Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright gets off to a winning start – Watch the PDC World Darts Championship 2023 – live on Sky Sports Darts; we’re back for a double session Friday at 12pm and 7pm with Adrian Lewis and Michael Smith in action, while Beau Greaves takes on Willie O’Connor
By Raz Mirza at Alexandra Palace
Last update: 16/12/22 02:13
Defending champion Peter Wright had a festive feast of arrows with a comfortable 3-0 win on the opening night of the World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace.
The Scot pulled out of last month’s Players Championship final with his wife Jo in hospital, but after receiving positive news last week Wright was back and in an upbeat mood on the big stage as he began his bid for a third Sid Waddell Trophy in four years with a comfortable win over Northern Ireland’s Mickey Mansell.
Thursday 15 December – Results
|Mickey Mansell||3-1||Ben Robb (R1)|
|Keane Barry||1-3||Grant Sampson (R1)|
|Jermaine Wattimena||2-3||Nathan Rafferty (R1)|
|Peter Wright||3-0||Mickey Mansell (R2)|
Mansell had become the first winner of this year’s Worlds, beating Ben Robb 3-1 to set up the encounter with Wright.
‘Snakebite’ fired a cracking 121 on the bullseye to score early as he won the first set 3-1.
The writing seemed to be on the wall for former World Cup semi-finalist Mansell as the defending champion came through the second set in three straight sets to double his advantage despite a modest 92 average.
And Wright continued the onslaught in the third set, pinning a majestic 126 shots before cleaning up 68 on the highs to advance to the third round in style.
“Not happy with the performance, but it’s a win,” said Wright, who now has 12 days off before his third-round clash with either Kim Huybrechts or Grant Sampson. “The defending champion is still here and it’s Christmas.”
South African newbie sampson caused the first big shock of the tournament by knocking out a below-average display by UK Open semi-finalist Keane Barry 3-1.
‘Samurai’, who knocked out nine-time World Championship qualifier Devon Petersen en route to booking his place on the biggest stage of all, threw four highs and a stunning 125 out to stun Irishman Barry.
The 40-year-old, who will earn £15,000 for reaching the second round, will have no fear when he takes on ‘The Hurricane’ Kim Huybrechts in Friday afternoon’s session.
“At home we play in front of 30 people but that’s something else,” Sampson said. “I was very, very, very nervous. My darts weren’t going in straight at all, so I was just trying to concentrate, but it was difficult. Now that I’ve finished the first game, I can only improve because it was horrible.”
Jermaine Wattimena also made an early exit losing 3-2 to an emerging star Nathan Rafferty.
Wattimena failed to hit the bullseye to win the first set and that allowed Rafferty to sink the double 2 to claim it, but the Dutchman quickly came to life with a crate of 97 in the deciding round of the second set to settle things.
Former World Junior Championship finalist Rafferty moved a set away from Wattimena’s elimination by sweeping the next set with three straight 17-leg darts, but ‘The Machine Gun’ took the distance with a opening 108 finish, a 14-dart leg and a crucial 101 crate.
However, it was Rafferty, 22, who showed exceptional composure – a week after surgery to remove his appendix – to go on a date with Grand Slam darts champion Michael Smith after sinking the double 10 with his fifth set of darts.
“I wasn’t nervous before the tournament, but when I hit the road I had butterflies in my stomach,” Rafferty revealed. “It’s been my dream since I was 15 to play on this stage; it’s what we all play for.
“Considering my appendix was removed a week ago today, I’m so happy to win this game against a tough opponent.
“I can’t wait to face Michael [Smith]he’s one of the best players in the world but I think I can give him a game if I play well.”
“I think he said he’s going to be playing some new darts by Christmas. Maybe even get some new ones. Who knows? But he’ll try to get comfortable, and maybe -be just getting the darts to feel good. The score wasn’t as good as it could have been. But doubling was more of an issue there, for me. He’ll want to double well, then he’ll get the touch of score “
John Part on Peter Wright
Friday at Ally Pally
The first double session of this year’s World Championship will take place on Friday, as two-time finalist Smith takes on Rafferty in his first match.
Friday, December 16 – Calendar (12:30 GMT)
|Alan Soutar||versus||Evil Cuming (R1)|
|Boris Krcmar||versus||Toru Suzuki (R1)|
|Adrian Lewis||versus||Daniel Larsson (R1)|
|Kim Huybrechts||versus||Grant Sampson (R2)|
Friday, December 16 – Calendar (19:00 GMT)
|Rowby-John Rodriguez||versus||Lourence Ilagan (R1)|
|William O’Connor||versus||Beau Greaves (R1)|
|Kegan Brown||versus||Florian Hempel (R1)|
|Michael Smith||versus||Nathan Rafferty (R2)|
Two-time world champion Adrian Lewis will take on Sweden’s Daniel Larsson in the afternoon session, before eight-time PDC Women’s Series winner Beau Greaves makes his much-anticipated bow with Ally Pally against Willie O’ Connor during the evening session.
Watch the PDC World Darts Championship 2023 – live on Sky Sports Darts – from December 15 to January 3.