When the PDC's Premier League came to Plymouth

THE 2018 Unibet Premier League of darts begins tonight at the 3Arena in Dublin, but for the first four years of the competition, Plymouth hosted the superstars of the PDC.

The very first Premier League was launched in 2005 and Plymouth was awarded the sixth leg of the 888.Com event at the Pavilions in front of a capacity audience who were treated to professional darts at its very best.

John Part contested the first match against Peter Manley who came from 3-1 down to level with two 14-darters.

Manley edged in front for the first time only for the Canadian to level in 12 with a checkout of 170 before again showing his finishing prowess when checking out from 125 with bull, 25, bull.

POWER CUT: James Wade became the first player to defeat Phil Taylor in the Premier League.

Manley went on to take two on the bounce before finishing with a kill of 116 for a 7-5 win.

Colin Lloyd opened up against Mark Dudbridge with wins in 14 and 11 but at 3-1, the Bristolian levelled with two legs in 13.

The next two were shared and despite Dudbridge edging in front when finishing at the first time of asking from 116, the match ended 6-6, which was Lloyd’s fourth draw of the campaign.

Standards reached new heights in the third match when crowd favourite Wayne Mardle faced the challenge from Roland Scholten.

The Dutchman moved ahead 3-1, despite an 11-darter from Mardle but the pair went into the break all square with no fewer than eight maximums having already been scored.

Mardle edged in front 4-3 but Scholten won the next three to lead 6-4, having hit his sixth, seventh and eighth 180 of the match.

Mardle refused to buckle and earned himself a share of the spoils when taking the next two in 17 and 15.

John Part was back on stage to face Phil Taylor, but the result was the same as his opening match and he went down 7-5, despite leading The Power 2-0, aided by a win in 12.

Taylor levelled with a 12-darter of his own that he finished with a kill of 127 before two more legs in 12 and a win in 15 helped the man from the Potteries to run out a 7-5 winner.

The following year, Plymouth Pavilions were awarded the final play-offs and the two semi-finals and final were contested on May 29.

Roland Scholten defeated fellow Dutchman Raymond van Barneveld 11-3 in the first semi, with an average of 104.13

It was the same winning scoreline in the second semi when Taylor (105.03) ousted Colin Lloyd before The Power (101.41) went on to take the title with a 16-6 victory over Scholten.

Making their Plymouth debuts in 2007 were Adrian Lewis, Dennis Priestley and Terry Jenkins and although this was now the third running of the Premier League, Phil Taylor was still unbeaten.

But that 100 per cent record almost came to and end when The Power played Roland Scholten.

Taylor led 6-3 having secured his best legs in 11,13 and 14 but with his back to the wall, The Tripod, as the Dutchman is affectionately known, won the 10th leg in 12 with a checkout of 126, followed by another win in 12 which he finished with an outshot of 146, before tie-ing the match at 6-6 with a win in 13.

The 13th leg proved unlucky for Taylor as he lost that one as well which put Scholten just one away from a famous victory.

The Dutchman’s first two throws were 121 and 140 but he never hit the treble 20 again as Taylor clinched it in 17 to earn a 7-7 draw and extend his unbeaten run in the Premier League to 29 matches.

The newly crowned PDC World champion of that year was Raymond van Barneveld and he came from behind to beat a 22-year-old debutant . . . Adrian Lewis 8-5.

Dennis Priestley and Terry Jenkins were both contesting the prestigious tournament for the first time which was now sponsored by Holsten with total prizemoney of £275,000.

The Yorkshireman eased 4-2 in front, but Jenkins won the seventh leg with the evening’s highest checkout of 157 for a win in 12 followed by a 13-darter to level at 4-4.

The next two were shared before Priestley took three on the bounce, including two 15-darters to prevail 8-5.

Peter Manley and Colin Lloyd came to the oche with high reputations as Lloyd had been World No.1 for two years and Manley had been a world finalist on three occasions.

Lloyd came from a 6-3 deficit to level at 6-6 only for Manley to edge 7-6 in front and treat the packed auditorium to the best leg of the night.

The former world no.1 hit back to back 180s after an opening throw of 81 and had darts to win it in 11 but was made to rue his missed opportunities.

Manley, however, required 90 after his first nine darts and hit 25 and 15 followed by a match winning bulls-eye to send the appreciative crowd into raptures.

The final time the Premier League was contested in Plymouth came in 2008 when the city hosted the second leg of the Whyte and Mackay sponsored extravaganza.

Raymond van Barneveld opened the show with an 8-4 victory over John Part before the PDC’s new rising star James Wade took to the oche against Terry Jenkins, a week after ending Phil Taylor’s three-year unbeaten run.

The 24-year-old from Aldershot led 5-1, but Jenkins began his revival by breaking Wade twice and, trailing by a single leg at 7-6, had every chance to gain an unexpected draw before Wade won in 14 for an 8-6 victory.

This was the year that Phil Taylor suffered his first defeat in the Premier League when, in the opening event in Glasgow, he was defeated 8-6 by James Wade.

Taylor needed to get back to winning ways after having his 45-match unbeaten run ended the previous week and began well when taking the first two legs against Adrian Lewis.

The Power then set himself up for a nine-darter when hitting back to back to 180s but he didn’t even win the leg as Lewis took it in 15 and then won the next in 17 to make it 2-2.

Taylor won the next, only for Lewis to win in 11 to draw level for the second time.

The Premier League’s reigning champion took the next two in 15 but Lewis rallied once again with another 11-darter to trail 5-4.

Taylor stepped up the pressure and showed why he was still the man to beat when he swept Lewis aside 8-4 when taking the final three legs in 14,17 and 15.

Peter Manley and Wayne Mardle went into the break of their encounter all square at 3-3 but picked up the pace on their return.

Manley edged in front with a win in 13 while Mardle followed with success in 14 before the next four were also shared and Manley living up to his “one dart” moniker, taking only six darts at doubles to clinch his six winning legs.

The Carlisle marksman again moved in front when taking the 13th leg but in a fitting finale, Mardle came from behind and made it all square for the sixth time to take a share of the spoils.

After defeating Lewis, Taylor lost again the following week when beaten 8-5 by Terry Jenkins, followed by a humiliating 8-3 defeat at the hands of Peter Manley.

But despite losing three of his first four matches, Taylor still made the play-offs and showed why he is regarded as the best player of all time when he defeated Adrian Lewis 11-1 with an average of 112.68 in the semi-finals and then secured the title for the fourth time in as many years when he ousted James Wade 16-8, posting an average of 108.36

Despite Plymouth Pavilions hosting sell out events for the first four years of the Premier League, the Professional Darts Corporation deemed that the venue was just not big enough.

So, it was disappointing to say the least, when the city’s darts fans found out the following year that their place on the Premier League tour was to be taken by Exeter’s Westpoint Arena where it is still staged today and will host week five of this year's event on March 1.

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