||4-5||Ross Smith|
|Group E||Alan Soutar||5-2||Fallon Sherrock|
|Group E||Peter Wright||2-5||Nathan Aspinall|
|Group H||Ryan Searle||3-5||Scott Williams|
|Group H||Luke Humphries||3-5||Josh Rock|
Wright required three legs to book his place in the knockout stages, and he was punished for squandering two darts at tops for a 3-1 lead in a crucial fourth leg.
Aspinall capitalised and followed up legs of 14 and 13 darts with a 106 checkout to lead 4-2, and despite spurning five match darts in an edgy conclusion, he regained his poise to wrap up proceedings via double eight.
His 5-2 success saw him top the group on leg difference, and the Stockport star advances alongside debutant Alan Soutar, who defeated Fallon Sherrock 5-2 earlier in the night.
“Watching that match backstage – that was the worst feeling I’ve ever had in darts. It was horrible,” admitted Soutar, who will now play Jonny Clayton in Thursday’s second round.
“The Grand Slam was a free roll for me and I’m now in the world’s top 40 after less than two years on the tour, so I’m absolutely delighted.”
Elsewhere, Van Gerwen sealed top spot in Group G despite succumbing to an inspired Smith in arguably the match of the tournament so far.
‘Smudger’ was assured of qualification before his tie against Van Gerwen following Luke Woodhouse’s defeat to Nathan Rafferty, and he produced a blistering display to prevail in a nine-leg epic.
“I wanted to show everyone what I can do against the best in the world,” said Smith, who averaged 107.9 and hit a maximum in every single leg.
“Hopefully I can kick on now. I’m loving my darts and I’m so happy with life in general, so I just want to keep going.”
Woodhouse saw his qualification hopes dashed in a thrilling nine-leg affair against Nathan Rafferty, despite averaging 101, crashing in five 180s and converting the first 170 finish of the tournament.
In Group H, emerging Northern Irish star Josh Rock joined Luke Humphries in the last 16, after running out a 5-3 winner in a captivating showdown between the pair.
Scott Williams posted a stunning 107 average to come through a high-quality clash against Ryan Searle in the other Group G tie, registering six 180s and two 11-darters in the process.
“I believe I can win this tournament,” insisted Rock, who will play three-time Grand Slam champion Van Gerwen in a huge last-16 tie on Thursday night.
“It will be a fantastic match. I’ve never played Michael before – he’s the second best player of all time in my opinion, but I’m not scared of playing him.”
Earlier in the night, Jermaine Wattimena joined Jonny Clayton in advancing through Group F, punishing a profligate display from North American Champion Leonard Gates to complete an emphatic 5-1 victory.
Wattimena sealed the deal with a clinical 108 kill, and this result meant that Damon Heta needed to whitewash Clayton to keep his Grand Slam dream alive.
The Australian was unable to produce the heroic escape act, although he bowed out on a high, averaging 93 and landing three 180s to inflict Clayton’s first defeat of the campaign.
Wednesday, November 17 – Fixtures (7pm)
|Last 16 (Best of 19 legs)||Raymond van Barneveld||vs||Simon Whitlock|
|Michael Smith||vs||Rob Cross|
|Danny Noppert||vs||Gerwyn Price|
|Dirk van Duijvenbode||vs||Joe Cullen|
The last 16 of the Grand Slam gets under way on Wednesday night, as reigning champion Gerwyn Price plays UK Open winner Danny Noppert, while 2012 champion Raymond van Barneveld plays Australia’s World Cup hero Simon Whitlock.
Elsewhere, former World Cup of Darts partners Michael Smith and Rob Cross collide, while Masters champion Joe Cullen meets Dutch star Dirk van Duijvenbode for a place in the last eight.
Watch the Grand Slam of Darts at Aldersley Leisure Village in Wolverhampton all the way through until the final on November 20 – with every session live on Sky Sports & don’t forget the World Championship is also coming to Sky Sports from December 15 until January 3.