Four previous winners in the mix for 2018 Champs title
EIGHT of Plymouth’s top darts players from an entry of more than 100, will contest the final stages of Champion of Champions 2018 at the Victory Inn, Plymouth, on Sunday and included in the high-profile line-up are four players who have won the title on a previous occasion.
Reigning title-holder Simon Stevenson will be hoping for an unprecedented sixth crown and who would deny him that accolade after he put in one of the best ever performances, if not the best, that has been witnessed throughout the previous 33 years of Plymouth’s prestigious tournament.
In the last 16, played at The Maritime Social Club, he hit a maximum on his very first visit to the oche and although Lewis Dare (28.14) hit a 180 for himself, Stevenson took the first leg in just 12 darts when checking out from 121.
Dare did well to take the second in 18 but two more legs for The Mirror Man in 14 and 17 saw him progress with a single dart average of 34.21.
Malcolm Johns (20.76) came from a leg down to defeat the 2013 champion Dan Johnson (18.21) 3-1, while Neil White (22.43) emerged a 3-0 winner against Kelvin Rowe (19.36).
Andrew Nation (24.77) hit a maximum before winning the opening leg against Paul Bowen (22.09) and he made it 2-0 before Bowen bounced back by taking the next in 15 when finishing at the first time of asking from 101, despite a second 180 from Nation.
But Nation made no mistake in the fourth leg and needed just two darts from 95 to take his place in the last eight.
It was 22 years ago that Ralph Lancaster (23.44) won the title, but he still has the nous and proved that by winning the opening leg against the 2011 champion Antony Hayman (27.31).
But a grand final appearance by the septuagenarian was not to be as Hayman levelled and then edged 2-1 in 15, before taking the fourth and decisive leg in 18.
The youngest player in the competition, 18-year-old Harry Bull (23.89), missed out on a first grand final appearance but won himself a lot of new admirers after taking the 2016 champion Phil Stewart (23.95) the full distance in what was the most competitive tie of the night.
Stewart looked to be heading for an early victory when leading 2-0 but Bull reduced the deficit with a leg in 16 and then levelled when taking the next in 19.
But the experience of Stewart was evident in the fifth and final leg and back to back 140s laid the foundations for a win in 15.
You never want to be upstaged on the dartboard by your 18-year-old son and Danny Bull (27.33) (pictured above) made sure that was never going to happen when he put in a clinical performance to defeat Neal Hodgkiss (25.07) 3-0 in 22, 14 and 19.
Dave Wyatt (21.51) had a difficult task when he was drawn to play the 2015 champion John Mann and although he had a shot to win the third leg, he was eventually ousted 3-0.
Mann won the opening leg in 12, aided by a maximum and then went 2-0 up in 16 before suffering a drop-in form in the third leg, but eventually won in 23 for a 29.47 average.
Simon Stevenson (180, 140x5, 100x5) bt Lewis Dare (180, 140x2, 100x3) 3-1
Malcolm Johns (140, 100x3) bt Dan Johnson (140, 100x3) 3-1
Neil White (180, 100x2) bt Kelvin Rowe (140, 135) 3-0
Andrew Nation (180x2, 140x2, 100x3) bt Paul Bowen (140, 100x5) 3-1
Antony Hayman (180, 140x3, 100x4) bt Ralph Lancaster (140, 100x4) 3-1
Phil Stewart (140x3, 100x5) bt Harry Bull (100x10) 3-2
Danny Bull (140x1, 100x5) bt Neal Hodgkiss (140x2, 100x3) 3-0
John Mann (180, 140x2, 100x3) bt Dave Wyatt (100) 3-0
The two lady finalists are now known after they played off at Porters and reigning champion Jodie Hawton will be defending her title when she faces Devon county team-mate Chrissie Kinnaird.
Chrissie, the 2014 ladies' runner-up, had a good semi-final victory against the Devon Open champion Anna Johnson while Jodie won her semi in three straight legs against Kayleigh Adams.